Steel dashes off, his black and white-furred body speeding across the green lawn to acquire the stick that I’ve thrown since he has been stuck in my room with no-one to play with. I laugh, seeing his search over the ground that is beside the one that I have thrown, the one that looks long and has three smaller branches springing out of the stem. Steel freezes his tracks after sniffing an area that is very close to the stick, with his fluffy head pointing straight at the ground. Before I call out his name, Steel begins to dig, sending dirt to fly all over the place.
I call out his name, he doesn’t respond, he continues to dig, making me very curious about what he is digging for. Steel usually snaps back from whatever he would do when I call his name, I grumble; putting my hands in the pockets of my jacket because of the cold. This isn’t Steel at all, I know he has his times he would disobey me, but ignoring me is one thing I never saw him do so far in his fifth year of age. I feel a hand on my shoulder, my brain suddenly goes red alarm. I turn over, grabbing the little bag I have one of the pockets of my pants, flings it to the ground, and raise my hand to have small pieces of glass burst out of the plastic bag like paper. The shattered glass flies in the air, as I focus on who is in front of me, finding a freckled-face man who has his hair styled like he has a cowlick.
“Ripley,” The man squeaks, raising his arms up for defense. “It’s me!”
“Michael,” I ask, sighing and lowering my hand down; the glass to still be in the air, ready to fire at my command. “Šta ti radiš ovde? What are you doing here? I thought you were at the Comic-Con in America!”
Michael shakes his head, pushing his glasses up to his eyes, “That happens next week! Now, what are you doing with your pet?”
“Moj ljubimac-my pet- has a name, and his name is Steel,” I counteract, crossing my arms and still keeping the glass on hold in case sparks between him and me fly. “I would appreciate it a lot if you call him by his name. Nije moja krivica što si alergičan. It’s not my fault that you’re allergic.”
Michael grunts, with a scowl on his face knowing precisely what I am talking about. Michael and I have been sharing the same apartment for several months now, keeping each of our fair share of the rent until Steel move in with me several weeks ago. I only then found out that this man before me is allergic to fur and never had a pet, which I found ridiculous considering that options and he should’ve adapted to his problem. At first, Michael wasn’t very supportive of me taking care of my dog, he wanted me to take the dog away because he doesn’t want to have a runny nose, puffy red eyes, and rashes all over his face. Now, he has been trying to avoid me since I had Steel’s fur all over my clothes and made me keep Steel in my room for very long periods. Keeping a Siberian Husky in a cramped, crowded, and unorganized room spells for disaster, not to mention the frustration I have when I find my personal stuff broken by my dog. I couldn’t blame him entirely, he had to be bored which is why I try to make sure Steel goes outside as much as he can for his exercise, his time with me, and possibly get him to sleep longer so he won’t break my stuff.
“Listen, I am sorry, but you have to get rid of that dog,” Michael said, having his hands on his hip. “I am getting tired of dealing with my allergic reactions, if I continue to deal with that mut, I might die when I least expect it; like a ticking bomb.”
I scoff at the idea, “Nyet, I am not kicking out Steel, Michael. He is my best friend, he helps with my stress levels, you should try it, you might like it.”
“Haha, hilarious Ripley,” Michael growls, face-palming himself at my remark. “Just… You know what? I am done.”
“With you, with that fleabag, everyone! I am warning you, if you don’t get rid of that dog the time tomorrow, then I will contact the manager and make him take your dog away.”
A shiver goes down my spine, making me dread of what he said. The manager wasn’t informed about Steel, not to mention that he actually had a policy of keeping only small animals like hamsters, birds, and those breeds of cats and dogs who are tiny. I have Michael promised that he wouldn’t tell the manager as long as I try to keep Steel away from him. If the manager finds out about Steel, then I will be kicked out, but I can’t afford to find another place. This apartment is the only one I can see that is affordable enough for me to buy rent and won’t worry about not having enough money to pay all the out-of-state fees at the university.
Michael nods, “That’s right, I am going to tell the manager if you don’t get that flea host out of the apartment, I am tired with my eyes being puffy and red and it all is because of you.”
I shake my head, hearing the clinking of glass falling to the ground, so much for my attack. Steel has his head straight at me, his head tilts with those blue eyes directly at me. A smile comes up my face, I notice that there is a weird looking bone Steel is holding in his mouth. I whistle Steel to come over, he obeys and goes by side, sitting his bum on the ground. I look over, finding Michael now his face pale with sweat coming down his face in addition to his eyes looking shiny as if he is about to cry.
“You know what Michael,” I speak up, my tone surprisingly low and calm than I expect to be. “You’re right, I am tired of you, and your needs that always have to be my problem. I would rather have my dog be my roommate than from the likes of you.” I glance away for a second and whisper, “Drugim rečima, idite u pakao.”
His face goes shocked, his eyes wide that are now looking red by allergic reactions, then a flash of anger and annoyance comes over with twink of confusion since I didn’t add what I said for the last sentence since he is not fluent in Serbian. I ignore and whistle over Steel to follow me into our apartment. I pass Michael and slide the backyard door open, Steel comes in with his bushy black tail wagging so hard his butt moving side to side. I smile at the sight, seeing my canine friend so happy for once in five hours of him lying on the bed with no-one to hang out with. I pass through our small and trailer-like kitchen, living room, and go into my room. Once I open the door, I viewed over the piles of clean but unfolded clothes and stacks of modern games like Skyrim, Fallout 76, Overwatch, and Dota 2 that I have been meaning to play for vlogging and videotaping for my little hobby as a small creator for my gaming channel. Sighing, I take out my suitcases that have been stuck in my closet that has also been filled with clothes and dog supplies for Steel. I begin packing, first with my clothes to have them folded neatly by the method I have been taught when I was a teen and put them all into one of the suitcases. The world goes muffle around me, with the humming of the AC, the clickety-clackety of Steel’s paws against the hardwood floor up and down the hallway, and now the pinging of the rain that is going against the window that is above my bed which is on my right-upper corner of the room. My mind goes back, the moment I step into this same apartment, with my face all bright and smiley and meeting Michael who at first looks pretty chill and smart who also wants to have a career in journalism.
The first time I feel such joy that I am now becoming an adult and getting to do what I want to do for once, unlike what I was with my parents. I shake my head, burying away the memories in my brain and quickly pack up my stuff so then I can leave this house. Steel scurries over to me just as I am about to zip up the last suitcase that has the remaining games. I sigh, feeling all the stress that has been wrapping my heart with its thorny vines are finally slacken and leave my fleshy heart open with wounds just how the targets are with my attacks of flying glass. I look down at my furry companion, whose calm yet noticeable glare is baring into my soul with reassurance. I lean down and pet his head, feeling the fur smooth and a little wet, feeling a lot better of what I am doing to do. I then retrieve my suitcases, three of them are duffle bags and two of them literal suitcases. I whistle, and walk out of the room that is now empty and white, with the sound of claws hitting against the floor. I head for the door, and once I place my hand on the doorknob, I glance over to find Michael is reading his textbooks at the dinner table, oblivious to what I am doing right now. Shaking my head, I twist the knob and open the door, letting first my canine companion, and then I shut the door. That very moment the door closes, something within changes, my heart is light with a sudden rush of joy is filling me from head to toes. A smile appears on my face, glad that I have made a choice that I should’ve done a long time ago. I turn over to find Steel has the weird looking bone that he saw at the garden, he must’ve got it while I was packing, but the bizarre part is that there is no dog door for Steel to go through to the garden. I crouch and open out my hand, wanting Steel to give me the bone. Steel hesitates at first, looking up and down at me and my hand then he finally obliges, scabbing over and drop the warm, wet, and sticky leg-like bone on my side. I raise up, observing to see that the bone look realistic from the texture and appearance, trying my best to ignore the feeling of Steel’s slobber.
“Sranje.” I mutter, turning over the bone and gasp. O Bože! The bone has an inscription, and the weirder part is that I can read it in my native language. I read out the translation, “A single step is a journey to a thousand miles.”