Mitch gives me a half wave. "Hey, Amy. "

Roxanne, bundled up with a scarf, leather gloves, and a new winter coat I heard she got at Barneys and cost over five hundred dollars, doesnt greet me with a hey, hello, or even a hi. Instead she says, "Your dog is humping Zeus. "

I look over at Mutt. She wasnt kidding; hes humping Mitchs black lab like theres no tomorrow. "Hes showing Zeus whos the alpha male," I say matter-of-factly.

Roxanne gives Mitch a disgusted look. Mitch laughs.

Mutt hops off Zeus, then takes a huge, steaming dump. Seriously, before I had a dog I would never have thought Id be okay picking up raunchy, hot steaming dog poop with a plastic bag being the only thing separating me and the excrement.

"Wheres Jess going?" Mitch asks.

I quickly scan the dog park and catch sight of Jessicas retreating back. Shes leaving. "Come on, Mutt!" I order, then run toward the gate. Mutt is preoccupied with sniffing a pugs butt. Damn. I open the gate, say, "Mutt, treat!" and he comes faster than a horse at the Kentucky Derby.

I have the warm poop bag in one hand and Mutts leash in the other. The problem is that, instead of stopping so I can put on his leash and dump the poop, Mutt flies right past me, through the open gate, and onto the crowded Chicago street.

"Mutt, get back here!" I yell at the top of my lungs. I swear, when I catch the beast, hes toast.

Youd think my dear dog would listen to me. But no. Hes bolting so fast I imagine him singing "Born Free" like I heard on one of those animal shows.

I run about two city blocks which, I might add, are way bigger than any suburban blocks. And my boobs are flapping together, which is not a pretty sight no matter what your gender is. Im panting and it feels like my lungs are running out of air and shriveling up. I still see a blur of white puffy fur and a wagging tail, but its getting farther and farther away.

I give a little curse to the snow that melted and is now frozen ice on the sidewalks. Im slipping and sliding in my boots, which I picked out for fashion and not traction, while trying to avoid the barricades in front of most buildings. If you live or work in Chicago, you know its a hazard just walking down the streets in winter when ice melts off the tops of the skyscrapers. Ice falls to the street and the people below are targets. Once I got tagged by a chunk of ice from a building. Luckily, I put my head down so I only had a huge lump and serious bruise on top of my head. If I was looking up. . . well, lets just say I would have either died or my nose would have been broken. Im careful to look straight ahead and ignore the sounds or warnings of falling ice.

"Mutt!" I scream, but in my state of decreased lung capacity it comes out as a squeak.

Im about to give up when I see Mutt halt. Thank the Lord. I slide up to the person who stopped him.

A teenager, wearing a geeky button-down plaid shirt and corduroys, is kneeling down and holding Mutts collar. "Is he yours?" he asks while pushing his glasses high up on his nose as I come to a halt.

Im huffing and puffing, but I manage a yeah.

Before I can catch my breath and formally thank the guy, he stands up and says, "He should be on a leash, you know. Its the law. "

"Thanks for the tip," I say between puffs, then reach out and clip Mutts leash on.

"Seriously," he says. "He could have been hit by a car. "

"Seriously," I say. "I know. "

The guy steps toward me. "Do you realize how many dogs are hit by cars or end up in shelters because of careless owners?"

Is this dude kidding me? The last thing I need is a lecture on dog safety. I wave the poop bag, which is still in my hand, at the guy. "Listen, I am not a careless owner. Careless owners do not carry poop bags. And, as you can see, my dog is safe and sound. "

He holds his hands up in mock surrender. "Dont get all angry with me. Im just a concerned citizen. "

"Whatever. Thanks for catching my dog," I say, then walk toward home with the poop bag still in my hand.

"Arg!" Mutt barks as we walk.

I look down at my dog and give him my famous sneer, the one where my lip curls up just the right amount. "You are in so much trouble. "

My dog farts in response. Its a steaming one, too. Yuck.

Talk about passive-aggressive.

2

***

God talked to Moses (Exodus 3:4).

Does God still talk to people?

And how come when I talk to God, he never seems to answer back?

***

On Sunday I drive to Moms new house in Deerfield with Mutt. Since I moved in with my dad, I visit her on the weekends. Mutt springs inside the house before I even open the door all the way. "Arg! Arg!"

I dont need to guess where Mom is. Her little shriek alerts me shes in her kitchen. "Amy!"

Here she goes. "What?" I say extremely unenthusiastically.

"Did you have to bring the mutt?"

"Mutt, Mom. His name is Mutt. " Okay, so hes also technically a mutt.

"Arg!" Mutt responds.

"Why does he bark like that?"

"I already told you, hes got a speech impediment. " It runs in the family. My dad cant say the "th" sound because Israelis dont have the "th" sound in their language. Im used to it, though, and I dont even hear his accent. Its the same way with Mutt.

"Maybe hes got something wrong with him," she says, backing up. "Did he get all his shots?"

I roll my eyes. "And you call me the drama queen. Hes perfectly healthy. "

"Just. . . let him outside, okay? Marc is allergic. "

I feel bad leaving Mutt in the cold, especially because I got him in Israel and hes used to the heat. But, hey, hes got a fur coat on so I shouldnt worry. Right?

"Mutt. Out," I order while I open the back door. He doesnt seem to mind going outside, actually, and bounds out the door.

To be honest, I think Marc is allergic to the idea of having a dog around. Hes a clean freak. And Mutt is a slobbering, shedding animal.

I turn around and find my mom staring at my chest.

"Theyre looking a little saggy lately. I think its time to go buy you new bras. "

"Mom," I say, horrified. "My bras are fine. "

"When was the last time you were fitted properly?"

Oh, no, here we go again. As if Im going to stand inside a dressing room and have a lady come in, size me up, and watch/help me shove my boobs into bras. Once my mom made me go to one of those specialty bra boutiques.

It was the most embarrassing moment of my life. (Okay, so Ive had a ton of embarrassing moments in my life, but that one is high on the list. )

"Can we not talk about my boobs, please?"

Great. Now O Holy Allergic One is walking into the kitchen. I hope he didnt hear the convo about my saggy boobs. "Hi, Amy," he says.

I mumble a "hi. "

He leans over my mom and kisses her. Eww! Seriously, if he starts making out with her Im outta here. "Ah-choo!"

"Oh, sweetie," Mom says (not referring to me). "Amys dog was in the house. "

"Its okay," he says. Kiss-ass.

I cant stand all this lovey-dovey stuff. "Im taking Mutt for a walk. "

"Wait. We want to ask you something. " I turn to Mom. "What?"

"Just. . . come sit down. "

I plop down in a chair in the kitchen. Mom sits down beside me. Marc sits next to Mom. She reaches out to hold my hand.

Okay, this is bigger than boob talk. I can tell just by the way Mom is squeezing my hand.

"How would you like to be a big sister?" I shrug. "I wouldnt. "

I like my life just how it is. I have my mom, I have my dad, I have Jessica, I have my non-boyfriend Avi, and

I have Mutt. My life is fine, why would I want a little brat screwing it up?

Moms excitement deflates.

"Why, were you thinking about adopting a baby? Listen, Mom, I doubt people would even allow you adopt at your age. "

"I beg your pardon. Im only thirty-seven. " Duh! "Youre almost fo

rty!"

"Besides," she says, ignoring me. "Were not thinking of adopting. Im pregnant. " Pause. Silence.

Back up. Did I hear right?

"Youre pregnant? As in youre going to have a baby pregnant?"

Marc smiles wide. "Yep. "

I stand up. "And you didnt consult me on this?" I mean, youd think they would have at least talked to me about it. Are they replacing me because I moved in with my dad? Its not like I dont come around the burbs. I do. But Mom just up and sold our condo in the city. I couldnt move schools my junior year. Then I would have to make all new friends. Oh, man. And theyre so excited about it, too. Like the new, shiny kid is going to be way better than the old, used model.

A baby.

Theres no getting around the fact that Im being replaced.

"Im not changing diapers," I blurt out. Yes, I know it was immature and childish to say that, but it just came out. Sue me for being a teenager.

Mom gives me a tearful look. "You dont have to change diapers. "

Im sorry, I just cant stand here calmly. My mind is whirling with questions. "Was this planned?"

Marc and Mom look at each other. "Well, yeah," he says.

"And you didnt think it was important to ask my opinion?"

"Amy, Marc and I want to have children together. I thought youd be as excited as we are. "

I swallow, which is no easy feat because I have a lump in my throat the size of a basketball.

"I gotta go," I say, and get Mutt. "Come on, boy," I say, leading him to the front of the yard. I need to get away from the house and figure out where I fit in my so-called family.

My mom runs after me. "Amy, stay. I dont want you to be angry. "

I sigh. "Im not angry, Mom. I just need to sort this all out in my head. " In my car, I flip open my phone to text Jessica.

Me: Guess whos pregnant?

Jess: u?

Me: Get real.

Jess: ur mom?

Me: yep

Jess: Mazel tov!?

Me: Dont congratulate me, plz

Jess: Could b worse

Me: How?

Jess: Could b u?

Me: Im a virgin.

Jess: Nobodys perfect.

Me: Dont make me laugh.

Jess: Better than crying, right?

Leave it to my best friend to put it into perspective. But Jessica doesnt know that theres history with my mom and dad. History that I think still stings for one of my parents. And that is no laughing matter.

When I get back to the city, I swear the temperature in the city has decreased by at least twenty degrees. It mimics the chill in my body.

Crying isnt my thing, but my eyes water on their own. Damn.

I feel sorry for my dad, even more now that I know Mom and Marc are really going to have a new family. My poor dad is alone. Hell never get my mom back now. When he finds out about the baby, hes really going to get depressed. Ill have to do something about that, sooner rather than later. My perfect family life just blew up in my face.

Are families supposed to drive you crazy? I need to talk to someone about this. Id like to talk to my non-boyfriend, but hes somewhere in the middle of Israel in training. No phone calls during boot camp.

I glance at the picture of Avi on my nightstand. Hes in his army fatigues, a machine gun strapped to his shoulder. And hes smiling. Smiling. As if being stuck in the middle of the hot Negev Desert during military boot camp is no biggie. I miss him more than anything right now. Hes so strong, inside and out. I wish I was like that.

Source: www.allfreenovel.com