“After All”

husky

What is the speed of thought?

How much stuff can run through a brain in any given split-second? Say, for instance, in the space of the glance that Jason Kane chanced to give Husky? That moment was small, less than the glitch you’d see if it were some video that skipped a frame, the same moment Jason’s hand was about to grip the doorknob on his way out of Penny.’s apartment.

With just a dart of the eyes, the dog was seen and was also seen as more than just “dog.” Husky, in his wolf-like frame and mismatched eyes, was also the pride and joy of Penny. The reason for the compliment when Jason first met her. The companion on his morning jogs once he moved in, the source of warmth on cold New York winters during movie night at home.

A pain in the ass because he was always so rude to everyone, barking even at the neighbors, but never to Jason.

“That’s because you’re so much alike,” Penny would say.

“Wait. ‘A pain in the ass?'”

Penny would just smirk and shrug. Husky would pant and bark approvingly.

Once, Jason was staring out the sliding glass door to the balcony. He tapped the handle of the door, and his feet bounced restlessly, too. The kind of rapid leg movement you might see from a teenager in the middle of math class. Penny laughed at him and asked if he needed to go outside for a walk.

Not too long after that, Penny caught Jason in a more melancholy mood. He was resting his head in her lap as she sat on the end of the couch near the end table. ESPN was on but he wasn’t really watching it. She was more engrossed in her reading of something from Paul Auster. For some reason, it allowed them to talk about books.

Jason remembered the one story he really liked as a kid. It was one about a boy who lived in a small towns in some rural mountain area. One day, he took in a wounded owl, a baby that was still this wild thing but needed care. So he did care for it, loved it, and had a variety of adventures with it appropriate for any such fifth grade-level novel. And of course, came that ending. The one where the owl finally left. Despite the love and the life he shared with the boy, it was just … an owl after all.

Penny put down the book and turned her full attention to Jason’s head, continuing to brushing back his hair lightly. He still looked at the brightly flashing moveable type swirling over the figures scrambling on the field, and still wasn’t really paying attention.

“That story really resonated with me somehow. One of those you really like because it’s so cool but you also really hate because you can’t get it out of your head. I guess the best praise I could give it was that, at the time, I really wanted to be like those in the story. Who wouldn’t want to own a wild owl, you know?”

Husky barked, and both laughed.

Husky barked again, and Jason took a second glance as his hand reached the doorknob. With his other hand, he shifted the duffel bag strap to adjust the heavy weight.

“Sorry, boy,” Jason told the dog. “I just realized. That story with the boy and the owl? It really affected me more than I ever thought. Now that I think about it, I *did* become like those in the story. Over and over again. But the thing is, turns out, I’m actually the owl.”

With time for another heartbeat or two of infinite thoughts, Jason finally broke his pause, turned the knob, and walked out the door.

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