Photo by Torsten Behren


A Pound of Hamburger

He looked up at the car as it was driving away. He was an all black dog, his fur so dark it shone. Maybe a lab, maybe a mix. My dog, my first dog.

Mom had left a pound of hamburger to distract him, but it didn’t work. I was the only one who saw him look up as we drove off. He barked for us, chasing the car until I couldn’t see him anymore.

Stop, don’t do this. Let him back in the car. I’ll take better care of him. I’ll make sure he doesn’t make a mess again.

He wasn’t a violent dog, not one to snarl or bite. He was a handful. He’d pulled down the Christmas tree, eaten a gingerbread scented decoration.

I’d come home from school, in a Christmas season that didn’t feel like Christmas with no snow. Not in that town that was always too hot, always too bright. Always stuck in an isolating crowd of the different and the unfamiliar.

He was chained up outside, but he was so happy to see me.

Inside no one was happy to see me. Mom was sitting at the kitchen table, smoking. No lights were on.

Go see what your dog did.

Her hands were shaking, but there were no tears. There were never any tears over him. Never any tears about letting go.

She’d left the tree on the ground, the gifts torn. She wanted to make sure I saw it. What my dog had done. The dog I’d begged for, who’d committed several crimes before this one.

He needed watching, but there was not patience in the house for him. Except me, but nine is too young to have a say. Nine is too young to be taken seriously.

He’d made a mess of things, my dog. He had been my dog, but I thought he had been all of our dogs. But then he just wouldn’t stop making messes.

He wouldn’t behave.

I made messes, and I certainly didn’t behave.

He was family, he was mine.

I was hers, I was family.

Would she get rid of me, too?

A pound of hamburger wasn’t enough to distract him from his family leaving him behind. Nothing would have been. He loved us. He loved me, unconditionally.

I changed after that. I didn’t make messes, I behaved very well.

Love was conditional, and the condition was that you behave. You do as you’re told and you don’t make a mess.

And you don’t get left behind.


Nicole Luttrell is a speculative fiction writer who writes about dragons, ghosts, and spaceships. Sometimes she writes about the ghosts of dragons on spaceships. And sometimes she writes the stories of her life. Some sweet, some sad, all real.

Torsten Behren is a Creative Commons. photographer from Germany.