Your name is Dog Martinelli, you’re 28 years old, and you’re attending your first day of kindergarten.
It’s little Antony Davis who suggests it.
Little Antony Davis, your lover’s son.
Only he really isn’t your lover, but more like your partner. Only words never seem to quite fit, so when people ask, you only shrug, and when people ask Pretty Boy (your lover), he gets very flustered and confused. You don’t know why. But you don’t ask either.
It’s little Antony Davis who suggests it. A small boy of barely four, he’s a spitting image of his father, with large, deep set brown eyes and the same, if not a bit lighter, honey colored skin and hands that are the size of your palms. You’re sitting on the couch. You’re standing at the door. You’re waiting to go drop Antony off at school. Pretty Boy is fussing and looking for his keys, and cursing under his breath, running hands through his pretty pink hair, which needs to be redyed.
He’s new to this– this dad things. And watching him, sometimes, you’re glad you aren’t a father yourself.
“Alright,” he says, and he sounds somewhat out of breath. “Backpack, lunch, keys– do we got everything?”
“Yes,” Antony says, in a small, sweet little voice. He’s standing at your side, holding the straps of his backpack, waiting like the good boy he is. Pretty Boy’s lips twitch up into a little smile, and he goes and ruffles Antony’s hair with a fond look in his eye. Pretty Boy is not a gentle person, you think, but he’s always surprisingly gentle with Antony.
You all pile into the truck. It’s a rusted old red thing, all banged up and gross. It’s Cub’s, Pretty Boy’s roommate. Pretty Boy borrows it, because he doesn’t have a car himself. The truck has no backseat, so you situate Antony between the two of you, his legs around the stick. He sits like a good boy, and doesn’t speak until you’re halfway to the school.
When he speaks, it’s to Pretty Boy and not to you. “Papa,” he says, in that same, sweet little voice. “Can I borrow Dog?”
The question seems to catch Pretty Boy off guard. He looks at him, then away, then back again. He raises a brow and sort of frowns with only half his mouth.
“Borrow?” he asks.
“Only for the day,” Antony promises. “It’s just… we’re doing show and tell today, and… I really wanna show everyone Dog.”
“I… Ant-man, I’m not sure that’s…”
He clasps his hands together. He leans into his father’s shoulder. “Please?” he begs. “I’ll take care of him.”
“That’s not really the thing I’m worried about…” he says. He looks at you over his small son’s head. You’re listening. You’re clinging to every word.
You nod, making the tag on your collar clink against your chest. “I want to see Antony’s school,” you say, a bit of excitement in your voice.
Pretty Boy frowns at you. “You’ve seen it.”
“Not in it. Lisabeth never let’s me…”
“For good reason.”
“Please?” Antony asks again. He’s looking at Pretty Boy with those big brown eyes. His signature eyes; the same eyes. You doubt Pretty Boy could be so cruel as to ignore those.
He doesn’t. He gives in. Pretty Boy sighs, running his fingers through his hair. “I… fine. I don’t see a problem with it… it’s just one day…”
A wide smile stretches across Antony’s little face, and he hugs Pretty Boy’s arm the entire ride to school.
When Pretty Boy pulls to a stop, kids are being dropped off at the front, either being walked by their parents or shuffling out of cars.
Pretty Boy is the car shuffler kind of dad. He kisses the top of Antony’s head and he leans over, putting a hand on your neck He kisses your mouth. You like it when he does that. He waves you both off, and out you go.
The school is small. A lot smaller than you thought it would be.
It’s not particularly that the school itself is small; it’s just that everything in it is tiny as heck. Small chairs, small tables, small cubbies for their stuff. Antony shows you to his; it’s blue with his name printed under it. He seems very proud of it. He puts his stuff in it, then leads you to the little chairs and tables in his classroom.
When you sit, you have to scrunch up your legs and hold them to your chest. You don’t mind though; your heart is racing with excitement, and your smile is so big. You think it scares a lot of the kids, because no one really comes to sit at your and Antony’s table. Antony doesn’t mind though. He pulls some paper out from the middle of the table, drawing a small cup of crayons closer.
He nudges your arm with his small elbow. “Wanna color?” He asks.
Your face brightens. “Yes.” You love coloring. It’s your favorite pass time. You do it whenever Antony comes over, and sometimes when he isn’t. He passes you a sheet, and you take it gladly. You start picking out the colors you want.
“Yesterday we had to draw our favorite things,” Antony tells you, “So I drew bugs.”
“Yah! Beetles, worms, butterflies… bugs. They’re cool.”
You make a face. Gross. But hey. It’s his interest.
You take what he says to heart and you draw your favorite things also.
You draw Pretty Boy; you love Pretty Boy the most. You have fun drawing his wild, pink hair and draw hearts around his head. Yes. You love Pretty Boy very much.
Eventually class gets started, and Show and Tell begins. Antony is nearly bouncing in his seat, he’s so excited. He looks at you and beams, like you have a shared secret. Which you don’t. And if you do, Antony hasn’t informed you of it.
When it comes to Antony’s turn, he nearly throws himself out of the seat. You stand, a bit awkwardly, as your limbs have gone a bit numb, and follow him to the front. The teacher watches with surprise on her face, and the students look on with wide, curious faces.
Antony pulls up a stool; he pats it, and you sit. He clears his throat.
“This is Dog,” he says. “He’s my papa’s dog. He looks like a person… but in his heart, he’s a dog. We do all sorts of stuff together, like take naps and play games, and color. He’s a good dog. He loves my papa very much. And I love him. Thank you.”
His classmates clap and you smile, so you look less intimidating. Which you don’t think works, because your teeth are all jagged and pointy and scary. You aren’t too sure what comes next. Do you go back to your seat? Hesitantly, one kid raises their hand.
Antony points him out.
“Are you really a dog?” he asks hesitantly.
“I am,” you say.
“He is not,” another kid says. You frown and look at them.
“I am too,” you say. The kid doesn’t look convinced.
“If you’re a dog, where’s your tail?” the kid asks.
“I don’t have one,” you say. “you don’t need a tail to be a dog.”
“Yah you do!”
“No you don’t.”
“Do you walk on all fours? And eat out of a bowl?”
“No,” you say. You’re starting to get irritated. You want to push this kid over.
Antony doesn’t look pleased either. “Dog doesn’t have to be able to do all that stuff,” he says. “Dog’s just Dog. He plays fetch and wears a collar. That’s how he’s always been.”
The kid still didn’t look convinced. Another child raises their hand.
“Does he like scritches?” the kid asks.
Scritches is another word for scratches. You know that because Antony told you once.
Antony nods. “Mmhm. He likes to be pat and hugged and told he’s a good boy.” With that, he leans close, wrapping his little arms around your shoulders. He hugs you, and it’s warm. You lean into it. You press your cheek against his hair.
“…Can we pet him?” another kid asks, without raising her hand.
Antony looks at her, then at you. “I dunno,” he says. “Ask Dog.”
You nod. “I don’t mind,” you say. No one moves for a long moment.
The little girl who asked gets up. She crosses over slowly, hand extended. Antony giggles.
“He doesn’t bite,” he says. And that’s true; you don’t. You haven’t in a long time.
The little girl touches your head. And her hand is soft and nice. She pets your arm, like a dog. She giggles when you lean into it.
She tells her friend it’s okay; you really don’t bite. Hesitantly, her friend comes to join her. Then another one; then another. Soon most, if not all, of Antony’s classmates are close, crowded around you with their hands extended, on your hair or arm or neck. They pet you and they giggle. You smile, because they’re cute.
Eventually, the teacher claps her hands and they disperse back to their spots. Show and Tell goes on; Antony couldn’t look any happier.
You spend the day with Antony. You do normal, kindergarten things. Like crafts and beginner’s math and recess and lunch. At lunch you get a little tray of food; you eat it faster than Antony does, and you feel bad.
At recess, you play games. You play hide and seek, and tag. You like tag. You like running. Some of the other kids join you; they seem less afraid of you now that Show and Tell is over. They laugh and giggle and scream like Antony does, only louder, and in bigger numbers. It’s fun. You have fun. You like it very much.
Eventually though, it comes to a break. Antony calls it nap time, and all together, everyone lays on the floor, with little blankets and pillows and mats. You don’t have anything, so Antony shares with you, opening up his blanket to let you in next to him. He cuddles up to you, like he does at home when he spends the night. The teacher reads a story; it’s about a little pig trying to find his way home. Antony has the same book at home; still, you cling to every word diligently.
Antony dozes off at some point, his little hand on your too big arm. You look at him. You’re hit again by how much he looks like his papa, down to the way his eyelashes curl and he sleeps with his mouth open. It’s cute. It’s nice.
You aren’t tired, but you lay on your side anyways, close to him. You listen to the story until she stops. When she stops, you sort of doze off. You stay close to Antony.
When nap time is done, more art happens, which your glad for. Everyone puts up their mats and blankets and pillows; they pull the small tables back out, and you sit with Antony and a couple of other girls, who chat with you idly about your dogness. You don’t mind; you don’t expect people to always get it. Kids are easy though; they don’t really care too much. It’s probably why you like kids so much.
You’re told to draw a portrait of your family. Easy, you think, and you get to work. You draw Pretty Boy, of course. Your dearest and closest family; the love of your life. You draw him holding some balloons, and next to him you draw the Martinellis– you draw Luigi and his wife and his daughter. But Pretty Boy remains the center of attention. You love it. You want to shove it in your mouth, you love it so much.
Antony nudges your arm. He draws his picture closer, as if he’s sharing a secret. “Dog,” he whispers. “look. I drew us.”
Antony’s picture is very nice. It shows you and who you assume to be Pretty Boy, holding hands with hearts around your heads. Next to you is Lisabeth, Antony’s mother. She’s holding hands with Stitches, her girlfriend. And next to her is…
a really big circle with little legs and arms.
He points it out.
“That’s Cub,” he says, sounding proud.
You smile and laugh a little. So it is. You show him yours. He tells you he likes it. That makes you even prouder.
Eventually, the day draws to a close.
Kids start leaving. The class slowly gets emptier and emptier. A few of Antony’s classmates wave to you as they leave, as their parents stare in confusion. You don’t care. You wave back.
Eventually, Pretty Boy comes to get you both. And when he does, you fling yourself into his arms. You kiss all over his face. You love your Pretty Boy, more than words can say.
He laughs as you kiss all over his eyelids, hands on your hips.
“Had fun?” he asks.
“Loads,” you say. “I drew pictures. Look!” You draw them out from underneath your tanktop, where you’d been keeping them for safety.You show him the picture of your favorite things, and the one of his family. You also tell him he has to check out Antony’s, because it will make him laugh. He laughs anyways. He gives you a peck on the cheek, and turns to Antony as he crosses over.
“How’d it go?” he asks Antony.
“Great! Everyone loved him,” Antony says.
“We did so much stuff today,” you say a bit too quickly. “We did art and math and we played tag and ate lunch and–”
Pretty Boy waves his hands and makes you slow down. His shoulders shake with laughter.
“C’mon,” he says, and he slips his hand into yours. He takes little Antony’s too. “Walk with me. Start from the beginning.”
You have a good time telling Pretty Boy about your day.
You hope you can come again some other day.