by Justin Moore
“You’re an otter with a pen. Dangerous combination, huh?”
Those were his last words; it happened so fast. One minute, Jeremy sat in his office at home working on a novel. The next, he took a phone call from an Albany police officer. Why was he calling a Seattle number? He said a husky was pulled from the wreckage of a sedan crushed under a big rig. The husky’s phone belonged to a Sam Ellis. The most recent number was for a Jeremy Morris.
The otter barely heard the officer. There’s no way it was true. Sam wasn’t dead; it couldn’t be. Hours later, the officer e-mailed him pictures of the wreck: an old, black sedan flattened beneath the truck’s back wheels. Both vehicles sat on a hill; the cop said the truck’s brakes failed while sitting at a red light, and it rolled over the sedan. Even so, Jeremy refused to believe. Surely there were tons of people in Albany who drove black sedans like this one, right?
But then he saw it. An arm hung limp and lifeless out the side of the car. Blood trickled down its length and dripped onto the road from its fingers. It was the arm of the blue-furred lover Jeremy longed to hold. It was the arm of the husky who lived so far away and yet always felt so close. It was the arm of Sam Ellis.
“No . . .” Jeremy breathed. Though the evidence sat right in front of him, the undeniable image on his computer screen, he refused. It didn’t. It couldn’t. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t right at all. No, that wasn’t Sam. Jeremy knew it wasn’t Sam; he talked to him three hours before he left for work. They did so every morning, regardless of time zones. Jeremy gladly woke up at four every morning to wish his sweetheart a good day at work. No, it couldn’t be Sam. It just couldn’t.
The otter stared at the pictures in front of him. He scrolled through the e-mail over and over again. The officer who wrote it expressed his condolences for Jeremy’s loss. Loss. It was a loss. Sam was lost. Jeremy lowered his head into his paws, eyes refusing to look away.
“L… Lost…” he stammered. His baby blue eyes still didn’t look away. Tears formed as the pictures burned themselves into Jeremy’s head. With every blink, he saw the arm, red blood running through blue fur. The arm he wanted so badly to have around him, now more than ever. The arm he hoped, he prayed, wasn’t truly lifeless. Lifeless.
Screaming in anguish, Jeremy collapsed out of his chair and onto the floor, knees and tail tucked into his chest as he hugged himself and sobbed uncontrollably. “Sam!” he cried out, knowing the husky had to hear him. He simply had to. Sam was always there for him. Jeremy buried his face into his arms, crying and streaming tears out of his eyes without end. He lay there tucked in a shivering, shaking ball of brown fur for nearly two hours. Even when his eyes dried and turned red, even when his body became numb from shaking, Jeremy lay there still.
He mustered enough energy to roll onto his stomach, claws digging at the carpet beneath him. Jeremy closed his eyes tight and saw nothing but that bloody arm. He shook his head, desperate to replace it with a vision of his husky. Jeremy wanted to see his lover, his baby, his Sam. He wanted to see Sam standing above him with an outstretched paw, ready to help him to his feet and comfort him like so many times before. No matter how hard the otter tried, he couldn’t make it happen. All he saw was the arm.
Jeremy remembered their conversation that morning. He focused on it strongly. The arm faded away, replaced by the sight of him talking to Sam on the instant messenger like they always did. He focused on Sam’s goofy mug shot that was his avatar. He remembered how happy he was to talk to him again, like always. It was nothing but smiles when he had his sweetheart with him. They talked about how well they slept and what they dreamed about. Jeremy loved hearing Sam talk about his wacky dreams.
Sam asked him about the novel; it was a story about two lovers overcoming all odds to be together. Jeremy always claimed it was an autobiography and was anxious to see it to its conclusion. He promised he’d finish it as soon as he could; he always kept his promises. That’s when Sam said those final sarcastic words before leaving. “You’re an otter with a pen,” Sam said. “Dangerous combination, huh?”
The otter groaned as he slowly, shakily, got to his feet. He didn’t even glance at the screen with that horrible sight still on it. Jeremy stumbled his way into the kitchen. He braced himself on the counter and pulled the phone off the holder. Sam’s number was the first one on the speed dial, though Jeremy knew it by heart anyway. Pressing that key, he turned to lean back against the wall and waited. He heard the dial tone once, twice, three times, four times, five times—
Sam’s voice grabbed his attention, enough to perk his ears up. “Hey, this is Sam. I’m not at the phone right now, so leave me a message and I’ll get back to you ASAP. Have a good one!”
The recording ended, then beeped. Jeremy clutched the receiver for an eternity before slowly setting it on the holder. He sighed painfully as his body threatened to give way to more gut wrenching sobs, but he fought the urge. Grabbing the phone again, he tapped the ‘redial’ key and waited. The dial tone sounded once, twice, three times, four times, five times again—
“Hey, this is Sam. I’m not at the phone right now, so leave me a message and I’ll get back to you ASAP. Have a good one!” Beep.
Jeremy’s grip weakened and the phone dropped out of his hand. The battery pack popped off the back, rendering the phone silent. Silent and dead. Lifeless. Just like the arm, the arm of Sam, hanging out the side of his car. The otter fell to his knees, then to his side. The cold, wood floor of the kitchen didn’t give; it was as lifeless as Sam. Everything around him felt lifeless, even himself.
“S-Sam…” Jeremy cried. “C-Come… back…” His voiced croaked as he tried to speak, knowing Sam would hear him. Could he hear him? He had to; Sam loved him, and he loved Sam. But what if he couldn’t hear? Could he see? Jeremy froze. If he could see, he could read.
Once more, Jeremy rose to his feet. His body felt weak still; somehow he knew he’d always feel that way without his husky to help. But he had to do this. Jeremy knew he had to do this one thing. Sam was right—he was an otter with a pen. In the office, he grabbed a pen from the jar on the desk. He pulled a notepad out of the drawer. Jeremy sat at his desk, turned the monitor off, and started writing:
I can’t believe you’re gone, baby. Everything’s gone: our future together, our lives, our fun. You know me; I’ve always been quick to move on from things. This time, it’s so much different. This time, it feels like I’ll never get over this. You were never far from my mind when you were still alive. That hasn’t changed, baby. I’m still thinking of you. I keep hoping I’m gonna wake up from this nightmare. I keep hoping that you aren’t really dead, that you’re going to call any minute now and say you’re okay. That’s what it feels like: a nightmare I’ll never wake up from.
I missed you the moment I found out. I miss everything about you, sweetie. I’m gonna miss your smile and your laugh. I’m gonna miss the way you always picked me up from a bad day. I’m gonna miss our talking about the future. I’m gonna miss not having the chance to move in with you someday and have you in my arms. Baby, you know how much I wanted to hold you and keep you close.
There’s nothing for me to live for anymore, Sam. You were the one soul who kept me going despite everything I felt, everything I put myself through. It wasn’t fair at all for me to pull you into my depression, to make you feel my pain. All I wish for now is the chance to take it back. I wish I’d listened to you more, baby. I wish I’d taken your words to heart. I feel so terrible for not doing so, and I’m so sorry for that.
I’ll never know what it’s like to wake up next to you every morning. I’ll never know what it’s like to welcome you home every afternoon. I’ll never know what it’s like to make love to you every night. Sam, you were everything to me. You meant the world to me, and now that world is gone. The future, the one we dreamed about having together, is gone. Baby… it’s so hard to comprehend.
Sam… I hope someday this pain will go away. But I also hope I can see you again soon. I know you always wanted me to be happy, and nothing made me happier than being with you, baby. I don’t believe I’ll meet another husky as amazing as you. You were perfect, sweetie. You really were. I don’t know what I’ll do without you, Sam. Baby, please come back to me. I’ll be waiting for you. I always will be. From now until the day I die, I’ll be waiting for you. I promise.
He took the note into the dining room and left it on the table. When Sam returned, it would be the first thing he saw. Slowly, Jeremy walked across the apartment into his bedroom. He left the door open a little bit, hoping he might have the chance to see it open. A handsome husky would be behind it if it did. Jeremy climbed into bed, sliding his legs and tail under the covers before pulling them up to his chest. That husky would end up lying beside him in this bed, arms wrapped lovingly around the otter.
Jeremy said those words in the letter: ‘I promise.’ He swore to wait for Sam, and that’s exactly what he’d do. Nothing else mattered, not even himself. Jeremy knew beyond a shadow of a doubt he’d see Sam again. No longer was it a question of distance, but a question of time. Sam knew his otter awaited him. Jeremy knew Sam would be here soon. As the otter closed his eyes, he promised never to open them until Sam arrived. Jeremy knew he could do it.
He always kept his promises.