6 - Why'd She Lie?

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"Mama! Mama!" Liam broke out of Nat's grasp. He darted through the debris of the storage unit to plant himself into his mother's belly, clutching around her knees. "Mama she said the doggy was dead! I don't want the doggy to be dead. Why is it dead, Mama?"

A blood vessel above Nat's right eye twitched. She felt it pounding, matching the rhythm of her heartbeat.

"What in the world are you talking about?" Liz laid a hand on his back, lifting her gaze to seek out Nat in the gloom, her expression bewildered. "What's the matter?"

"She said it was dead," Liam reiterated.

"There's a taxidermy dog in here," Nat said, gesturing to the dark hound in the corner.

Liz's brow furrowed. Her hand, which had been absently smoothing the back of Liam's shirt, fell still. "That's unusual."

"People store weird things." It was true: All manner of odd things had been found in storage units. Once, a coroner had stashed stolen body parts in his unit, hearts and lungs and brains tucked away in plastic containers, the preservation fluids leaking out until the whole place smelled of formaldehyde. Once, a casket had been found, body still inside, the family unable to afford the burial and with no other ideas on what to do with the body. Sometimes you would find boxes of sex toys and fetish gear, stacks of pornography, amateur videos. On the whole, Nat thought, a taxidermy dog was one of the least traumatic things the boy could find. "I'm sorry I upset him."

Liz ignored her, instead adjusting her grip on Liam's shoulders to gently shepherd him to the side so she could peer behind the boxes. 

"It looks old," she said, and there was something like excitement glittering in her eyes. Her tone shifted, speaking now to her son: "This dog lived a long, long time ago. Like something in a museum. You've seen the animals in the museum, haven't you?"

He nodded, mutely.

"Someone who lived a long time ago must have kept him for a pet. That's not scary, is it?"

"But Mama, she said he was dead," he said, once more, inclining his head. His tone had changed, the tears vanishing as quickly as they had come, supplanted now by a sullenness, distrust. His gaze strayed back to the dog, standing with its eternal patience, its glass eyes still turned expectantly upward. "Why'd she lie?" 

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