We had a dog when I was six that could float.
I was the first one to notice when it started. We were all sitting down to eat one night when I saw something black and shaggy hovering just above the coffee table in the living room.
“Look!” I shouted, pointing. Everyone turned to see. My mother screamed, and pressed a hand to her mouth, while Dad gave a kind of surprised laugh.
Glucose just stared back at us, panting as she floated slowly upwards, her shaggy black ears drooping on either side of her face.
I got older and eventually asked Mom why we ever named a dog Glucose – this was years later, after Dad had died and we could talk about it without getting totally emotional.
Mom laughed and told me the story.
“James,” she said. (She always started by using my name like that.)
Apparently, she had wanted to name it Sugar, but Dad thought Glenn Close was a great name for a dog. Especially a little Havanese mix.
So they put them together.
Her eyes were wet when she told me that last part.
We tied Glucose’s leash to one of the dumbbells my dad sometimes used for his workouts. She kicked her legs and squirmed as she swayed back and forth in midair, panting and tumbling around. It was really pretty funny.
The next morning we took her to the vet. There were six of us kids, but my older sister Anna was the only other one who got up in time to go with me and Dad. We rode in the backseat with Glucose, petting her while we held her in place.
The vet’s office was a nice building lined against a backdrop of trees – hazy in the mid-June heat.
Dad carried Glucose inside and signed in, and then the three of us all sat in the waiting room, which reminded me of a Viking meeting hall I had seen in a picture book at school. Stone floors, wood beam ceilings, and a huge fireplace at one end, opposite the front desk at the other.
“I hope they can fix her,” Anna said.
“Me too,” I said.
After a while, a girl in blue scrubs called us in. Anna and I got up too, but Dad said we could wait until he was finished.
So we waited in the Viking meeting hall.
I remember this other time, just before Dad passed, when we were all in his hospital room, standing around the bed. It was before we got the news that the cancer had spread, and later memories are more dismal, but this one is all right.
In fact, it’s the second favorite memory I have of my father.
The skin on his arms was nearly yellow, and there were deep purple bruises where the nurse had tried for the IV. He was frail, but his eyes were happy.
I don’t remember what we were talking about, but he looked right at me and said, “Just tie a bunch of balloons to my coffin when I die, James. I’d rather go up like Glucose instead of under.”
No one said anything, he was so serious, but then he burst out laughing. Somehow, that’s the funniest thing anyone’s ever said to me.
Dad didn’t say anything on the ride home, even with Anna pestering him. I guess we all knew it must have been bad news, by the way Dad wouldn’t let us hold Glucose. He kept her in the front seat with him, panting in his lap.
It didn’t get any better once we pulled into the driveway. Mom was standing in the front door, her eyes wide in silent question. My other brothers and sisters were waiting too, standing around her.
Dad made it to the front porch before he slumped and shook his head.
“There’s nothing we can do,” he said.
Anna started crying.
Eventually, Dad gave us more details, after a long conversation with Mom behind the closed door of their bedroom, us kids listening in the hallway.
Apparently, it was an actual medical condition, albeit very rare. Glucose was what they called “a floater.” All existing research seemed to suggest that she actually preferred it that way. If she floated away, it wouldn’t kill her, she’d simply go somewhere else. I thought that was really strange, but Dad was the one who’d spoken with the veterinarian, not us.
So it seemed natural that he came up with the next idea too. We’d have a big sendoff party for Glucose. Take all the sadness right out of the situation, he said.
And that’s exactly what we did. In our backyard, gathered around in a circle, Glucose still tied to Dad’s dumbbell, panting happily at our feet. Dad said a few words, and Anna attached a balloon to Glucose’s paw. She was crying a lot more than the rest of us.
And then Dad untied the leash, and we watched our dog float up into the sky. Way up high until she was just a speck, and then nothing at all.
Then we all went back inside.
It was just too odd to be sad about.
I got up one morning about a week later and found Dad standing in the doorway. The sunlight was pouring in through the glass, bathing him in gold. Briefly, I pictured him floating up into the sky, and thought how awful that would be. I was promptly moved to speak.
“Have a good day at work, Dad,” I said.
He turned a little, and I thought he looked sad.
“I love you, James,” he said.
JT Gill’s work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Perihelion Science Fiction, previously in Every Day Fiction, and The Molotov Cocktail, where he won the 2015 Flash Fool Contest.