Julia wandered through Daddy’s garage, looking for a car that no one would think twice about seeing behind them on the road. Of course her Rolls Royce was out of the question, since everyone knew it on sight. Julia didn’t remember seeing a forgettable car in this garage, but maybe she forgot it. Jack padded morosely behind her as she stepped through the rows of luxury and designer vehicles, moaning “oh no, oh no, oh woe. Woe woe.”
“Shut up,” Julia snapped. She loved Jack, the only dog she knew who could pass Zombie Dog certification and still be her friend. Since middle school, one dog after another had turned on her. They’re all smiles and slobber the day you get them, and then something happens in your room at night, or in a cramped room with poor ventilation. Julia stopped suddenly, remembering Broseph, the Labradoodle so smart he could open the refrigerator and fetch Julia a Fresca without her even needing to ask for one. Jack knew when a moment was coming on, and he rushed to lick her face as she sat down on the cold pavement.
Broseph was Julia’s only friend since she was in kindergarten. She would dress him up in little clothes in grade school and he would patiently sit with her stuffed animals for tea parties. He was the most expensive dog and therefore, according to the market, the best dog that a little girl could ever ask for. Julia agreed.
Julia did everything right on that camping trip. She stayed on the trail. She tucked her pants into her socks. She wore bug spray. The most expensive and therefore the best bug spray. One hundred dollars an ounce, Daddy bragged. She definitely checked herself for ticks. She really did! When she got the bullseye pattern with the greenish hue, she took all the antibiotics. Even when they tasted gross. Even when they stuck in her throat and she gagged and had to swallow them again. Even when they made her feel sick, which was all the time. Daddy’s assistants asked her every day if she took them, and she always said “yes, Sir.”
Still, Broseph turned on her. It was three in the morning when his whining woke her up. He was out of bed, prowling the room, sniffing at the door, sniffing everything.
“Bro, what’s wrong?”
Broseph continued to whine and sniff, his curly golden brown hair bouncing more and more as his sniffing grew more agitated. Looking back, Julia suspected that he was desperate to find the source of the smell anywhere but the obvious place. It took thirty minutes more for Broseph to go through the process of elimination and come to the impossible conclusion that his charge had somehow become the very thing that he was sworn to defend her against.
Broseph still didn’t lunge like he would if any other zombie had appeared in Julia’s bed, or Julia would be dead and buried. Instead, in his confusion and indecision, he growled and bared his teeth, and Julia’s broken heart didn’t stop her from fleeing to Daddy’s assistant on duty, shutting Broseph inside. She never saw her best friend again.
Julia’s next seven dogs did the same thing, but sooner. Julia came to dread falling asleep next to the dog that was supposed to protect her. Right in front of her, dog trainers would tell Daddy’s assistants that they couldn’t certify dogs that didn’t attack zombies. Daddy’s assistants never said what a daddy was supposed to say. Some daughters need their daddies to say they’re beautiful or they’re smart or precious. Julia would have settled for “you’re not a zombie, Julia.” Daddy’s assistants didn’t have orders to safeguard Juila’s fragile self-image, though. They were just tasked with finding a certified dog that would not attack her, and they did.
Julia didn’t come along when Jack was getting trained, and she was not permitted to join each year when he went in to get his certification renewed. She didn’t know who certified him or what was wrong with his eyes or why he made such strange noises. But he slept next to her all through the night. One day after the next. Soon, she could sleep, too. The ugly wolfhound of uncertain provenance was Julia’s new best dog ever.
Jack licked the salty tears from Julia’s face while she clutched at his fur and blubbered, “Don’t do it. Don’t turn on me, Jack. Not you. Not you.”
“Oh, No.” Jack woofed, “Whoah, No.”
Julia found Jack’s surreal assurances soothing, and took a deep breath and got back to her feet. She wandered all the way down to the garage’s third sub-basement and still saw nothing less impressive than a Range Rover. She pulled out her phone.
“You have reached the voice mailbox of Keith Hunter Sable III, CEO and owner of Sable Engineering. Please leave a message with your name and number and one of Mr. Sable’s assistant’s will return your call.”
“Hi, Daddy,” she said, “I’m going to go put a Toyota Camry on your credit card, drink a fifth of vodka, and wrap it around a tree. I was thinking of driving it around on Sable Engineering campus, see how many of your precious engineers I can maim.”
That was pretty tame by her standards. She’d learned long ago that even Daddy’s assistants didn’t check these messages. Or at least they didn’t care to do anything about them.
Over the course of an hour, Julia drove her Rolls-Royce to the Toyota dealership and selected their most expensive Camry. For only $60,000 she would have all the amenities she expected. The car’s Bluetooth radio connected automatically to Julia’s phone, starting up the latest of her Japanese podcasts. “世界最大の違法なオンラインマーケット” it said.
“Shut up,” Julia snapped, shutting it off.
Julia’s phone rang, and an exact copy of her dad but younger and meaner said “Hey, psycho, why are you buying a Camry!? Who the fuck wants a Camry!? We don’t have space in the garage for another car! Just drive one of the cars Dad already has!”
“Don’t worry, Junior, I’ll park it in your ass. And shut up.” Julia disconnected and set her phone to Do not Disturb.
The next day, a bright blue Tesla Model 3 left the Romero High parking lot, followed by a drab gray Camry. Somewhere on the road to Forsythe Summit Park, Blas whined and Stacy glanced out the back window. “I feel like I keep seeing the same Camry every time I look behind us.”
Ethan checked his rear view mirror and chuckled. “Ah, you’re being paranoid, Stace. I’m sure we’ll see a hundred Camrys before we make it to Forsythe and a hundred more on the way back.”
“Woe! Woe! Oh no! Oh Woe!” Jack shouted from the passenger seat in the grey Camry. Julia glared at him for a moment, then smiled and reached out and pat him on his scraggly head. “Good boy, Jack.”
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