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by PB Johnson

In my rearview mirror I saw her in the backseat with a brush in her little hand gently brushing her doll’s hair. This is when she would still bring a doll and a few favorite stuffed animals to the lake on weekends, an animal to the pool or a doll to dinner. One black and white dog that she named “Marcel” was especially well traveled. He’d been with us on what we now called the March on Charleston in 2013, when I’d kept walking and walking through the streets of Charleston, SC in 90 degree heat for a day of sightseeing with a family who’d rather be in the pool. We finally sought air conditioned refuge in what appeared to be a historic library only to be kicked out when it was discovered that it was a private, members’ only club. Marcel sat with his head poking out of a backpack on the beach in California when NorCal rednecks roared past in pickup trucks kicking up sand in 2016. He’d camped with us in the storm at Sleeping Bear Dunes in 2017 when the lightning flashed so bright it lit up the inside of the tent so I could see the faces of scared kids, a worried wife, a shaking real life Labrador and was especially thankful for Marcel’s ever calm demeanor. He’d been there when I set the alarm off at Captain William Smith’s farmhouse at Minuteman National Park in 2014 and his stoic presence calmed the scene better than my reassurance to the kids that since we were in a way, tenuously related to Captain Smith by marriage, there should be no problem. Marcel had been to Disney, the world and the land. He’d been on boats and planes and long car trips. He’d been to the Colonel’s original roadside chicken restaurant in Kentucky, to open air fish taco stands in California, gazed out the window at the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, felt salt air breezes and waited patiently for us to finish outdoor showers in Cape Cod, and been for mac and cheese and chicken tenders countless times at our weekend getaway spots in Michigan. 

The exact moment when Marcel stopped accompanying us is unclear because he continued to make a few what I feared were encore appearances for another year or so but I knew it was inevitably coming. I would miss him. When I look at pictures of our vacations and see our family as it once was, I look at the kids and remember the outfits, the little jeans and shoes. I remember the feeling in my hands of zipping up the sweatshirt with the football on it and tying the shoes with the dinosaurs on them.  I am thankful that one of us remains the same. Marcel has not changed. He won’t. As for the kids, I’ll have the pictures on laptops and old phones. I’ll have the rearview mirror.

About the Author

PB Johnson was born in Knoxville, TN. and now lives in Illinois where he has worked as a police officer for more than twenty years. His writing has appeared in Moon Park Review, Blacktop Passages, Gravel, Green Briar Review, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Hoot Review and is forthcoming from Open: The Journal of Arts and Letters.

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