“I am very sorry I left the gate open, Lucy! I wanted a frootalicious ice cream from the ice cream truck. Now you’re gone. Well, not gone. Now you will live in my room, next to my unicorn. Her name is Georgiana Banana. She likes being called Georgie, for short.” Beth, 6 years old, carefully placed the glass dog she’d found under the couch next to her glass unicorn. The sunlight hit the little statues at that moment, throwing rainbows across the room. Beth clapped happily. “Rainbows, rainbows, all around the roooo-ooom, rainbows, rainbows, all around the room!” She sang and hopped from foot to foot. “Oh wait!” she exclaimed, stopping her little dance. “What should we call you?” She put her finger next to her mouth, trying not to chew her nail. Her mother had told her to keep her fingers out of her mouth. She was trying.
“Something new. Selena! Yes, I will call you Selena, even though that is not a dog’s name. Because deep down, you are not a dog. You are a… hmmmmm… Seleeeeena is a good name for a bird. So you are a dog bird. You would like that. You always chased birds.” She put her fists on her hips, another thing her mother had told her not to do. Or had she? Beth frowned. Was that just a dream? She dropped her hands, just in case. “Georgiana Banana, the unicorn, meet Selena, the dog-bird.” She grinned. “We will play now, but we must be very careful not to break you.” As she reached forward to pick up both her glass animals, she heard the cat yowl from the next room. She stopped short, and was about to leave, but then said, “We will ignore the cat right now, because he is dumb.” She carefully picked up her glass figures. She sank to the floor, and started creating a unicorn/dog-bird dance. It was beautiful, of course.
Beth soon grew bored with her glass figures. The cat yowled again. She slowly and carefully put Georgiana Banana and Selena back on the shelf. She ran to the living room. “Maxterman! Maxterman, where are you?? I found Lucy. Only now she’s Selena. And a dog-bird!” She looked around the living room, but couldn’t see the cat. “Where arrrrreee you????” she cried. She looked behind the couch. She looked under the couch. “Where are you? You will like Selena. I think.” She sat back on her heels and starting biting her fingernail. “Oh!” she shook her head, reminding herself, and pulled her finger out of her mouth. She frowned at it, and scolded, “Mother says don’t do that!” Curling her finger up and down, she said in a tiny voice, “But I want to!” In her best big girl voice, she scolded back, “No, you shouldn’t!”
The cat yowled again, and she looked up. “Maxterman! Where are you?” She got up and looked behind the television. “I promise you will not be afraid of Lucy now that she is a dog-bird. She is very tiny. She is a dog, but she is also a bird. Sometimes she might chase you… but sometimes you might chase her!” She laughed and hopped from foot to foot. “Chasing, chasing,” she sang. She looked under the recliner. Maxterman was not there. She could not find that darn cat anywhere! She stood up, and put a finger in her mouth and her other hand on her hip. She chewed thoughtfully on her fingernail, then groaned. “Ugh!” She pulled her finger out of her mouth and dropped her other hand from her hip. The cat yowled again.
The sound seemed to be coming from under the couch, so she dropped down to all fours to look again. She reached around underneath it until her hand stopped on a small box. She pulled it out and opened it. Spying the contents, she gasped. It was a little glass cat! It fit perfectly into her small hand. “Maxterman! What happened to you??” she cried mournfully. She glanced around the room again, but the cat was not there. And it was no longer meowing or yowling. “Oh, no.” she said, shaking her head sadly. “It happened again.”
Clutching the small figurine, she got up and walked back into her bedroom. Sighing, she said, “Ok Georgie and Selena, you have a new friend. This is…” she stopped and looked at the little cat figure. “What will your new name be? Mmmm… mmm… Peaches!” Beth named her favorite fruit. “Now Peaches, you don’t need to be afraid of Selena. Especially since she is a dog-bird. You will probably chase her more than she chases you!” Beth placed the little glass cat next to the little glass dog. She balled her fists and put them on her hips. Just then, her mother called. Beth dropped her fists quickly. “I’m in my room, mom!”
Beth sat at the kitchen table, writing her ABCs. Her parents were arguing.
“Not arguing, talking,” Beth whispered to herself. She almost bit her nail, but managed to stop herself.
“I haven’t seen that dog all day,” Beth’s mother said, shaking her head.
“Jeanie, I took the dog out this morning for her walk, and I brought her back. I swear!” Beth’s father answered.
“Jack. I’m not saying you’re lying. I’m just saying, I can’t find Lucy anywhere. I need to finish making dinner. Will you please check the basement again? I don’t want to have clean up another mess like the last time.” Beth’s mom sounded very irritated.
“Ok, fine, whatever.” Beth’s dad said in a tired voice. He headed down to the basement to look for Lucy once more.
Beth’s mom then said some words that Beth knew she wasn’t supposed to hear.
Beth knew her mom never liked the dog. Lucy made smelly messes. Beth didn’t like how smelly the dog was either, but she never wanted to make Lucy go away.
Feeling very sad, Beth slid off her chair and walked over to her mother, who was washing lettuce by the sink. She tugged on her mother’s pants. “Mom?”
“Yes honey, what?” Beth’s mom turned off the water, then covered the lettuce and started spinning it. That was Beth’s favorite part, so she stopped for a minute and watched.
“Did you want to tell me something, Beth?” her mom asked.
“Um. I don’t know.” Beth chewed her fingernail.
Beth looked up. Her mother was looking down at her and raising an eyebrow. Beth quickly pulled her finger out of her mouth. “Never mind!” Beth shouted, and ran to her room.
Feeding Maxterman every morning was one of Beth’s chores. The cat’s bowls were kept in the kitchen, next to the back door. Beth opened the cupboard above the bowls and scooped up the kibble. She was sure that the cat was gone forever, just like the dog, but she didn’t want to tell her mother. She took a deep breath. “Maxterman! Come and eat!!” To Beth’s great surprise, the cat came bounding into the room. Beth’s mouth dropped open in shock. “Maxterman! You’re–” Just then her mother came into the kitchen. Beth stuttered, “You’re a, a big cat!!” She exclaimed, hoping her mother wouldn’t notice how surprised Beth was to see him.
Her mother frown-smiled. “He’s no bigger than he was yesterday, is he?” she asked.
“Um… no.” Beth mumbled. Her mom grabbed a spoon from the drawer and walked back to the dining room. “Oooohhh you are much bigger than yesterday!” Beth whispered, petting the cat’s soft fur.
Beth stood up and trotted back to her room. She went over to her shelf of glass figures, and the cat was… gone! There were no glass cats on the shelf at all. Only the glass dog and the glass unicorn remained. “Maxterman came back!” Beth breathed. “Lucy, will you come back? You should. Dad is really sad! And mom is really mad. But I think she’s glad too. She’s glad-mad.”
Beth was very happy. She was having her first play date with Angie, her very favorite friend from her new school.
“If you hold her to sun, she puts rainbows on the floor!” Beth exclaimed, hoping to impress Angie.
Angie tried, but could not get the rainbows to come out.
“Go closer to the window,” Beth instructed.
Angie did. “Like this?”
“Yes!” Beth clapped happily. “See?” She pointed to the rainbows on the floor.
“OOoooooo pretty!” Angie cried. She moved the little unicorn down, and the rainbows moved too.
Beth squealed. She’d never seen that before. “Keep moving it!” Angie did, and rainbows danced on the floor.
“Too bad you don’t have another unicorn,” Angie said. “We could have even more rainbows.”
“I have a little dog, Selena,” Beth said, going to the shelf. To her surprise, though, Selena was not there. “Oh no!”
“What?” Angie carefully cradled the unicorn to her chest and walked back to the shelf.
“Lucy – I mean Selena – is gone!” Beth started to cry.
“Do you have a brother?” Angie asked. “My brother is always taking my toys.”
“No, I don’t have a brother,” Beth sobbed. “And now I don’t have a Lucy or a Selena!”
“Who is Lucy?” Angie asked.
“She was our dog,” Beth sniffed. “Our dog that ran away.”
“It’s been 3 days, Jack. Do you think Lucy ran away?” Beth’s mom whispered.
“I have no idea–”
“Quiet! I don’t want Beth to hear.”
Beth’s dad continued, more quietly, “I don’t know. But I’ve looked all over the neighborhood. I’ve talked to all our neighbors. No one’s seen her.”
“Beth seemed surprised the other day when the cat came to eat. She might think she’s going to lose Maxterman too. We should talk to her.”
“Yah, we should.”
“Fiiiinne. I will.”
Beth and her mom sat at the kitchen table, finishing their snack of peaches and cream. Beth’s mom said, “Honey, I wanted to talk to you about Lucy.”
“I didn’t do anything!”
“I didn’t think you did anything. It’s just – we can’t find Lucy.”
“I didn’t do anything!”
“Ok…. Beth, do you know what happened to Lucy?”
Beth put her finger in her mouth and chewed on her fingernail.
“Beth?” her mom said very gently. “What’s wrong?”
“Um, because, um, there was – I didn’t –” Beth felt very scared. She started crying.
“What happened, honey?”
In between sobs, Beth stuttered, “At least I-I-I didn’t – didn’t – let Maxterman out!!”
“Did Lucy get out of the yard?”
Crying, Beth finally let it all out. “The ice cream man! The ice cream truck came when I was in the backyard and I heard the song and when I came from the back and opened the gate, Lucy got out! I mean, I think she did. I think she did mom, but I didn’t mean to! I just wanted some ice cream!”
“Oh honey.” Beth’s mom hugged her close. “And this was on Saturday?”
Beth sniffed and whispered, “Yes.”
“Sweetheart, did you see Lucy run out?”
“No, but when I went back with my frootalicious ice cream, she wasn’t there anymore.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Beth’s mom asked, stroking her hair.
“Because I was bad! I wasn’t supposed to let her out!” Beth wailed.
“You’re not bad, darling.” Beth’s mom tilted her chin up. “You just made a mistake.”
“But isn’t that bad?”
“Of course we don’t want to make mistakes. But honey, we all do. You just have to remember to tell me when something like this happens, ok?”
“Ok. But then I lost her again!” Beth started crying all over again. “I found her under the couch but she was really little and made of glass. I put her next to Georgiana Banana but then she was gone again!”
“You found her under the couch?” Beth’s mom asked, wiping away Beth’s tears.
Beth hiccupped. “Yes,” she said.
“I think what you found was one of your birthday presents.”
Beth’s eyes widened. “Lucy didn’t turn into a glass dog? And Maxterman didn’t turn into a glass cat?”
“Oh, you found two of your birthday presents! I guess under the couch is not a very good hiding place.” Beth’s mom shook her head.
“Those were my birthday presents?” Beth asked, starting to smile.
“Yes, darling,” Beth’s mother replied.
Beth’s lower lip started trembling again. “But now I lost them!!” She wailed.
Beth’s mom took her hand and stood up. “Well, let’s go and find them. They must be in your room, right?”
“Maybe…” Beth’s voice trailed off. “Mommy?”
“I’m so sorry I let Lucy out.”
“I know, honey. We all make mistakes.”
“Do you still love me?”
“Even though I made a mistake?”
“Yes, honey, even though you made a mistake. I will always love you, no matter what.”
Beth’s faced was streaked with tears. She rubbed them away. She looked up at her mother and said, “I love you too, mommy.”
“So after about 3 days, I finally told my mom about letting Lucy out,” Beth said, stretching out on the couch.
“Wait, when was this?” Angie asked, leaning forward on the recliner. Her phone buzzed, but she ignored it.
“You know, when we first met. We were 6, right? 15 years ago.”
“Oh right. So you told your mom about the dog…”
“Yah. And she didn’t yell at me. She didn’t get mad. I thought she would. I thought she and dad would be furious.”
“And they weren’t?”
“Well, they weren’t happy, but – I could feel – I don’t know. Their forgiveness. Their acceptance. That’s when I first realized thatI could tell them anything. I didn’t have to pretend with them.”
Angie reached out and grabbed Beth’s hand. “So they’re gonna be ok with this? With us?”
“They love you. They’ll be fine.” Beth grinned at Angie, who smiled back. “It’s gonna be just fine.”