Johnny America




Illustration of a dog in a suitcase.

It was an op­ti­mal sum­mer job for a nine­teen-year-old on hia­tus from ju­nior col­lege. The stu­dent paper’s help want­ed ad re­quest­ed, “Dog sit­ter need­ed for el­der­ly dog.” This said dog was in Paris, of all the lucky places for a dog lover. Kait­lyn crossed her fin­gers and ap­plied. Would a Parisian dog own­er ac­cept a sit­ter from Rochester, Min­neso­ta? Her folks would foot the air­fare, but her day-to-day ex­pens­es were on her. Three weeks in Paris, a young girl’s dream. She emailed her re­sume and a half-page let­ter cov­er­ing how she’d had a fa­vorite gold­en re­triev­er for the past ten years and what an as­set Book­er, their “mas­cot and cheer­leader,” was to her family. 

The pos­i­tive re­sponse came the next day, fol­lowed by a phone call. Raphael’s own­ers es­tab­lished how she would be re­turn­ing for her last year in Sep­tem­ber and not mov­ing in on any lev­el. Now re­tired, they had spent many sum­mers at the Mayo Clin­ic, fill­ing in for physi­cians on va­ca­tion. Kait­lyn had nev­er been to Paris or even to Eu­rope but had two years study­ing French. This was a rare op­por­tu­ni­ty to prac­tice what she’d learned. 

A de­par­ture date was set, and Kait­lyn was good to go. Mrs. Robin­son said up­on her ar­rival, “Raphael, our won­der­ful Scot­tie, is get­ting along in years, as we are. My hus­band and I thought it best to leave him in his fa­mil­iar sur­round­ings while we sum­mered in Ly­on, the south of France.” Raphael lis­tened as at­ten­tive­ly as Kait­lyn did to their in­struc­tions. “He does take sev­er­al pills, and that’s all laid out in the in­struc­tions on the counter.” She ges­tured to the near­by shelf, heavy with a trove of pills. “Raphael gets at least two walks a day. He al­so has this weight­ed thun­der shirt, if he has any anx­i­ety.” She held up a small flan­nel dog jack­et, of sorts.

Num­bers, lo­ca­tions, and con­tacts were ex­changed, and be­fore Kait­lyn knew it, the Robin­sons were off. Raphael gave a soft “woof” and head­ed for his dog­gie bed.

The first week went well. Raphael ate hearti­ly. Took his pills and walked gin­ger­ly. The sec­ond week he slowed down and was a bit un­steady on his feet. A trip to the vet con­firmed he had an in­op­er­a­ble block­age, and be­fore the day was gone, so was Raphael.

“He was a good soul,” Mrs. Robin­son said, ac­cept­ing his death grace­ful­ly. “My hus­band wants you to bring him down here for his fi­nal rest­ing at our sum­mer place. We can bury him in our flower gar­den, where he spent many de­light­ful hours. It will be his fi­nal peace­ful place.”

The next morn­ing Kait­lyn and Raphael were ready for their trip. Kait­lyn planned to go di­rect­ly to Lon­don af­ter de­posit­ing Raphael with his own­ers. The Robin­sons said they would meet her at the train station.

The Palais Roy­al Musee du Lou­vre was the clos­est sub­way. Kait­lyn would take the sub­way to catch a train down to Ly­on. She du­ti­ful­ly locked up the house and start­ed off with her two pieces of lug­gage, her own suit­case and the brown leather one with straps for her charge. She’d wrapped Raphael in his thun­der shirt with two bath tow­els, his ID still around his neck and his fa­vorite toy for company.

“Looks like you have a heavy load.” A young man, around her same age, ap­peared from nowhere as Kait­lyn ap­proached the sub­way. “Here, let me help. I’m catch­ing a train to Cannes and on­ly have my one back­pack.” He held up a small black sack. She gave him the brown leather case that was get­ting heav­ier by the mo­ment. To­geth­er they rode down the es­ca­la­tor and trudged across to the plat­form, each pulling a suit­case. They both seemed to be tak­ing the same train. With­in mo­ments it ar­rived, and they stepped off the plat­form to­geth­er in­to the car and wait­ed for oth­ers to board. Kait­lyn thought how nice it was to have this gen­er­ous help with her bags. 

Sud­den­ly, just as the de­par­ture bell blared for fi­nal board­ing and the doors be­gan to close, her helper jumped free and ex­it­ed the sub­way. He waved and smiled, hold­ing tight to the leather suit­case, with Raphael in­tact, as the car slow­ly pulled away.

Filed under Fiction on May 5th, 2023

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Reader Comments

Kathleen Campbell wrote:

In a vivid ul­tra­short sto­ry the au­thor be­guiles us but doesn’t trick us. The end­ing is an O. Hen­ry twist. Five stars.

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