by Megan McManama
Little Boy atoned for my sister’s happiness.
As an engagement gift, June’s fiance bought her a purebred black Chihuahua—something she’d always wanted. Then, as he is now, Little Boy was small and feisty. Now, unlike then, he’s a little rickety, some salt has been sprinkled in his pepper. Little Boy has had to outlive many things, including June’s marriage, but he has stayed with June through it all; he’s been her constant.
Little Boy’s aggression might be due to my sister’s decision to give him a title instead of a real name. I like to think he has a complex about his size, and that’s why he bares his teeth at the neighbor kids when they shout his goofy moniker. Or maybe Little Boy made a life-changing decision as he cuddled in the bend of June’s knees and felt her cry after yet another argument with her husband. Perhaps it was then that Little Boy decided to help June escape—a decision which also hastened her marriage’s end. There’s a chance that his first attack was the next morning, that he played it cool and laid on the ex-husband’s lap during breakfast; but when the ex left to answer the phone, Little Boy pooped in his Cocoa Puffs, effectively saying, “We’re done with you.”
My brother and I helped June carry all her belongings from her ex-apartment into the U-Haul truck on a sunny day in September. June put Little Boy in his kennel in the computer room. As I boxed the books next to Little Boy’s container, I saw that his tail wagged a little slower than usual. He had grey hairs. It became apparent that June’s gift had fought a human battle, too big for his little body. He’d used all his lion’s energy on the fight, and now his tiny heart couldn’t pump the excess courage through his veins. Little Boy’s soul had outgrown his trembling knees; he was becoming weak, spent.
But Little Boy is a fighter from a long line of fighters. His ancestors appear in Egyptian hieroglyphs, stone carvings in Mexico, and stories passed down from Native Americans. His kind had a different name back then: Techichi. It seems that the same mix of aggression and loyalty pumped in their little veins. The legend states that Techichi were sacrificed, often by fire, for their masters. The spirits of the Techichi would then wait for their masters to die. Once a master had passed, their Techichi would guide their soul into the afterlife.
When June lost her sass, the light in her eyes, her spirit was wandering and it was Little Boy who found her and showed her the way. He sat on her lap as her eyes glazed over, he sought her everyday when she got home from work. He waited on her hand and foot to cuddle, love, and comfort her.
Once, as I coaxed Little Boy to sit by me on June’s soft, childless couches, I realized his eyes were humongous. Chihuahuas’ spirits are born into bodies that don’t really grow. According to the computer, Little Boy’s brothers and sisters are dying left and right. “Collapsed trachea, low blood sugar, large protruding eyes which cause them to be prone to eye infections or eye injury.” Experts recommend daily wiping their eyes to keep them clean and to minimize tear stains on June’s nice couches.
I wonder if June knows that when there is a gust of wind, Little Boy’s eyes hurt. Perhaps she did. Maybe by wiping Little Boy’s tears, she made him determined to eliminate hers.
It’s not just their eyeballs that are bulging out of their skeletons, vulnerable, but their emotions too. They tremble excessively when stressed, excited, or cold. June has a collection of sweaters for Little Boy in the winter. He needs to be taken on walks a few times a day, because at six inches tall and ten pounds, jumping on the toilet could result in Little Boy dog paddling through the sewers. A high-maintenance little soul. But a soul that was a literal lifesaver and could fit in my sister’s handbag. All those dog sweaters and veterinarian visits are not as pricey as diapers or counseling.
June came to visit me last month; we talked over sugar cookies and soda. She is going to the gym more, to church again, and she is thinking about going back to school. The light that had gone out of her eyes is returning.
Last week I visited my parents’ home. As I opened the door, Little Boy hobbled in slow motion to the door and mustered up a good bark. June works from 11:00–7:00 and decided to start bringing Little Boy to our parents’ home instead of leaving him alone in her new apartment. Her constant wanders the hall from 11:00–7:00, then his tired soul submits to the curve of the couch, near the front door, awaiting June’s return.