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Open Letter to My Milky: A Farewell to Fridays
by Nathan Pettigrew

Took me three months to write you, and I almost didn’t finish. 

When I whispered goodbye in your ear, I said farewell to Fridays forever. No longer am I excited by the end of the week or do I celebrate with the rest of the country.

You were my reason for getting out of bed for so many years. Can still feel your furry body brushing up against my shins. You’d spend the nights in your ex-pen eating hay, ready for your pellets when the sun rose. I’d praise Allah for your continued existence when feeding you breakfast, for your perseverance in the wake of losing your sister months before and the strength you gave me in return. 

Though I find peace in knowing how good your life was, the house we lived in is now so hard to walk through without seeing a flash of white in the corners of my eyes. I cry when your mother can’t see, when using the bathroom, when working with the door closed or outside smoking.

​Anger, sadness, and the absence of you refuse to move on the way you did.

I miss you so much, sweet boy. Miss waking up in the middle of the night and the sound of your teeth grinding when I caressed your cheeks and forehead. Miss those bunny flops—those moments when you’d roll over to show me how happy you were. Miss coming home to find you on the hearth of the fireplace or under the table where I kept your hay. You’d acknowledge me by licking your paws—another thing you did when comfortable. You never raised hell over me leaving you at home alone like barking dogs. 

More than anything, I miss singing your nickname. 

Bugsy Boo. Little Bugsy boo. BUGSEE booo. Little BUGSEE booo.” 

With those small red eyes, that cute stare, you’d watch me go into the fridge. You loved your parsley—more than your hay. You’d watch me from the fireplace when football was on, licking your paws while your mother and I went crazy over touchdowns. 

My crimes against you weren’t malicious. I arranged for you to move on, but from a place of mercy, and I had paralyzed you before that by chance. The random guy wasn’t supposed to be on the crosswalk. I slammed the brakes and you hit the side of your kennel before looking at me like, “What the hell, Dad?”

Yeah, son. What the hell? I’m so sorry. We weren’t supposed to be dealing with another problem after I’d brought you in for tests. You’d stopped eating and drinking days before and I couldn’t figure out why. Aside from you abandoning your diet, you were acting normal, full of energy. But not eating or drinking? Time was of the essence.

I was scared, Milky. I sought help, the vet warned me: bloodwork and X-rays could cause stress, possibly sending you into cardiac arrest. I broke down, bawling and trying to pray, but ultimately deciding to gamble on your knack for perseverance. 

Which almost paid off. You survived those tests. My Milky. You were the toughest little guy, always forcing me to focus on the task at hand. Thunder and lightning never scared you. Nothing shook you. 

The vet confirmed nothing was wrong internally, giving me hope, and I’d paid a thousand to find that out. Would’ve spent millions if I had it. All I needed to do was inject the oral medicine. 

Fair to say, you died by my hands. Nothing shook you until those brakes on the worst Thursday of my life. 

That doctor on Friday asked if we wanted to “put you down” because you were paralyzed. You’d think someone in her profession could show compassion.

Or maybe it made perfect sense for someone who kills for a living to come off as cold as a corpse. 

Know this, sweet boy: you weren’t my only victim. I’ve robbed myself of purpose, but more peace comes from the memories of your affection, your playfulness. 

Your love never stopped. Alhamdullilah for almost ten years—the best I’ve known. Alhamdullilah for how well you handled losing your sister. Lola sure loved you, too, constantly licking your ears before cuddling with you. 

Much as I miss you both, my broken heart still beats from the joy of your reunion.

I just—never wanted to say goodbye. Pulling the trigger on your trip to the rainbow bridge was rough. Your mother and I weren’t allowed in the room where you were “put down,” but we were given a final moment. 

You ground your teeth when I caressed your cheeks. Looked into my eyes when my tears fell. I kissed your forehead, stroked your ears, and whispered thank you. There wasn’t a time limit on this moment, but the end had to come. 

I stood and broke down before reaching the door and kissed your forehead for the last time. 

“Tequila,” your mother said in the car, and Don Julio was no match for us, the bottle empty within an hour of toasting to your honor. 

I woke up without a hangover, and without having to feed you breakfast. 

Screaming your name, I found no mercy and no furry body to rub against my shins. 

Like Stevie Wonder’s masterpiece, you were the sunshine of my life, and when the brass section in that song fades at the end, so does my composure. 

I can’t go an hour without thinking about you. 

You’re in a place I’ve yet to travel, but I know you’re waiting for me, Milky. 

I woke up on the Wednesday morning of Eid al-Fitr, not having to work for two hours. First smoking a cigarette, I fell back asleep and saw you in your most glorious state. A much bigger, full-sized bun hopping near the back porch where you used to watch me. 

Florida insects and reptiles were a threat to you, but we were now together in an alternate reality—one where you’d come home to die again in the disguise of a dream.

I opened the French door. Excited and free, you hopped in a circle as if doing a dance before going inside. I followed, watching you lose control of your body. 

That’s when I knew: you were granting my wish for my presence during your peaceful passing—and Shukran, Habibi.

Regaining your footing, you forced me into the kitchen where you jumped on the counter and didn’t stay for long. 

“It’s okay,” I whispered, and then you hopped down and ran into the dining room where your ghostly white fur changed colors. 

Somehow, I understood. Yellow flashes meant sickness, the blinding pink showing your transformation. Purple and gray wings flapped wide open from your shoulders, and you did a bunny flop, your new wings wrapping your body like a blanket before I bent down to kiss your precious face. 

I woke up kissing my pillow. 

​Making myself useful, I got up to water the lawn, to nurture life and watch it grow with “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” playing in my ears until the brass faded.

The Great Pine
by Grace Schwenk

I ran to the trees today. I grabbed the bright pink afghan blanket crocheted for me by my Grandma and stuffed it into the backseat of my 2008 Subaru Legacy, Oatmeal. I drove her up Bass Creek because there is a solace that exists amongst the humble trees that dot the mountainside. I walked along the bank of the creek until I reached the biggest pine in the forest—I call her the Great Pine. Spreading my blanket beneath the Great Pine, I laid on my back and stared up at her in awe. She stands over 150 feet tall. That’s almost 70 feet taller than the other pines that stand amongst her. Her trunk, colossal yet amicable, wraps around to be wider than a bear hug. Her bark consists of a maze of intricate details that would lead one to the secret to wisdom if they ever made their way through. She is a standing vision of respectful intelligence and beauty. My eyes watched as green branches full of pine needles swayed in the rustling of the wind. The wind knocked a few loose pines free and they landed upon my hat. The pines that broke free didn’t just fall. They took a leap into the adventure of the unknown. The pines flew. I grabbed one of the pilot pines off my hat and twiddled it in my fingers while I continued to listen. The wind created a melody as it moved through the branches. Simply listening to that melody soothed my broken thoughts. I don’t know who I’ve become, but the song of the Great Pine calmed me like when my mom used to hum a lullaby for me when I couldn’t sleep. I stared up at the humming branches until the aching in my heart hurt just a little less. Feeling somewhat more free as I rose to my feet, I delicately touched the winding bark of the Great Pine to offer her my thanks. I shook the needles off the blanket and made my way along the creek back to Oatmeal.

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