Brutus, the family’s long-ignored Dalmatian, pattered into the dead Boy’s room. The lad’s clothes sat on brown bed sheets. A folded shirt, and pants.
Mom and Dad shooed Brutus away when he begged for love. No pats. No scratching behind the ears.
That gave him an idea. If he wore the Boy’s clothes, he’d be the new Boy.
Brutus threaded his head through the shirt’s collar. The pants were out of the question. He then nosed open the closet door and dragged out the Boy’s cushy football. The Boy and Dad had often played catch with it.
He headed downstairs to the Living Room, still hoisting it. Since he could barely see, he spat it out far.
The dead Boy caught it.
Mom, along with Dad in the kitchen doorway, stifled a sob.
The Boy was bleached white. He picked up the football and threw it over Brutus’s head. Brutus turned and caught it. The Boy said, “He’s the Boy now.” Then disappeared.
Mom and Dad sat on the couch looking at Brutus. Dad said, “You ARE a good Boy.”
Brutus allowed his tail to wag. Once, in case this was too good to be trusted.
Mom and Dad cut the Boy’s former shirts and pants to fit Brutus.
They replaced the pictures of the Boy along the staircase with his. He had his own seat at the kitchen table.
Visitors stopped coming over. The phones were silent.
At night, Brutus felt the dead Boy’s chilly body snuggle against him.
“Good Boy,” The dead Boy said, “Better than me.”
Then he disappeared by dawn.
Brutus felt pinned under the bed blankets that were now his.