Issue #83

Summer 2022

Scrap of Truth

by Mary Rodriguez

At breakfast Scrap suggests we go to my brother's office to search for clues.

"Mom? Scrap and I are going out," I say, handing her my empty plate.

"You and that mutt . . ."

I'm back to listening to Scrap. The two of us communicate through thought trains. I have the decency to tune him in only when we're having a conversation. I understand dogs need their privacy. I'd like a little privacy myself but I live with my mother.

***

We find my brother's former secretary leaning up against his office building with an unlit cigarette in her hand. I clear my throat and she looks me up and down.

"Aren't you the boss's little brother?"

"I was."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Who is your boss these days?"

"I know, right?" she says. "He's like a different person."

"He's changed?" Scrap thinks.

"What do you mean?" I ask.

"His hair, for one thing. Plus his personality. He's lightened up. I remember the first time he smiled at me. I didn't know whether to run and hide or smile back."

"What'd you do?"

"Asked for a raise."

"Good job."

"He was very generous. Said he'd lightened his purse."

"Your new boss carries a purse?" I ask, intrigued.

The next thing I know, Scrap and I are being nabbed by a security guard who should be out on a football field tackling quarterbacks. He delivers us to the kidnapper who looks quite comfortable sitting behind my brother's massive desk.

"What the helm are you doing here?" the stranger bellows, doing a remarkable Clipper imitation.

"Before I answer your question," I say, looking around the lush office and noting few changes. "What have you done with my brother?"

"What?" He's obviously surprised by my cunning.

"You heard me, where is he?"

"Woof!"

"What's that?" he asks, pointing at Scrap.

"My trusted sidekick. Now I've asked you once and I'll ask you again, where's my brother?"

The kidnapper motions for me to sit. "Why don't you tell me what you know."

"Whoa," I say. "That might take awhile."

"I'm sorry. Let me be more pacific. Tell me why you're here."

"Well, that narrows it down quite a bit."

The kidnapper smiles and I just about jump out of my seat because he's had the audacity to extract Clipper's prize tooth and put it in his own mouth exactly where my brother's had been.

"Where'd you get that silver tooth?" I ask, unafraid of the consequences.

"I fell off my bike when I was ten."

"Just like my brother."

"What a coincidence," the kidnapper says before demonstrating that he's also got my brother's nasty laugh down pat. "Next question?"

I won't bore you with my razor-sharp questions and his dull answers.

"Ask him about his mother," Scrap thinks.

"Tell me about your mother," I say and the kidnapper looks off into the distance.

"She's the most wonderful, most perfect mother any son could wish for."

"He's telling the truth," Scrap thinks and I get light-headed. The kidnapper's made his first mistake.

"Why are you looking for your brother?" he asks. "No, let me guess. You still don't have a job. But Clipper won't support you. That ship has sailed."

We leave soon after that and Scrap shepherds me home because I’m in shock. Then he suggests a game of fetch, knowing it will cheer me up.

"Hey, not so far," he thinks as he plods toward the ball. "I'm no pup, you know."

Scrap's idea of a game of fetch is for the ball to be thrown between his front paws and then for the thrower to meet him more than halfway to take the ball out of his mouth and replace it with a treat. The thrower and Scrap then return to their places, and Scrap plops himself down and waits for the ball to roll between his paws again.

My next throw brings my next-door neighbor out of his house, waving a rolled-up newspaper and screaming, "No dogs in my yard! No dogs in my yard!"

Every blade of grass in my neighbor's yard is the same length, the same color, and leans to the left or right at the same angle, depending on which way the wind is blowing. My neighbor is obsessed with his lawn. He believes, if I might pare a phrase, the pleasure of lawn is in lawning (but I'm getting off the beaten path).

"Your lawn looks great, Mr. Alabaster," I say.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome, Mr. Alabaster."

"I saw your brother yesterday. I don't like what he's done with his hair."

"You saw my brother, Mr. Alabaster?"

"Sure. Why, what's the matter with you?" I'm touched by his empathy until he yanks out a blade of grass that's the wrong color green.

"Ask him about his hair," Scrap thinks.

"What's my brother done to his hair, Mr. Alabaster?"

"He's wearing it shorter and changed the color."

I can't believe it. The kidnapper has convinced both Mr. Alabaster and his secretary that he's my brother.

"Is it possible?" Scrap thinks.

"Of course not!" I answer. "Don't you think I'm smart enough to recognize my own brother?"

The rest of the afternoon and into the evening, Scrap and I argue. Finally, to humor him, I agree to return to my brother's office and confront the kidnapper.

***

"Ask him," Scrap thinks.

"Are you my brother?"

"Of course I am."

Scrap thinks, "He's telling the truth."

We begin arguing again.

"What the helm are you doing now?" the kidnapper asks.

"Scrap thinks you're telling the truth."

For the first time, the kidnapper actually looks at Scrap.

"He was infallible until now," I say.

Scrap objects. I overrule his objection.

The kidnapper interrupts. "I'd like to offer you a job, Reuben," he says. "You and your little doggie."

***

The kidnapper pays us well. I play the part of a blind man and Scrap's my guide dog. If Scrap catches anyone lying, he thinks to me, and I touch the frame of my glasses.

The kidnapper also insists on coming to dinner every Thursday. Both he and Mom delight in the charade as she fusses over ‘her little Clipper'.

***

Tonight after the kidnapper leaves, Mom says, "Now that you're making money, Reuben, you should look for your own place."

"But won't you be lonely?"

"I'll be perfectly fine. Although I'd be happy to cook for you once a week, like I do for Clipper."

Scrap thinks, "She's telling the truth."

Author Bio

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Mary Rodriguez's short fiction and poetry have appeared in print and on-line. She lives with her husband in Wisconsin.