Sam loved owning pets for as long as he could remember. After his son and wife were killed by a drunk driver, he was left emotionally and mentally scarred. He tried seeing psychologists, but the medicine they prescribed did nothing to ease his pain. All the pills managed to do was make him nauseous and cloud his memory. However, Sam discovered that pets have helped fill the void that the tragic accident left in his heart. Sam had failed to protect his family, so the idea of caring for and protecting a pet gave Sam a second chance. Sadly his newest pet, April, had disappeared last week. Sam looked everywhere, taking off days at work in an effort to find her, but to no avail. Much to his chagrin and sadness, he decided that perhaps he wasn’t fit to be a pet owner if he couldn’t even keep track of one. April was his responsibility after all.
“She’s probably all alone, lost, hungry, or dead; and it’s all my fault” Sam thought to himself.
He decided not to get any more pets until he could prove to himself he wasn’t so irresponsible. However, he soon received a knock at the door. It was one of his neighbors, Mrs. Alba. From her face, Sam could tell she had been crying as her makeup was running and from the dark bags under her eyes it appeared as if she hasn’t been getting adequate sleep. Nevertheless, she wore a fake smile and greeted him cordially when he answered the door. Sam noticed she was holding an adorable golden retriever puppy.
“Howdy there neighbor”, the woman said in the most cheerful voice she could manage. I heard from the grapevine that you recently lost your dog and well, and I…”
“Well actually…” Sam started to interject but was immediately cut off.
“Things have been really hard ever since my daughter Beth died…I just don’t have the energy to keep up with this pup anymore. He deserves to get attention and exercise. I think you two could really help one another.”
“Oh God…Mrs. Alba, I’m so sorry for your loss.” Sam said sympathetically. He knew what it was like to lose a child and had a good idea of the pain Mrs. Alba was going though.
Sam heard about Beth Alba’s death in the local paper two months ago and the connection just kicked in. Beth’s backpack and bike had been found in the nearby river a week after she was reported missing. Although no body had been found, she was declared dead several weeks after the discovery.
“That’s really thoughtful of you Mrs. Alba but I couldn’t, I’m not the best pet owner and…”
Sam was instantly silenced by a pleading stare from the sad lady. He realized he couldn’t say no to this grieving mother and agreed to take the dog off her hands.
“Hopefully it’ll relieve her of some of her pressure” Sam thought.
“Alright Mrs. Alba I’ll take care of the puppy. Maybe it’ll help me get over April’s disappearance.”
“April, now ain’t that a beautiful name!” Mrs. Beth remarked “Does it hold any significance?”
Sam shrugged his shoulders, “Not really, I just have a habit of naming pets after the months when I get them. In fact, I guess I’ll name him June. Little June-bug.”
As soon as June entered Sam’s house his tail began to wag and he started sniffing everything to get a feel for his new home.
“I guess he likes it here!” Sam thought, noticing how excited the dog seemed to be.
Mrs. Alba appeared pleased and bid Sam farewell. Sam thanked the poor woman and gave his condolences for her loss.
Sam decided to relax the rest of the day as the pills the doctor prescribed left him feeling a little disoriented. At about 8:00pm Sam decided to turn into bed early. He took the bed that once belonged to April from under the couch, dusted it off, and placed it in his bedroom for June.
That night, Sam was awoken to the sound of Junebug biting his bed and whimpering. He was obviously in distress. Sam guessed the dog was hungry and went out to get its food. June-bug ran passed Sam as he opened the door and immediately took off running. Sam followed June until he came to the entrance of the house’s basement.
“Now what could Junebug possibly want in the basement?” Sam thought to himself. “There’s nothing down there except old boxes and rats. Well, might as well let him indulge in his curiosity.” Sam reasoned. “Maybe it’ll help him sleep.”
Sam sleepily unlocked the door to the basement and the dog rushed down the cellar steps into the darkness. A putrid stale scent emitted from the inside and smelled to Sam as if something had died. The smell of stale air and feces permeated Sam’s nostrils causing his already queasy stomach to nearly spill its contents. Sam immediately thought of April and realized he had left her down there all alone when he went to the store last week; He had completely forgotten!
Sam covered his nose and ran down the steps hoping his baby girl was still alive.
At the bottom of the cellar he saw June barking and licking an emaciated girl of about 14 years of age. She was barely alive.
“April!” Sam cried in elation. “I’d forgotten I had put you down here while I went to the market!”
Sam scolded himself for his forgetfulness. “I should be more careful in the future” Sam thought cursing his prescription pills. “A day or two more and she would have died of dehydration.”
The girl tried to run from Sam, but was hindered by the chain around her neck which attached to the cellar floor.
The girl wearily turned her head to face the man. With cracked lips and a hoarse throat she summoned all her strength. Her terrified and desperate yell echoed throughout the cellar.
“B-but… my name is Beth!”