Lucy fights to save her daughter’s life by jumping into the back of a delivery truck. But a mother’s love might not be quite what it seems.
This is my second-round entry for the NYC Midnight 2018 short story contest. The restrictions were:
Maximum Words: 2000
Prompts: Delivery Driver, Animal Rights
They took my daughter.
The delivery truck lurches forward, hurling me into the back door, head-first. My vision blurs and I taste blood, but I don’t feel any pain. I just have to get to Daisy, who’s in a cage. I shudder, sickened and enraged. That’s my baby they locked up.
I don’t have an escape plan. All I had time to do was jump into the truck and hide behind a palette.
My body is trembling. I’m about to lose Daisy forever, and I haven’t been the best mother. I’ve made countless mistakes. My job requires so much of me, and I’m terrified of being replaced. Daisy is too young to understand that. She just knows her mommy isn’t around as much as she should be.
I regret that. Hell, I regret everything. I wish I could tell Daisy how much I love her, but now is not the time.
The truck swerves in and out of traffic, tossing me about like a UPS package. On a hard right, I fly into a wall and smash my knee. A whimper escapes, and I pray they don’t hear it.
I begged Daisy not to go outside alone, but of course she didn’t listen, she never does. I guess a daughter has to respect her mother before obeying her. After Daisy sneaked out, I saw them. I watched as they snatched my girl and locked her in the back of the truck. Maybe I don’t deserve to have my daughter, but this isn’t about me. I don’t know where they’re taking her or what they’re going to do to her. But I can’t think about that because I’ll fall apart. And I can’t fall apart right now.
Focus, Lucy, focus. Daisy needs out of here. I try to go to her, but I can’t get my footing as the truck slows. Once we’re stopped, I approach her and touch her back. Her head whirls around and she jumps. We make eye contact, and it’s a connection that says a thousand silent words. My baby’s terrified, and it shatters my heart.
The truck picks up speed, and the engine revs so loud it almost drowns out the sound of my heart pounding in my ears.
A sudden halt sends me flying through the air and sailing between the two front seats. With a thud, my head smacks the console. And I just lost my chance to free my daughter.
The truck swerves as Phil lets go of the wheel. “Lucy?” He shakes his head and turns to Sherry. “How in the world did the dog get in here?”
“Oh, my heavens, Lucy!” Sherry screams.
I try to leap away, but Phil grabs me. “These Pomeranians are just too damn small. This is exactly why I begged you to get a big dog, but no! You had to go and get this poofy little rat.”
“I’m not going to dignify that with a response.” Sherry is using that tone. The one where she sounds calm, but you know you’re in deep shit. “Hand over Lucy. Right now.”
Sherry grabs me and cradles me in her arms. “Oh goodness, Phil, she’s bleeding!” She kisses my head and says, “My baby,” but I’m not having her BS. If I was her baby, she wouldn’t be taking mine away from me. Furious, I’m squirming like crazy to get back to Daisy.
Phil sighs. “I’m sorry, Sher. I didn’t mean to call Lucy a rat. You know how much I love her. I’m just really upset.” He pets my head. “I hope you aren’t hurt, sweet girl.”
I turn up my nose. Not a chance, asshole. I thought Phil was my best friend. Boy was I wrong.
“Lucy’s shaking like a leaf.” Sherry shoots Phil a glare. “This was all your stupid idea. I don’t want to live without Daisy and neither does Lucy.”
“Aw, hell, Sherry, the dog doesn’t know what’s going on.”
Sherry frowns. “Of course she does, and watch your mouth.”
That’s it. I’m never, ever going to chase after one of his dumb tennis balls again. I let out a bark because Phil needs to be told off.
I know I wasn’t the best mother, but animals have rights too. And come on. It was Phil who had me audition to be the face of Regal Rawhides, the town’s pet store. I never asked to become a local celebrity, but now that I’m a spokesdog, looks are a critical part of my career. I’m sure Daisy resents the amount of time I spend primping and grooming, but up until now, I was scared of being replaced by a fresh new face. I didn’t want to let Phil and Sherry down because they needed the money. I was loyal to them, but they clearly aren’t to me. Looking back, I should’ve just left the Industry and been a better mother. Hindsight. But this isn’t about me, it’s about Daisy.
“Try to calm down, Lucy Goose.” Phil scratches behind my ears, and my body relaxes a bit. “I know you don’t understand this, but Daisy is going to a good home. We didn’t want to sell her, but we have to. We’re behind on bills since I had to go on disability. I can only be a part-time delivery driver right now, and I don’t want Sherry to have to work any more overtime than she already is.”
“I’m just fine, Phil.” Sherry squeezes me tighter. “Don’t bring me into this atrocity.”
I let out a whine. Sell Daisy? As in exchange her for money? No, no, no. How can that even be legal? Animals lives matter, dammit. They can’t call us family then sell us like possessions.
I burst out of Sherry’s arms and scramble back to Daisy’s cage.
“Shit, Lucy!” Phil let’s out an exasperated groan. “It almost seems like she knows what’s going on, Sherry.”
“Language. Again!” Sherry shakes her finger, then turns to check on me.
God, Phil’s a half-wit. I love him, or at least I used to, but he never gives me any credit. And how dare he do this to me. Well, no more being Miss Good Dog. Those days are gone.
I start barking in the highest pitch I can muster. Take that, Phil. I know he hates it when I do that. And if he thinks I have any intention of stopping, he’s dead wrong. Sherry is saying something, but I can’t hear it because Daisy takes my cue and chimes in. My heart swells. Daisy never cooperates with me, but she is now.
I poke my nose through the cage and lick her face. Since I’m not barking, I hear Phil yell, “I can’t pull over, Sherry! I’m on the freeway.”
It’s time to let Daisy out. Studying the latch on her cage, I see what I have to do to release it. I use my snout to rotate the bar and slide it up. But it keeps slipping. I work until I learn how to balance it just right. When I finally get the bar all the way up, the door flings open and Daisy rushes out and licks my face. The feeling is amazing, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is.
The truck stops and Phil and Sherry get out. They’re not speaking, which means things are bad. Really bad. I’ve only seen Sherry give Phil the silent treatment one time before. He’d come home drunk after their son left for the military, and Phil’s not supposed to drink, ever.
When he opens the back door, Daisy and I dart out and sail through the air before landing on the ground.
“Aw, Jesus, Sherry, get over here!” Phil yells. “Daisy got out of her crate. Both the dogs just took off.”
Daisy and I are running as fast as our legs will go, and Sherry is desperately calling for us. I feel a bit guilty, but they left us no choice.
“Don’t run into the road, Daisy, you’ll get hit!” Sherry is crying. “Daisy, please. Get out of the road!”
Oh no, I didn’t think about that. Daisy doesn’t understand that cars are dangerous. She’s just a pup. I stop in my tracks to see her racing down the road toward a blue sedan. What have I done? I bark out a command for her to come, but Daisy is back to her old self. She’s not listening to me.
“There’s a car coming, Phil!” Sherry is running, but she’s too far away. Phil can’t run since he hurt his back, but he’s whistling.
I see the headlights approaching, and I realize this is all on me. I can run faster than Daisy, so I’ll just have to catch up. Barking and chasing her with everything I have, I’m gaining on her. But my knee isn’t working quite right since I hurt it. When I finally reach Daisy, I headbutt her off the road.
Sherry is hysterical. “Lucy!”
“Watch out, Luce!” Phil lets out a scream that sends an icy chill down my spine.
I turn to see the bumper of the sedan barreling at my head. I duck and bark to tell everyone that I love them. Then I squeeze my eyes shut.
“Phil, no!” Sherry’s voice is filled with so much terror that I barely recognize it. “No, Phil, don’t!”
The sound of the car skidding in front of me drowns out all other noises.
When I open my eyes, the car’s bumper is a half inch in front of me. I look up to see Phil standing over me, his arms touching the hood. I jump, and he squats down so that I can leap into his arms.
“Lucy,” he whispers. He’s crying. I’ve never heard him cry before. I didn’t know he could.
“Oh, my stars.” Sherry is holding Daisy and running toward Phil and me, tears streaming down her face. She hugs us both so tight I can’t breathe, but I don’t care. I look at Daisy to see her gleefully panting, her tail wagging. Oh, the innocence of the young. But boy, do I love her. I lick her face so much I think she’ll bark at me, but she doesn’t.
The driver jumps out of her car. “Oh my God, are you and your dog okay?”
“We’re great.” Phil raises a palm. “No worries, it wasn’t your fault.”
“Good.” She puts her hands over her face. “I’m so sorry.” With her head down, she gets back into the car.
Sherry and Phil carry us off the road and the car drives away.
“Aw, hell, that was scary.” Phil is crying all over again. “What would we do without our Lucy?”
My heart warms.
“You could’ve died.” Sherry pulls Phil into another hug. “I do love you, even though you’re a damn fool.”
“Wow.” He laughs. “I am a damn fool. I’m also the luckiest man on earth. Somehow I convinced the most beautiful woman to stand by my side for thirty-two years.”
“Oh, you.” Sherry touches his face. “It’s because of that big old heart of yours.”
He kisses her forehead, then takes Daisy from Sherry. Pulling us both close, he says, “I’m so sorry, Daisy. I can’t believe I even considered selling you. I was just so worried about our finances.”
“We’ll figure out the money, Phil. We always do,” Sherry says. “I’ll go apologize to the family.”
As she walks away, Phil turns to me. “I’m sure proud of you, Lucy Bear. You saved Daisy’s life.”
My tail wags uncontrollably. I did, didn’t I? That feeling I had before comes back again. I think it might be a mother’s love. And Phil just risked his life to save mine. I was wrong about us being best friends. Because we’re family.
A huge thanks to Jake Miller, Deena Short, Lisa Kabus, and Jill Cobb. You guys were awesome!