Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Puppy Smell

Happy Wednesday! Today's story is not what it seems, and I'm very excited to share it with you. All I'll say is, don't let the oh-so-cute title fool you. The author, Nicole L. Rivera is a YA writer from "sizzling-hot" South Florida where she lives with her husband Manny. Her stories look at the serious side of the teenage struggle, while adding a dash of humor. Nicole looks for the jokes in life and details it on her blog, Driven…The Journey. Nicole is also awesome because her love of Reese's peanut butter cups was worth adding in her bio, which means there is another person in the world who eats as many Reese's as I do. Enjoy her story!

Puppy Smell
Nicole L Rivera

Ugh. Monday. School.

I slapped the purple alarm clock on my beach-wood nightstand. I rolled back and covered my eyes with my right forearm. Though my shades were drawn, sunlight found its way through the cracks and blinded my tired eyes. Why can’t we have three day weekends every week?

I tossed my legs over the side of my bed, determined not to dwell on depressing issues such as the “why’s” and “what if’s” of life.

What if my dad wasn’t a total jerk? What if my mom ran away instead of being a doormat? What if my family wasn’t filled with compulsive liars, hell-bent on driving me mad? Why do I care?

I slogged over to the light switch and flicked it on. I gazed upon the disaster that was my room. No matter, Mom will clean it up in a few days.

I walked over to a pile of clothes stacked high on a rocking chair I couldn’t use – except on days Mom cleaned. I felt bad, but I wasn’t going to stop her. I like the way my room feels when it’s clean – fresh and light. I hate to clean.

After pulling on a pair of khaki uniform pants, I sniffed a few blue button-down shirts till I found one that still held its fabric softener essence. I put it on and then reached for my worn and torn book bag.

“Peanut.” My white and brown Shih-tzu pup was curled up on top of it. His scent drenched the cloth in puppy odor – grass, chow, and baby shampoo. I didn’t mind.

Peanut raised his head, glanced up at me, and then went back to sleep. If he were human, I’d swear he was depressed.

“Peanut.” He opened his eyes and shut them again.

I didn’t want to disturb him, but the first bell would ring in ten minutes. I reached for the back pack. Peanut jumped to life and snapped at my hand. I pulled back. “Peanut.”

I tried again. Same result.

Peanut and I went on like this until I was sure the first bell had rung. I slouched down on the ground next to him and leaned against my bed. He didn’t seem to mind. I reached out and he let me pet him, but didn’t move.

My iPhone chirped and vibrated in my pocket like a gremlin about to explode if not answered.

I rolled my eyes. “Mom,” I told Peanut.

I answered. “Man administration’s fast these days.”

“Lisi… what are you talking about? Why did you answer the phone? Aren’t you in school? I was just going to leave you a message.”

“I thought the school called you because I was late… well I haven’t exactly left yet.” Explanation-time, and fast. “Peanut won’t let me have my backpack.” Ok, lamest excuse award goes to: Lisi.

“Huh? What? – Oh, it doesn’t matter. I was going to call you out of school anyway – Lisi?” Mom’s tone switched too quick from mom-talk to something else. Not sadness – remorse? Either way it was new to me – freaky.

“Yeah, Mom.” Please don’t ground me – again.

She took a long deep breath. “Dad’s been shot.”

I rubbed my ear with my free hand. “What?!”

“He’s dead, Lisi—” Mom’s voice cracked. The sound was heartbroken – scorned, but heartbroken. Tears flowed through the wireless connection.

Silence. Dead.

“There were terrorists at the airport. He tried to stop them, and they—”

“Shot him.” The phone dropped out of my hand and clattered on the hardwood floor Dad installed two weeks ago.

“Peanut,” I whispered.

He left the bag and filled my lap. I pulled my knees up and wept into his fur – grass, chow, baby shampoo, and tears – puppy smell.


  1. Nicole, you made me cry - heartbreaking. Animal's have such a sixth sense.

    I could hear Lisi's voice so clearly, I could see her bedroom, see Peanut snapping.

    I really enjoyed reading this. It's one of those stories that will stay with me for a while.

  2. Janice, Thank you so much :)

  3. It's definitely a sad story, but still a good story. It's definitely interesting how animals are something so many of us share in common, and how close we are to them and vice-versa. Keep up the good work Nicole!

  4. Last few paragraphs read like a punch in the gut. You pull off the difficult trick of transitioning from the mundane to the shocking without it feeling forced or cheap. I've never been able to write stories like this without tons of purple prose and melodrama, and have always been envious of those who can. Especially those who make it seem easy.

  5. Wow.
    I'm proud of this one, Nikki!


  6. Sorry, that was supposed to say BE proud of this one!



  7. Thanks Eva :) Thank you for all your support and help. You are a great inspiration.

    Gregg - So glad you liked it. Keep writing and it will come out naturally. Thank you for taking the time to read my story. :)

  8. It's a story that you can't put down....I really enjoyed it and wish it was longer.

  9. Great job, Nicole.

    Coincidentally, growing up the neighbor had a brown and white shih tzu named Peanut.

    Also - Reese's PB cups FOREVER. The dark chocolate, my gosh, I think I've gained ten lbs since discovering them. :drools: