Huge Working Hero by Penny Wylder



1





Kelsie





Where the hell is he?

I push wisps of hair out of my face, blowing spidery strands off my mouth. My eyes scan the living room for the tenth time. I drop to my knees and look under the Mackenzie-Childs Wingback chair. I hate this chair. I've always hated this chair, it's just plain ugly.

The fabric is velvet green, the kind that darkens and lightens depending on how you run your hand across it. There are big, gawky blooming roses across the backrest with gold leaves and a tacky gold trim that beads down the entire outer edge.

My mother thinks that if something is expensive, it must look amazing, no matter what. But she's wrong. This chair is just plain terrible. It's not even comfortable. At least if you could sink into the cushions and it cradled you to sleep like a swaddled baby, then I could ignore the tawdry appearance. Instead, sitting on this chair is like sitting on a concrete slab.

I scuff my knees against the Persian carpet, making them a little raw. Garlits isn't there. Yes, our dog's name is Garlits, after drag racing legend Don “Big Daddy” Garlits, who lost part of his foot in a racing accident.

It was my dad's one condition for me getting a dog. After a year of convincing and plain bugging him, he finally gave in with the expectation he could name the dog. I didn't argue. I wanted the dog.

My father is a car guy, and not just a car guy; he's a loud engine, shiny exterior, but can pull a wheely one second off the line, kind of car guy. He claims it's his passion, but a part of me wonders if the attraction comes from him having been able to turn it into a million-dollar enterprise.

Where the hell can he be?

Did I check the laundry room?

I push myself up from the floor and dart to the laundry room. “Garlits! Garlits, boy! Where are you?” I yank clothes out of a laundry basket and drop them on the floor. But our French bulldog is still nowhere to be found.

Shit. Did he get out again?

The thought sends me in a flurried run back through our house and out the sliding glass doors onto the deck. “Garlits!” I yell, my voice almost as frantic as my heart in my chest.

He's gotten out before; it wouldn't be the first time. And every single time he does, my heart stampedes in my chest like it’s going to explode. Leaning over the edge of the railing, I search the yard below the deck, and across the exposed tree line and shrubs behind our house.

Our home sits on the very outskirts of Brentwood. If we were one street over, I'd be calling Vacaville my home. Recently, there have been quite a few sightings of coyotes in the area. Mrs. Timbers up the road said a few of her chickens went missing. She got up last Monday to find Doris, Belle, and Francine were gone. Left in their place was a small pile of feathers that spilled out like a scatter of breadcrumbs she was able to follow into the woods before it disappeared.

I don't want the next victim to be our little Garlits. Fear seems to scale a small patch of skin across my neck, but I scratch it away, refusing to think the worst just yet. As I shed the fear, panic returns like a lightning bolt during a humid, summer thunderstorm.

Every inhale is labored, and every exhale is heavy and thick. There's an electric charge in the air around me, making the hair stand up on my arms. I hate the thought of my poor little dog being lost and alone, or the possible victim of a coyote.

I run down the steps, almost losing my footing, but catch myself on the handrail. A few shards of wood spear my palm, but I don't have time to pick out the splinters right now. They'll have to wait.

My bare feet hit the dewy morning grass, causing me to slip and almost fall again. I catch myself with my nails in the dirt, barely staying upright. “Garlits!” I'm yelling now, unable to control the volume of my voice.

“Garlits, here boy!” My voice wavers and clunks like I swallowed a frog. The hiccup travels outward, spitting his name again. “G—Ga—Garlits!”

Where the hell is he?

I rake my hand through my hair, spinning in a circle in the backyard. He's not here. He doesn't seem to be anywhere. What if the worst did happen? What if my little fur baby was gobbled up by a crazed coyote?

My stomach curdles, and my skin gets hot, starting to sweat. My heart aches as the solemn reality he's been turned into some wild animal's meal seeps in.

The front! Check the front!

There's a shaking in my legs. Every muscle is quivering from limb to limb, but I manage to take off in a sprint through the backyard and around to the front of the house. My toes squish against the soft earth, and the grass tickles the bottoms of my feet as I slide to a stop.