“It’s time, boy.”
Davey looked up at his father. “No, Pa–please! I don’t wanna!”
“I didn’t ask ya if ya wanted ta–I didn’t ask ya anythin’. I SAID it’s time! Now git!”
“No, Pa, no! I–”
His father grabbed him by the ear and brought him to his feet. Davey was sobbing.
“Boy, it’s time. That dog a yers is no good ta no one no more. Now you git out thar and you be a man and you put ‘im DOWN!”
Pa tossed Davey’s ear in the general direction of the barn. Davey walked out the front door, head down, wiping his eyes–one, then the other.
He entered the barn. Rusty saw him and jumped to his feet, ears up and tail wagging.
“I’m sorry, boy, but I gotta”, Davey choked out between heaving sobs. “Pa says I gotta. I gotta put ya down.”
Davey pulled a slip of paper out of his pocket, raised it, cleared his throat, aimed his voice in Rusty’s direction, and let him have it.
“Rusty–yer old and yer not as fast or as good at huntin’ as ya used ta be. Ya smell bad and ya started poopin’ in the house agin like when ya were a puppy cuz yer old and so now ya have ta sleep in the barn cuz Ma doesn’t like how she has ta clean up after ya. No one likes ta play with ya any more cuz yer old and smelly…and ya have big, goofy-lookin’ dumb ears.”
“I’m proud of ya, boy.”
Davey turned to see his Pa at the barn door, watching. Davey ran to him.
“Why’d ya make me do it, Pa? Why?” He buried his head in Pa’s chest and sobbed some more.
“We do it cuz it’s who we is, boy. We’s Pettys, and the Petty clan put things down so’s we kin feel a mite better ’bout ourselves. It’s just how we do, boy. It’s how we do.”
Pa took Davey’s head in both his hands and lifted it so they were staring face-to-face. “And ya done good today, boy. Ya done good.”
They hugged. Davey noticed that his Pa had kind of greasy hair, yellowed crooked teeth, and bad coffee breath, and those thoughts made him feel a bit better about himself, since he had none of those shortcomings.
And then it hit him: He was a Petty.