The Dog Family lives in the Cold Forest.
Bernard Dog wakes up. Pup Chili and Pup Louis are bouncing on his stomach.
“Get up, Papa! Get up, Papa!”
So Bernard Dog stretches. He yawns. His yawn ends in a cute little murfle. Then he gets out of bed.
Bernard Dog walks down to the kitchen. Claire Dog has cooked breakfast and made coffee.
“Would you like to look at the newspaper, dear?”
The newspaper sits on the counter.
Waves of evil rise from the newspaper.
“Bark!” says Bernard Dog. “I mean, no.”
Claire smiles. “Oh, honey.”
She walks up to him. They sniff noses. Claire’s breath is cold. Then Bernard eats breakfast and drinks his coffee.
“I’m off to a day at work,” Bernard says.
“Can I come with you?” asks Pup Chili.
Bernard Dog laughs. He hugs Pup Chili. Pup Chili is cold and a little bit squishy.
“Of course,” Bernard says. “But only to the bus stop.”
So Bernard Dog and Pup Chili go to the bus stop. Bernard and Chili sit next to the bench and wait.
On the other side of the street are two squirrels.
Waves of evil rise from the two squirrels.
Bernard Dog’s nostrils flare.
“Evil everywhere,” he says. His neck hair bristles. He stands up. He barks. “Bark! Bark!”
The squirrels sneer at him, but they also look nervous. They scurry away.
Soon the bus trundles up. It’s driven by an old grizzled dog named Clancy. Bernard does not like Clancy. Clancy lost a leg in the war. Bernard feels a strange guilt because of this. Sometimes this makes Bernard pretend to be innocent. Other times it makes his neck hair bristle and makes him very angry.
“Hello, Clancy,” Bernard says.
Bernard can feel Clancy’s eyes on his. They hurt him.
“Good bye, Pup Chili!” says Bernard.
But Pup Chili is gone.
Clancy’s silence is awkward.
The bus drives Bernard to work.
“Hey,” says Clancy. “I’m sorry.”
Bernard is on his feet. He is barking. It is suddenly very important that he bark louder than whatever Clancy is about to say.
“Whatever,” says Clancy. “Stupid dog.”
He halts the bus. It is Bernard’s stop.
Bernard gets out. He goes to the construction site. He digs. He digs very fast with his clever paws.
“Hey,” says his boss, Oliver Dogswell. “Hey. If you need some time?”
But Bernard doesn’t need time. He works all day. Then he goes home.
“I got an A on my math test, Daddy!” says Pup Chili. “It’s because I cheated!”
“I tore up the newspaper,” says Pup Louis. “I think it was bad. It was an evil newspaper! So I tore it up!”
Bernard licks the childrens’ faces to tell them they are good. Their faces are cold and a little molty.
“I’m so glad,” says Bernard Dog.
It’s late that night when he stares at Claire’s rotting face and asks her, “How come none of you left me when you died?”
“Even if something matters,” says Claire, “even if it’s right, even if it’s true, even if it’s important, there are some dogs—”
And here she looks archly at him.
“Who hang on a bit harder than those things deserve.”
He laughs and pins her down and licks her nose, trying to ignore the way that it tastes colder than ice.