A Short Story 3/

Henry took a quick shower and dried his hair with a Wagner Furno heat gun he typically used for wet paint. Works better, Henry claimed. He usually let it hair dry but, because of a new job he landed in the east bay, he was forced to have a little pep in his step. The job itself was at a sorority house near the Berkley campus. He picked it up through one of his weed dealer’s.

At the table, he gobbled down three leftover chicken thighs, toast, and some over-easy eggs. Betria was still in bed, awake and reading her bible. Henry heard her two dogs barking and scratching on her bedroom door. When he opened the door, the smaller, thinner dog, Boy-Boy, shot under his legs and to the front door where his toy was. The fat, beige, pig-like one waddled out beside Henry and went straight for its food bowl.

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“Good morning,” said Henry to Betria.

Betria looked at Henry over her glasses, “You eat already?”

“Yeah,” Henry said munching. “Got to go to work.”

“That’s good. Dondé?” Betria looked back down at her bible, mumbled a little prayer, then picked up her Spanish TV guide.

“Berkley somewhere,” Henry said.

He brought the comb smoothly down through his hair, meticulously running the teeth through every follicle. He picked a tiny bit of lint or possibly a weed leaf and flicked it at his feet. With a gentle flat palm, he pressed down on a small lump of tangled hair. He whistled a playful tune as his mind wandered to an image of him on a very tall mountain surrounded by wolves, swirling wind and sunlight overwhelming him. The comb snagged.

“Ah’ shit!” Henry barked.

“Gentle boy,” Betria snickered. “Get going, get going and stop playing with your damned hair.”

“OK!” Henry sighed aloud, shutting the door behind him.

As Henry finished up, Betria shouted something from her room that Henry couldn’t hear.

“What?” yelled Henry, so she could hear him over the television. She shouted again, but Henry still couldn’t hear her. Henry got up and went back to her room, dirty dish in hand. He opened her door and looked at her without saying anything.

“Take the dogs out to pee before you leave,” Betria ordered. “Out the back, not the front.”

“I’m gonna’ be late.”

“Ahhh,” she groaned. “Shaddup.”

Henry shut the door.

“Come on dogs,” Henry mumbled.

They gathered around his feet like religious zealots around their God, dropping his dish in the sink. Guilt was not something he felt anymore when leaving his stuff around. Betria always did everyone's dishes. She usually did all of the laundries. When her hands allowed — she had severe arthritis-Betria loved to cook. She called these everyday tasks her exercise.

Mitchell Duran is a freelance writer. He earned a Master’s in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University in 2019. Find more work at Mitchellduran.com

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