Short Story: Fireplaces and Pickled Toes

“Is it…is it a fireplace?” Sam asked. The leaves rustled as she crouched to get a closer look, not daring to take a step forward. Her arms were ballooned in a puffy purple jacket and the ear muffs of her furry red trapper hat cushioned her chubby cheeks as she talked.

“No, stupid. It’s a dog house.” Pete tutted and rolled his eyes. He strode forward, his footsteps sinking slightly in the mud despite his gangly, skinny frame, and he slapped the roof of the dog house, making Sam jump.

“A dog house?” she asked, getting up and approaching the thing with caution. “Why is there a dog house in the middle of your woods?”

hi-tec-r156-running-shoes-white-silver-navy“For the dog, of course.” Pete rolled his eyes again. “You don’t know nothin’, you don’t.” With his back to the dog house, he put both hands on the roof and jumped up to sit on it; an easy, swift movement in one so young. The rip at the knee of his week-old jeans grew wider and wider as he swung his legs back and forth, back and forth; the heels of his once-white Hi-tec trainers went tap, tap, tap on the thin wooden wall.

“But you don’t have a dog,” Sam said, and tried to copy Pete’s actions, only to find herself falling back down to her feet. In one sweeping movement, she moved around to the back of the dog house and examined it, as though she had never wanted to sit on it all; she was doing exactly as she had intended. Pete huffed and rolled his eyes again.

Not any more, no.” He shook his head in despair. “You’re such a baby, Sam. You don’t know anything.”

“How was I suppose to know you used to have a dog? And why would he live all the way out here instead of in the house with the family?”

dog-1785820_960_720“Nana says we had one when I was a baby. His name was Fred.”

“Fred’s a stupid name for a dog,” Sam sneered and turned her back on the dog house.

“Is not,” Pete said.

“Is too!” She stumbled down the vague slope, slipping on ice and tripping over twigs, and caught herself on the tree.

“Where are you going?” Pete shouted from his perch on the roof.

“You said you were going to show me something cool. This isn’t cool! I’m going to explore and find something better.”

“But you can’t!” Pete cried, taking a swinging leap off the top of dog house and landing a few feet from Sam. He slipped and fell onto his backside with a thump. His head rattled and the seat of his jeans soaked up the snow and the damp and the dirt. He glared at Sam, blaming her.

“Why can’t I?” she asked, ignoring his fall.

“Because,” he said as he clambered back to his feet, grasping at the tree for support. “I said so. It’s my garden, so you have to do what I say.”

“But…” Sam floundered. In her child’s mind, his logical was impeccable. She hmfed and crossed her puff-laden arms.

“Anyway,” Pete said, rubbing damp dirt from his behind. “You ain’t seen the pickled toes yet.”

3221661163_3ccb59ec41_z“Pickles toes?” Her frown softened and her scowl became curious, her head tilting to the left.

“Yeah, the pickled toes. Fred used to eat pickled toes. C’mon, I’ll show you.” Pete scampered back up the slope to the front of the dog house and got down onto all fours. He motioned Sam to follow.

“Pickled toes? Toes that are pickled?” She couldn’t quite believe her ears. Her head hung forward on slumped shoulders, her jaw dropped, and her eyes grew wider by the second.

“Yep. Pickled toes. Now come on!” She stood for a moment, pensive and unsure, as she watched Pete crawl into the dog house, his dirty behind wagging as he went. As his feet disappeared through the door, Sam dropped to her hands and knees.

“Wait for me,” she cried. “I want to see the pickled toes!”


Thanks, Rachel, for the prompt! 😀

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