September 9
by Alan Beske

It was thirty minutes after sunrise on a warm June morning, but Jake was not ready to get up.  He had lived on this sprawling Georgia farm his whole life, like his father and mother before him.  During his younger years, he’d always been the first one up, just after the earliest rooster call.  He was too old for that now.  His mind was no longer sharp, his bones ached, he had sporadic bouts with incontinence, and walking was very difficult for him.

He was in pain most of the time when awake, so usually slept as late as he could, until he had to get up to relieve himself.  Each day he tried to keep to himself, patiently waiting for his life on earth to end.  Once that happened, he’d be free of misery and could finally join his family members in heaven, who remembered him as he used to be.

Several months ago, Harold and Emily told him he’d have to sleep in the small bedroom off the kitchen where they could better take care of him.  While they didn’t mention it, Jake knew they were embarrassed by him, and wanted to keep him out of sight when visitors were present in the main parts of the house.

Jake was trying to fall back to sleep when the screen door banged shut as Harold and Emily entered the kitchen from their morning chores.  Mary had always been kind to Jake, but things went downhill fast when Harold married Emily after Mary died.  Emily didn’t care for Jake and Jake didn’t care for her.  Harold was afraid to trigger outbursts from Emily, so he seldom came to Jake’s defense.

Emily frowned as she straightened the worn rug in front of the hutch.  “Jake must still be sleeping.  If he makes a mess again, it’s your job to clean it up.  He doesn’t think straight, he mopes around, and he’s helpless as a baby most of the time.  I’ve had all of him I can take.”

Harold grimaced and poured a mug of coffee.  He stood by their aging kitchen table and placed a hand on the back of a chair.  “He can’t help it.  We could be like that ourselves someday.  We have to care for him as best we can.”

Emily fussed with her apron and tied the narrow straps tightly behind her waist.  “It’s not we anymore.  He’s your problem from now on!”

“Quiet, he’ll hear you,” Harold said, lowering his voice.

“That’s a joke.  He can’t hear anything any more and couldn’t understand something if he did hear it,” Emily replied raising her voice.

Jake put his head down and tears came to his eyes.  His hearing was weak, but not weak enough to block out Emily’s continuing harsh words.  He was deeply saddened by what he heard.  After Harold and Emily went to the front room to listen to the morning news, Jake got up, knowing what he must do.  His muscles ached as he pushed the screen door open and went down the two steps to the back yard.

It took him five painful minutes to reach the large lake behind the barn.  He entered the soothing water, his tail wagging slightly, and started awkwardly paddling toward the far shore.  He knew he would never make it, but felt peaceful as he lost strength and began to sink.

Read about Alan Beske on the Writer’s Bio page