Today we present “Everything is Fine” by Alissa Johnson. This story came to us by way of our Summer Workshop and we’re so pleased it has a permanent home in our New Voices library. In “Everything is Fine,” a couple’s new dog goes missing. This search-and-rescue tale is so much more than a story about tensions that arise in a relationship due to conflict. “Everything is Fine” explores memory, self-awareness, and kindness, in a piece that is as touching as it is heart wrenching.
“He knew every detail of his life and his family’s. He just got frustrated with aging. With the way things once simple now took so long to do. They couldn’t hold it against him for getting upset about that.”
If he had been walking the dog, she would not be lost. Paul was sure of it. But his wife had the leash in her hand, and when and a man and his dogs approached from the opposite direction—a Doberman mix and a poodle, he thought, though it was hard to tell in the dark—Poppy had planted her feet then back-pedaled. She slipped out of her collar, ran across the street and disappeared between two houses. “Oh, fuck,” his wife said and crossed the street, calling the dog and vanishing behind the houses. Paul turned back to the man with the dogs, who had commanded the animals to sit side by side at his feet and now held their leashes tight.
“I was about to reel them in.”
“Poppy’s skittish,” Paul said. “We rescued her from a shelter in Hudson, Wisconsin, four days ago. She came from Kentucky. A German Shepherd mix. You probably couldn’t tell in the dark, but she doesn’t have much fur.”
Mange, he explained, giving the full story even though the man hadn’t asked for it. The way her previous owner had been unable to pay for the medication. How he had given her to a shelter, not a no-kill facility, and a Wisconsin rescue group intervened. They had picked her up just in time to avoid being euthanized. Paul and his wife had found her picture online, Jane finally ready for another dog now that she had retired from teaching. Declaring a soft spot for dogs no one else would adopt, she had insisted on making the 30-minute drive from St. Paul to their neighboring state.
“So far Poppy’s been mistaken for a wolf, a coyote, and a hyena. A face only a mother could love.” Paul smiled.
“Sounds like you’ll want to find her quick then,” said the man, pulling his cell phone out of his pocket—one of the fancy ones with a screen. “What’s your number? I’ll keep my eye out on the way home.”
Paul gave him the number for his wife’s cell phone. He hadn’t memorized his own, having acquired it only recently. He’d returned his first phone after a week—the buttons were so damn small and despite cataract surgery hard to read. He went several months without one. This time he had asked for the simplest phone with the biggest numbers on the keypad, and still, he found it complicated to use. Paul watched the man continue down the street, dogs back at the end of their 16-foot leads—typical—and listened for the sound of his wife calling for the dog. The neighborhood was quiet. A light breeze blew dried oak leaves down the sidewalk and somewhere a car door slammed. Paul decided to backtrack and head down Vincent. His wife would have ended up on Folwell and he would meet her there.