This was supposed to be a simple summer for Billy; one more lazy expanse of time before college began. He’d fill the hours playing with Jimmy – his canine best buddy – going camping and doing all the things he promised Jimmy they’d do before Billy left.
But that was before the accident that shook the entire town.
It was before the summer job that turned into something so much more than a way to get a paycheck.
And it was before Vicki.
This summer was destined to be many things to Billy, things he didn’t truly understand until now. But it was definitely not going to be simple.
Jimmy was a creature of habit, thriving on routine. After receiving his aspirin hidden within a glob of peanut butter, he devoured the day’s first cup of food within seconds. Although it looked like he tried to be neat it was no use. As Jimmy lapped from his water bowl, Billy took a few steps back; without wearing a poncho, he would have gotten soaked. On the upside, the extra water helped Jimmy get started on his morning bath.
While Billy waited for his partner to finish bathing, he spotted a note on the table. It was addressed, Billy. He opened it and read: Billy, let’s look at your class schedule when I get home tonight. I also want to make sure you’ve applied to all the grants you’re entitled to. Even if you’ve missed deadlines, we can still set you up for next semester. Love ya, Sophie.
Billy folded up the note and smiled. Love you, too, he thought.
After taking a very short walk, Billy and Jimmy ended up in the backyard. “Want to play?” Billy asked the dog.
Jimmy got down on his elbows, butt up and tail whipping around—ready to pounce. He even offered a low growl, like he actually meant business.
Billy laughed. “Who are you kidding, old man?” he asked him. “It’s been forever since you’ve tried to spring an ambush on me.”
In response, Jimmy kept his backside high in the air and front legs on the ground, preparing to lunge.
“Don’t go hurting yourself,” Billy told the mutt, letting him off the hook. He threw Jimmy one of his squeaky plush toys.
Jimmy trapped the toy with his front paws and nosed it a few times with his snout. Finally biting into it, he jerked his head violently back and forth, trying to dismember the small stuffed animal. And although he growled, his tail never stopped wagging.
“Big bad dog,” Billy teased, getting onto his knees. He massaged Jimmy’s thick neck.
Jimmy flopped down, out of breath; his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth.
While the dog panted loudly, Billy joined him on the ground and stroked his heaving chest. “Now this is more your speed,” he said.
That afternoon, with Jimmy riding shot gun, Billy pumped eight dollar’s worth of gas into the Honda. For the time being, it was all his budget would allow.
After fastening his seat belt, Billy and his sidekick hit the back roads of Westport for a nice long drive. They were just underway when Billy looked to his right and laughed. “You really love your car rides, don’t you?” he told Jimmy.
The silver faced mutt never answered. Instead, he kept his entire head hanging out of the passenger side window. His eyes were squinted and his ears were flopping in the wind, like two flags fluttering in a wind storm. Billy remembered trying it once as a kid, but he didn’t last all that long outside the window. The rush of air stung his eyes until he could no longer keep them open.
“Be careful,” he told Jimmy, but the dog was in his glory—enjoying the open road like the free spirit he’d always been.
They were five miles from the beach, the salted air already teasing their tongues, when the Honda sputtered a few times. Billy took his foot off the gas and then reapplied pressure. In response, the Honda shook and convulsed like it was suffering some terrible seizure. Instantly, the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree with every dummy light, while the car slowed to a crawl. Billy steered the Honda to the side of the road before it gasped one last breath, sputtered and died.
Billy put the gear shifter into park and tried to start it again. “Damn it!” It was no use. He looked at Jimmy. “Looks like we need to call Triple A,” he said and pulled out his cell phone to dial his father.
The phone rang twice before his dad’s baritone voice answered. “Hello?”
“Dad, it’s Billy. I took Jimmy for a ride and we broke down.”
“Where are you?” the old man asked.
“Main Road,” Bill said, looking out his window, “between the Apothecary and Lees.”
“I’ll be there in ten,” his dad said and hung up the phone.
Billy tossed his cell phone onto the dashboard and grinned. His father wasn’t perfect by any stretch—but if I called him from the moon, Billy thought, he’d still come and get me.
Jimmy pulled his head back into the car and looked at Billy, as if awaiting an explanation for the delay.
“Sorry buddy. We tried,” Billy told him. “We’ll have to go to the beach another day.”
Jimmy whimpered softly before sticking his head back out of the window and licking at the salty air. As he did, Billy noticed that the car’s inspection sticker had expired a month before. Oh no…