When the Last Friend is Gone – Tris Matthews
Each day, the moment Butler became active at 6 a.m. sharp, the little old dog’s stumpy legs would carry her over to seat herself royally in front of the enormous and rusty Cadillac-themed refrigerator to watch. Butler would ruffle the flops and folds of skin on the top of her head before serving up her breakfast and then turning to other chores. Today, Pebbles didn’t come. Butler washed her bowl—overly-large, red, ceramic, and with ‘Pebbles’ hand-painted around the edge in florid script—spooned out a tin of moist meat and placed it on the shabby green mat by the back door.
Butler was most efficient when routine was least disrupted. There was no such thing as perfect routine: any day’s unique haze caused variations in illumination; the birds sang a different song; even his own body performed differently depending upon the ambient temperature, and he was already aware his joints were less smooth than a year ago, when he was fresh out of the box. Beatrice also increasingly left things out of place around the house. Butler didn’t know whether this was solely a result of her age, or a gradual acceptance of her reliance on him. The latter was the more satisfying alternative. After all, caring for Beatrice was his purpose.