Patreon reward for Internmatt. A gender swapped take on the Shaggy Dog story.
Barbara let out a sigh. Another day where meetings went long, another day arriving home late. This was starting to get old… But every day it felt like there was more work to do and less hours to do it. It was what it was. Still, the only one more tired of take-out food than her family was Barbara herself. She grabbed the bag of take-out Chinese from the passenger seat before stepping out of the car and heading for the front door of the house. After unlocking the front door and stepping through the threshold she encountered something that unsettled her.
That could only mean one thing. The girls were up to something again. The two were almost always fighting. The rare alliance between the two was always an effort to avoid trouble for something. Barbara could only wonder what it was this time.
She found both of them in the kitchen. Her oldest, Jessica, was fifteen. She had Barbara’s blond hair. Other than that, she mostly took after her late father. She had his brown eyes and was already almost as tall as Barbara. The youngest, Ashley, on the other hand was around eight. She looked almost identical to how Barbara had looked at her age with green eyes and being below average height but had her father’s black hair. Both girls were in their pajamas ready for bed and were sitting at the table with their hands resting atop the tablecloth. The perfect little picture of angels. But Barbara knew that picture was a lie.
“What did you do?” Barbara asked as she dropped the bag of food onto the table.
“That’s the first thing you say when you get home?” Jessica looked affronted. “We haven’t done anything.”
“Definitely nothing that you specifically told us not too!” Ashley added in.
“Shut up Ashley…” Jessica elbowed her sister in the side.
“Look I’m going to find out eventually, so you might as well come clean.” Barbara really didn’t want to deal with this tonight.
“We really haven’t done anything!” Jessica sounded slightly angry.
“Yeah! We’ve been good!” Ashley insisted. “Really good! We deserve a reward!”
“I’ll believe that when I see it.” Barbara snorted as she got plates out from the cabinets.
“Well… Mom… The thing is….” Jessica was hesitating to get to the point. “That… Maybe if we had more responsibility maybe it would keep us too busy to get in trouble.”
“Is that so?” Barbara had to admit she was curious where this was going as she began to quickly pass out spring rolls onto each of their plates. Ever since Hank had passed she had been trying to raise the two on her own. It was a handful trying to balance work with taking care of them. She couldn’t remember the last time she had cooked them a proper meal and- Wait… The roll from her plate was missing. Suddenly Ashley burst out into a giggle before her sister elbowed her again. Barbara just fixed her youngest daughter with a look while dropping the extra roll on her plate.
“So… We know you’ve said no in the past… But maybe it’s time you reconsider letting us get a dog.” Jessica finished.
“Absolutely not.” So that was what this was about. Barbara gave a weary sigh. They had been through this so many times. “Taking care of a dog is a lot of responsibility. You have to feed it, walk it, wash it.”
“Mom we swear we’ll take care of him!” Ashley shouted.
“You two can’t even remember to do the chores you already have!” Barbara glared at them. “Your rooms haven’t been cleaned in months, the trash is never taken out. And you want me to believe you’ll take care of a pet? Look… I know this is hard. But a dog is a living thing. If you get bored and forget to feed it, then it starves to death and dies. And work keeps me far too busy to look after the dog for you when you forget. I’m sorry. But the two of you aren’t ready for a dog.”
“That’s not fair!” Jessica shouted. “How are we supposed to prove we’re responsible enough if you won’t even give us a chance!”
“You could start by getting your regular chores done and helping out around the house.” Barbara responded matter-of-factly.
“Mooooom!” Ashley whined. “You have to let us have him!”
“Ashley no!” Jessica tried to interrupt her sister.
“Him?” But it was too late. Barbara had caught it… And at the same time noticed that her spring roll was gone. “Girls… I know you did not bring a dog into my house without permission.”
“We-“ Ashley started to talk but Jessica pounced upon her sister and covered her mouth with a hand.
“What Ashley means is… We’d never do that to you.” Jessica corrected. “But… If hypothetical a dog had just showed up, we’d have to take care of it right? I mean it’s a living thing, so we couldn’t leave it in the street to starve?”
Ouch. Having her own words thrown back at her like that hurt.
“Look… I know I’m hard on you.” Barbara’s expression softened. “But you have to understand…” She paused as she saw something move near Ashley… A small hint of gray… And Ashley’s spring roll slid right off her plate and disappeared beneath the table. Wordlessly, Barbara rose to her feet and lifted the edge of the tablecloth.
And there beneath the table was a small pomerium dog with golden fur. The dog let out a yap upon Barbara seeing it then ran out from beneath the table and hid behind Ashley.
“You have got to be kidding me. You brought a dog home? You can’t just do things like without asking me!” Barbara was just about ready to lose it.
“But he’s a stray! And we didn’t bring him in!” Ashley insisted. “He followed us right into the house.”
“You’re not keeping him.” Barbara crossed her arms.
“So what? We’re just going to throw him outside? Let him starve on the streets?” Jessica had an edge to her voice. “Let him die? Where’s the lesson there?”
No one ever gave you a guide to being a parent. Barbara found herself at a loss at this. She obviously couldn’t let the kids keep the dog. They had gone behind her back. What kind of precedent would that set? That they could just do whatever they wanted and avoid the consequences? But… Jessica was right. She couldn’t just release the dog into the wild where it might starve to death.
“It… Can stay one night.” Barbara let out a weary sigh. “In the garage! And in the morning I’ll take it to a shelter where they can find him a new owner.”
“You can’t take him away!” Ashley grabbed the small dog and lifted him up.
“A shelter will kill him if he’s not adopted!” Jessica screeched.
“I’ll find a no kill shelter.” Barbara could feel a tension headache coming on from this. It wasn’t easy… She wasn’t even sure if it was the right thing to do. But she wasn’t sure what other options she could do. “Give him to me!” She quickly grabbed the dog from Ashley’s arms. She must have pulled on the dog too hard though… As the pomerium released a heavy growl and bit down on her hand. “And now this.” She winced in pain and managed to avoid screaming.
“He didn’t mean it!” Ashley said.
“Enough out of both of you! I’ll set up some food and water in the garage, then I’m getting rid of him first thing in the morning.” The bite had just made Barbara angrier. “You two, finish your dinner then straight to bed.” Barbara ignored the protests of her two daughters as she quickly carried the dog out the through the kitchen door and into the garage. After setting the dog down she looked at her hand. A small trace of blood was coming from the bite wound. “You better not be carrying any diseases.”
“Awoo?” The dog tilted his head and looked at her with a ridiculous express on his face.
“Don’t you try arguing with me too. I get enough lip from those two.” Barbara felt ready to scream. “You can stay here for tonight… I’m sure whatever shelter I get you to will find a family that can take care of you in no time.”
“Yap!” The pomerium backed away from Barbara then began to walk around and explore the garage. In theory… This was a place to park cars… But Barbara had long ago lost the battle against entropy of keeping this place in usable shape. The garage was a mess of boxes of Holiday decorations, old furniture she didn’t use anymore and lawn care equipment piled on the floor. The dog sniffed around at all of these… Then started pawing at the garage door.
“Do you need to use the bathroom or something?” Barbara asked. Was there anything around she could use as a leash to walk the dog?
She didn’t have time to find out. The dog continued to paw at the door… And then found a piece of it that had been damaged a few years ago that Barbara had never had time to repair. This let the dog poke his head through the door… And then in an instant squeeze his entire body through before he ran off into the street.
“Oh no! No! No!” Barbara quickly mashed the button to raise the garage door and ran out after the dog… But by the time she made it to the driveway it was long gone. “Ohhhh… The girls are never going to believe this happened on accident.” She let out a moan before returning to the house. Maybe in the morning the dog would come back. But… Running around randomly in the night wouldn’t solve anything.
Morning came all too soon for Barbara. Getting in late, getting out early, she never had time to sleep properly. Yet… As she woke up today she felt strangely bright eyed and bushy tailed. Something about the world just seemed… louder in a good way. It was as if every stimulus had just been turned up and she was aware of how many different things were in the world.
The feeling faded when she tried to take a shower. The sensation of the warm water landing on her make her instinctually recoil. She let out a light growling noise as she backed away from the water and paused. She wasn’t sure why she had done that… Forcing herself to step back into the shower she suddenly felt absolutely miserable. Just… Being soaking wet. It felt wrong. A hot morning shower was usually one of the few luxuries in this world she allowed herself to enjoy. Today though? It just felt off. When she finished washing off she practically leaped out of the shower and shook her entire body to shake as much of that miserable wetness off her as possible.
Then it was time for breakfast! She started out of the bathroom but paused. There was something she was forgetting… Oh! She was still naked! She needed clothes. What a pain. She quickly found a blouse and a pair of nice pants to wear with them before grabbing her heels. They felt uncomfortable… It was like they were too tight and restricted her movement. She tried her best to ignore this as she headed to the kitchen to get breakfast.
And that became quite easy once she was in the kitchen.
An absolutely heavenly aroma filled the air. She looked around trying to figure out what it was. Ashley sat at the table looking absolutely miserable wile Jessica was leaning against the counter standing over the toaster. And… That was it! The toaster! There was a pop noise as two jam filled tarts erupted from the toaster.
“Oh… Wow…” Barbara stared at tarts, hunger in her eyes.
“Um… Mom? What are you doing?” Jessica grabbed the tarts and stepped back wearily before passing one to her younger sister.
“N… Nothing…” Barbara muttered. “Those just… Smell… Really good.” She continued to stare at her two daughters as they slowly ate.
“Mom, you’re scaring me…” Jessica muttered.
“I thought you hated these things anyway!” Ashley cried. “Said they were just sugar and processed garbage!”
“I love processed garbage.” The words left Barbara’s mouth before she realized what she said.
“You know there’s an entire box of them, you can make your own right?” Jessica growled.
“I can?” Barbara blinked. “I can!” She quickly opened the pantry and found the box of tarts. She grabbed a set of two. They were wrapped in foil but she could still smell them. She bit into the foil, tearing it through it and biting off a piece of both tarts in addition to their wrapping.
“Okay… What is going on?” Jessica narrowed her eyes. “Is this some kind of new psychological punishment over the dog thing?”
“The dog thing?” Barbara tilted her head curiously as she continued to devour her tarts. “Oh… That! Right… We need to talk about that. Plans changed… And um! You know what it will be easier to talk after you two get home from school. Yeah, I’ll explain later.”
“Wait does that mean?” Ashley started to get excited.
“Don’t get your hopes up.” Jessica growled.
“You know… I feel really good today.” Barbara moved on from the conversation. “We should go outside. Or too the park. Who wants to go to the park? Anyone? Anyone? Come on it’ll be fun.”
“Me! Me! I want to go!” Ashley threw up her hand.
“We have school.” Jessica grabbed her sister’s hand and lowered it. “And you work. Seriously, what are you doing?”
“I’m um… I… Don’t know.” Barbara shook her head. She just felt so wound up today. But… That was right… She had work. And… If she didn’t leave soon she was going to be late. “Never mind, I have to go! Jessica make sure your sister gets to school safely! Love you, see you tonight!” Barbara quickly flew out the door.
And a moment later came back in.
“You two forget something?” Barbara asked.
“Ugh, mom, aren’t you running late?” Jessica rolled her eyes.
“And you’re just making me later. Come on. We fight sometimes… But you know it…” Somehow Barbara managed to give her daughters puppy dog eyes.
“Uggggh.” Jessica groaned.
“You are so weird mom…” Ashley squeaked.
“We love you too.” They both chanted half-heartedly at the same time.
“That’s my girls.” Barbara smiled and ran back outside. She got her keys and started to open her car when her entire body went rigid. She sniffed at the air. Something was wrong. Someone had intruded onto her home. She sniffed again and glanced around the area nervously… And there she saw the offender.
A gray and black striped cat was sitting on the sidewalk outside her house grooming itself.
“You.” Barbara recognized it as one of the neighbor’s cats. “What are you doing here? This is my home! Mine!”
“Meooooooooow.” The cat let out a half yawn before continuing to groom itself.
“I said… MINE!” Barbara barked the last word at the top of her lungs. This was enough to get the cats attention.
“MROOOOAAAAWWWWRL!” The cat leaped from its spot, the fur bristling over its entire body. It backed away from Barbara hissing and spitting.
“Oh… Oh, you’re doing it now.” Barbara growled. In the back of her mind she became aware something was wrong. That sensation of her clothes not quite fitting was intensified. There were itching sensations over several parts of her body… And her feet began to scream in protest being contained within her shoes. But none of that mattered. All that mattered was getting this cat out of her territory. “I said… MINE!” She leaped forward towards the cat in challenge. For a brief half a second… The cat looked like it considered meeting her challenge. Then it noticed the size difference and took off running.
“MROOOAAAAAAAAAAWRL!” The cat screeched as it ran away.
“Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!” Barbara continued to bark as she broke into a sprint after the cat. Except… Running in heels was nearly impossible. Then forget them! She kicked the shoes off, she was barefoot beneath them, and the sensation of each foot against the pavement instead of those horrible shoes was a relief. She could run much faster without those things!
But… Cats were four legged… And fast! The thing was going to get away! It had invaded her territory and was just going to get away without consequences! That wasn’t right. Barbara began to growl. Her clothing started to feel looser on her, but she paid it no mind. Her heart was going a mile a minute, all she was focused on was catching that cat. She had to go faster! Without thinking she dropped onto all fours. It was awkward for a moment… But her hands adjusted fast. The pavement should have been painful on them… But small pads formed beneath her palms as she continued to run, and her nails grew longer and tougher giving her more traction.
“Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine! Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark!” Barbara hadn’t lost her focus on the cat. It tried to squirm underneath a broken trellis in a neighbor’s hard. Barbara headed in right after it. Her blouse and pants were caught on it… But she squirmed out of the seemingly giant clothing easily and continued on. Strangely enough, she didn’t even feel cold without her clothes. Perhaps it had to do with the golden fur that was growing over her body.
Something else came into her field of view as she ran. It was… A nose? Her nose? It pushed out from her face and looked like it had a black tip or something. That was just silly. Had she not gotten enough sleep last night or something. Oh well! She rounded the corner of the neighbor’s yard and found the cat pawing at a sliding glass door trying to let it inside.
‘End of the line!’ Barbara’s tongue hung out of her mouth as she approached the cat… But… Something was wrong. The cat was now slightly bigger than her.
“Mroooaaawrl!” The cat screeched and hissed. Then it too noticed the size difference between it and Barbara had changed. The cat arched its back to look larger and took a few steps forward swiping at Barbara with its claws.
‘Hey! Hey!’ Barbara backed away from the cat. ‘No need to get violent! Come on!’ Why was the cat so freaking huge?
“Mroooowl!” The cat screeched back.
‘Nuh uh you started it!’ For some reason Barbara understood what the cat was saying. It was strange. But she had more pressing matters right now.
“HISSSSSSSSSSS!” The cat leaped forward and pounced upon Barbara slapping her in the face.
‘Okay you win I started it I’m sorry!’ Barbara yelped, pulled back and took off running as fast as she could. She didn’t stop until the house was two blocks behind her. Thankfully the cat hadn’t followed her. ‘Psycho cat. No way anyone owns something like that legally. It’s like some kind of mountain lion. Someone should call animal control… But… Where is my phone?’
She looked around, spying one of her neighbors out for the day. Maybe he had his phone. She quickly ran up to him… And… He was a giant! She knew she was short, but she didn’t even make it up to his knees! What kind of freak was he?
‘Hey! I need to borrow your phone! There is this freak of a cat and we need help and!’
“Awwww what a cute little guy.” The neighbor smiled and bent down and patted Barbara on the head. He then paused as he studied her for a moment. “Err, I mean girl.”
‘Hey! Don’t act so condescending to me just because I’m short!’ She yapped and jumped in the air a few times… Yet… Being patted like that did feel nice. It made her tail wag.
She slowly looked back and saw that she indeed had a tailed. It was a short thing, but extremely fluffy and curled upwards. And it… It taunted her! She barked angrily at it, and began to chase the tail. How dare it attached itself to her! Yet… No matter how fast she chased after it she couldn’t catch up. She eventually spun herself dizzy and fell over onto her side.
“You’re a silly little thing.” The neighbor laughed. “Are you someone’s pet or a stray? You don’t have a collar…” He began to reach a hand for her. “Maybe I should call a shelter to come pick you up.”
‘Ok this joke is going too far!’ Barbara jumped back away. ‘Real helpful you are creep! It’s like you don’t understand a word I say.’
“Feisty aren’t you?” The man smiled… But at the same time he was pulling out his phone.
‘Ugh this is ridiculous.’ Barbara growled before taking off running. She’d just go home and use the house phone.
Except… She couldn’t get in the house. Her keys were in her pants which she had lost. She was… Running around the neighborhood naked. Why had that just now occurred to her? She couldn’t be seen like this! She had to get inside fast… But… her kids would already be gone and unable to let her in! The hole in the garage! Maybe it was big enough.
Running up the driveway she checked the hole. It was just big enough to poke her head through. Maybe if she sucked in her breath… She stretched herself and pushed herself right into the garage! Success! Now she at least wouldn’t be visible from the street. Still… How to get in the house? Well the garage door was seldom locked… But as she ran up to it the knob was well out of her reach. Everything in here was giant… What was going on?
Barbara walked between rows of old furniture, pausing as she came before a large full sized mirror she had removed from the bedroom. It was partially covered by a cloth. She pulled at the cloth tot uncover the mirror’s surface and then froze.
On the other side of the mirror was a small pomerium dog with golden fur. Other than being the opposite gender, it looked identical to the one her kids had brought home.
She laughed. Of course. It was a dream. It had to be a dream. What other logical conclusion could there be? That’s why she had been acting so out of character. Why she had failed to notice things earlier. That was just how dream logic worked! Things seemed normal until you actually noticed. The dream probably represented something like her guilt over the dog or something like that. And if it was a dream! It meant she had more time to sleep.
Barbara laid down on the garage floor, content that when she woke up things would be normal.
Hours passed before she came to. What woke her were the voices of her kids arriving home from school. The kids! They were home! Barbara leaped up from her spot, her tail wagging as she quickly ran to the garage door and squeezed out the hole again. She could hear them talking as she approached.
“I could walk myself home!” Ashley was complaining.
“We’ve been over it before. You’re eight. Mom would feel better if she knew I waited for you at the bus stop.” Jessica muttered.
“It’s not like mom is ever going to know.” Ashley growled.
‘Girls! Girls! Girls!’ Barbara ran down the driveway her tail wagging a mile a minute. She was so happy they were home. She began to leap in a circle around them. Except… They were so big… And she still had a tail? She was still a dog! But… She should have been awake now! This was a dream! It had to be right!
“MR. DOGGY!” Ashley squealed with a delighted giggle as she bent down and began to scratch Barbara behind the ears. It felt so good. “I thought mom was going to get rid of you!”
“She said things had changed…” Jessica seemed to be in disbelief. “Did she really change her mind?”
“Awwww I can’t wait to play with you! And pet you! And groom you!” Ashley giggled as she sat on the ground with Barbara. “We’re gonna be best friends Mr. Doggy.”
“He needs a better name than Mr. Doggy.” Jessica muttered. “How about Clifton?”
“That’s a lame name!” Ashley muttered. “We should call him Zippy!”
“That’s a ridiculous name.”
“Well why don’t we ask the dog which he likes?” Jessica looked down at Barbara.
‘Look this is not the time you two!’ Barbara barked. ‘I don’t know what’s going on… But I think it has to do with when the dog bit me! And… And neither one of you understands a word I’m saying huh?’
“He barks a lot.” Ashley scratched Barbara’s chin idly.
“Apparently he has opinions.” Jessica giggled. “Come on, bring Clifton inside and we’ll get him something to eat.”
‘I’m your mom not a dog!’ Barbara barked more then paused. ‘Wait food?’ All she had to eat today were two tarts. She was starving. She followed the kids inside the house as they headed to the kitchen.
“We don’t have any dog food yet… But lunch meat should be safe right?” Jessica opened the fridge to grab some.
“I bet Zippy would prefer that over kibble anyway!” Ashley threw her hands up.
‘Oh sweet child. You have no idea how right you are.’ The idea of eating dog food disgusted Barbara. She was quite thankful when Jessica put down a plate full of sliced ham. She devoured it in seconds.
“We should get something too.” Jessica muttered. “Mom’s probably going to be late again.”
“I know…” Ashley sighed.
‘That’s not fair! It’s not like I stay late every night!’ Barbara barked but the kids paid her no mind. Instead, Jessica got some carrots that she quickly sliced up and placed on a plate.
“Ugh vegetables again?” Ashley wrinkled her nose.
“I don’t like them either… But mom’s going to bring home take-out again. We need something other than processed tarts and greased food in our diets.” Jessica bit into a carrot herself. Barbara couldn’t help but wonder where the carrots had come from. She hadn’t bought them… Had Jessica been spending her allowance on produce for the girls to eat after school.
“Let’s take Zippy for a walk!” Ashley jumped up from her chair after she finished eating.
“How much homework you got?” Jessica asked.
“Not a lot.” Ashley beamed happily.
“Then it won’t take long to do that first before going out!” Jessica gave a smug smile to Ashley who returned it with a pouting face.
“UGGGGH! You’re the worst.” Ashley stuck her tongue out… But a moment later pulled her school books out and set them up on the table. Jessica set themselves up across from her. Without much to do Barbara laid down on the floor and watched.
“Hey… Jes?” Ashley spoke up after awhile sounding unsure of herself. “What’s Five squared?”
“You can figure it out you don’t need me to tell you.” Jessica stood up and stepped behind Ashley. “Come on, write it out on paper, don’t try to do it in your head. If you’re squaring it, you’re just multiplying it by itself. So… If five candies come in a pack, and you buy five packs, how many you got?”
Ashley began to scratch at the paper with her pencil. She kept glancing up at her sister who would just watch with a nod. After a few seconds she spoke up. “Twenty-five?”
“See, you knew how to do it. Didn’t need my help.” Jessica smirked and went back to her desk.
Had this been going on every night? Barbara tilted her head. It was like Jessica was raising Ashley for her. No wonder the girl didn’t have time to even clean her own room.
It was dusk before the two finished their homework. Ashley finished first and had been bouncing up and down wanting to go out. But Jessica insisted she wait till she could go with.
“Come onnn! Hurry up! I wanna take Zippy for a walk now!” Ashley shouted. “You’re tooooo slooooow.”
“Alright, alright I’m coming.” Jessica slowly stood up. “We don’t have a leash or collar yet.” She looked down at Barbara. “Do you think we can trust you to stay with us.”
‘I’m not a dog I’m…’ Barbara started but realized it was pointless. ‘Whatever… Let’s just go on this walk. If anything else she wanted to keep an eye on the girls for now.
It was a cool evening as set out. Barbara loved the feeling of the wind on her fur… For awhile they walked in silence before Ashley spoke up.
“Mom likes her job more than us huh?” Ashley muttered.
“Don’t say that! She just… You know how it is! She has to work and…” Jessica sounded unsure. “But… She’s apparently letting us keep Clifton.
‘You two can’t really think that!’ Barbara’s tail went between her legs. ‘I know I’m busy! But… I always make time for you two!’ Except… As they walked on she realized that she really didn’t.
“I bet she just didn’t have time to take Zippy to the pound. That’s the only reason we’re keeping him.” Ashley growled. The accusation felt like a dagger in Barbara’s heart.
“I…” Jessica was unsure of what to say.
“Dad’s gone. Mom’s always at the office. She didn’t even come to my play.” Ashley muttered.
A play? Barbara didn’t know Ashley had even been in a play. When had that happened? Come to think of it… Ashley had brought home a screen play of Peter Pan awhile back and kept talking about Wendy. Barbara had thought they were just reading it in class.
“I mean… She has to work to put food on the table.” Jessica made an attempt to defend her parents that was obviously half-hearted. “And… Um…” She kneeled down to pat Barbara on the head. “And we have Clifton now.”
“… Yeah…” Ashley knelt down and wrapped her arms around Barbara in a sad hug. Barbara leaned into the hug, doing the best she could to embrace Ashley.
If only she could talk right now. She was realizing that she didn’t know her daughters very well. The two got along surprisingly well! She always remembered them fighting. Then again… Perhaps that was the stress of having to do things alone.
‘I really screwed up huh?’ Barbara whined as she laid on the ground.
“Oh! Zippy don’t you be depressed!” Ashley began to rub both of Barbara’s ears at the same time. “You didn’t do anything wrong! Come on, let’s find a stick and play fetch.”
Yes… Maybe that was a good idea. Perhaps… Barbara hadn’t been the best of mothers. Hadn’t been there when she needed to be. Well… Even she could be there now… Even if it was as a dog instead of a mother! If chasing a stick would make her girls smile than she’d catch a hundred of them. Whatever it took to start making things right.
It was completely dark by the time they were done and had returned to the house.
“Mom’s still not home.” Ashley muttered.
“Her car was still in the driveway when we went to school.” Jessica shrugged. “Probably carpooled with someone today. “And I bet that person also had to stay late. Come on, let’s get you cleaned up and to bed.”
“What about Zippy?” Ashley asked.
“I think Clifton should probably sleep in the garage till we’ve gotten to talk to mom.” Jessica responded. “Maybe mom changed her mind…. But I don’t want to do anything that might upset her and make change her mind again.”
“I guess…” Ashley looked nearly ready to cry. “Sorry you can’t sleep in my bed tonight.”
‘It’s okay…’ Barbara rubbed her head against Ashley’s leg. ‘You go get cleaned up. I’ll be here in the morning when you need me.’
Ashley headed up the stairs to take a bath while Jessica escorted Barbara to the garage.
“Good night Clifton, see you in the morning. I’ll leave the garage light on for you!” Jessica shut the door leaving Barbara alone.
‘Guess I really screwed up huh…’ Barbara stretched out and laid down in the garage and looked around. ‘You know I would have gotten this place cleaned up if I knew it was going to wind up my room.’
Tomorrow was another day. And no matter what… She’d be there for her kids.
The sun had yet to rise when Barbara awoke. There was a noise coming from the outside garage door. She sat up on the cold concrete and became aware of the fact everything felt off again. The furniture in the garage was smaller, normal sized. The sensation of the cool concrete against her bare skin, and a sense of being slightly cold. She looked around. The mirror was still uncovered… She looked into it. She saw herself again. She was human. The transformation had reversed.
But then the noise coming from the garage door alerted her again. She stood up, unsure of what was happening. Was someone trying to break in? What was it?
And then… A gold furred head poked its hole through the hole in the door. A moment later the pomerium forced its way completely into the garage.
“YOU!” Barbara hissed. “Do you have any idea what I’ve been through today because of you! Real cheeky of you to finally show up now after it’s all over!”
“Arf” The pomerium tilted its head and wagged its tail.
“But you know…” Barbara sat down next to the dog and began to pet it. “I think I learned a few things about my kids today. Things I probably really needed to know. So… Thank you I guess.”
“Arf!” The dog laid down with its head on one of her legs.
“Though I have no idea if you even did it on purpose or not…” She looked back at the door leading into the house. “I suppose, I have a lot of things to set right. And you know…” She let her eyes wonder down to the golden dog again. “It won’t fix everything… But I get the feeling it’s a step in the right direction. Besides… They’re both far more responsible than they let on. So… Welcome to the family Zippy Clifton.”
“Arf! Arf!” Zippy Clifton jumped happily into the air a few times.
“I suppose we should both head inside. You can sleep at the foot of my bed just this once.” Barbara stood up and started for the door. Then she paused. Something else was bothering her… Something else she forgot about. It finally hit her as she saw her reflection in the mirror again. “Oh… And I suppose I should probably find some clothes before one of the girls sees me like this.”