Bruno was on his deathbed. He’d lived a good long life, closing in on eighty-four years old. The Salerno family, from south Philly, gathered around: Mom, dad, son, and daughter. Mom could barely contain herself. She placed her hand on her loved ones’ brow, sobbing uncontrollably.
Bruno turned his head towards her. He struggled to lift it up, inching closer, as if to tell her something, maybe for the last time. His mouth opened.
“Oh, my honey bunny,” cried Mom.
There was a whimper. The family knew their beloved Bruno, resting on his favorite mustard yellow leather sofa, was closing in on the pearly gates.
“Speak,” said Mom, hoping to hear Bruno’s gentle expression for the last time.
He opened his mouth, blinking his dark amber eyes, gazing up. There was a slight utterance, and then . . .
“I have always despised that God-damn phrase, you know that? Honey bunny, my ass!” The whole family gasped. Mom nearly fainted.
“And here’s a news flash, you bunch of scrapple brains,” growled Bruno. “I have always hated getting my nails manicured like I’m sort of princess, taking me to that fancy schmancy salon. It’s totally embarrassing!”
Mom hit the floor. The kids shrieked. Dad was dumbfounded, dropping his bottle of Rolling Rock to the floor.
This was so unlike Bruno. He’d never spoken up like that before . . . ever. In fact, he never spoke at all. You see, Bruno was a chocolate brown hued poodle. Smart as a whip, and apparently, now able to converse in perfect Philly lingo.
“Okay, you obnoxious schmucks,” barked Bruno. “It’s time for this old canine to unload on all of youse.” He coughed. Mom finally made it to her feet.
“First off, Mom, or should I just call you . . . sorry kids, can youse both leave the room for a sec? Thanks.” The poodle eyed the kids leaving, closing the door.
“Now, where was I? Oh, . . floozy!” Mrs. Salerno blushed. Bruno turned towards Dad. “Oh, you didn’t know that about your adulterous wife, did ya?
“Honey?” stammered Dad.
“He meant nothing,” she uttered.
“Maybe the gardener meant nothin,” chided Bruno, “But the cable guy? And let’s not forget that smarmy Dish dude, the Maytag repairman – hold on, I’m missing someone.” He paused. “My God, lady, you’re worse than a dog in heat, and I should know . . . until you had me fixed and ruined my life forever! And there ain’t no doggie porn for this pup so I’m otta luck!”
Bruno continued. “Now hubby here, well, he picks his spots on his laptop, secretly in his man cave. What a stupid concept, man cave. It’s just a glorified space to get away from your annoying family, am I right, Pops? Yeah baby, I’m livin large watching the Phillies and swilling down shitty beer.”
Bruno appeared to have caught a second wind, spunky, and full of piss and vinegar. Mom and Dad glared at each other. Their eyes narrowed. He asked to bring the kids back in. They sat down, side by side on the sofa.
The dog hopped up on all fours. “And you annoying kids, always fighting and in each other’s business. Grow the hell up!”
“But I’m only eight years old,” replied the son.
“Yeah, well, you’re still a pain in the ass.” Bruno did a quick scratch behind his ears then continued. “And you, daughter. You are a stinky spoiled brat with an overbite that I could rake leaves with. What are you, thirteen now? Wearing all that makeup, and at such a young age. You don’t want to follow in Mom’s tawdry footsteps, honey, trust me.”
“How long have you been able to, uh . . . talk?” asked Mom, trying to make sense of the situation.
“It just kinda came to me,” said Bruno, giving his frame a good, healthy stretch. “Actually, you schmoes got me so frustrated over these past years I wanted to scream. Instead, it just came out like your run of the mill bark. But now? As long as I got breath in me, I’m gonna let ‘er rip.”
The dog farted. The family gagged.
Bruno sat down, surveying the family members. “Now, let’s get back to all the annoying things you guys have done to me. Let me count the ways.”
“This is crazy,” uttered Dad.
“Quiet, chub rock, you’re spoiling my train of thought,” grumbled Bruno.
“First off, I hate when you ‘accidently’ step on my paws. I ain’t got gorilla feet so when youse stomp all over my petite paws, it flat out hurts like a son of a bitch. Hey, accidents happen, but you guys are the biggest bunch of clumsy morons in da world. Number two: I am a dog, not a child. It is extremely humiliating to wear anything other than my own fur no matter how cold it gets. I am done wearing sweaters or freaking booties when it snows, capeesh? Let’s say it together: Bruno is a dog, not a child.”
“But you look so cute in your booties,” cried Mom.
“What a ditz,” replied Bruno. “Three: I don’t like riding in cars, doll face. It makes me seasick. And I especially don’t like sitting on your jiggly gut while you hit the drive-thru at Wendy’s for the umpteenth time. For Christ sake, how many Baconators can one person consume?”
Dad gleaned over to his wife. “So much for your diet, dear.”
“You should talk, lardy,” she chided.
“May I continue, please?” barked Bruno. Mom and Dad nodded. You do realize if you ever got into an accident and had to slam on the brakes, guess who’s gonna get squashed between you and the airbag? Me!”
“That does make sense,” said the daughter.
“Last but not least, I despise going to that high-flatulent Pampered Paws Palace to get my fur trimmed. I know everyone thinks us poodles are nothin but a bunch of froo-froo dogs, but for Christ sake, take me somewhere manly like freaking Super Cuts or somethin. You’ll save yourselves some dough and I’ll be spared any further humiliation. And getting my nails painted, really? A baby blue bow? I’m a freaking animal, not some wuss pooch!”
He paused. “Oh, and that shitty food you feed me – the one with the fancy name. No mas! I’m a south Philly poodle. You know what I’d like eat? A Philly cheesesteak wit extra wiz without. That means no freaking onions – they make me gassy.”
“Why are you being so mean?” said the daughter. “I mean, we love you.”
“Ahh, you wannabees made me run through hoops, literally, for dried up snacks that had as much flavor as cardboard. You guys basically fed me the same shit for ten years straight. Hey Dad, try eating freaking baloney sandwiches for a decade and see how that feels. Oh, never mind, chubs, you’d probably dig that.”
“But I treated you like a prince,” said Mom, near tears. “I wove you.”
“No, more like a princess,” doll face. “And wove? What the hell is wove? I’m a smart breed, probably the smartest breeds out there. Definitely smarter than your kids. And yet you talk to me like I’m some sort of a nipple noggin. Enough already!”
“But . . .” stammered Mom.
“That coochy-coo bullshit is fine for babies, doll-face, but I’m a dog . . . D-O-G. Say it with me now, all of youse: D-O-G.”
“You know, if you had spoken up before, we coulda made you a star,” uttered Dad, dreaming of dollar signs and guest appearances on all the cable shows. “Now that you’re on your deathbed, we’ll never know.”
“You scamming bastard,” barked Bruno. “Why do ya think I kept my yap shut all these years? So you wouldn’t exploit me, you mound round of rebound. Besides, I’m feelin aces now.”
“You are a real son of a bitch, you know that?” said Dad.
“Takes one to know one, puddy butt.”
The family huddled, whispering to each other. A couple of minutes later, dad picked up the pillow from behind their formally favorite pet dog.
“What do you think you’re doin, Fat Albert?”
“Just fluffing up the pillow for you,” replied Dad, who proceeded to thrust the cushy object on top of the mangy mutt, suffocating Bruno to death.
Mom looked at her husband. The two grasped Bruno’s favorite ratty blanket and covered his lifeless body. They stepped back, remaining silent then cradling each other’s hand. The two children looked at each other, near tears before breaking into a smile.
“You know? Maybe we can all learn from Bruno’s visceral critique and be a better family,” said Dad.
“We second the motion,” said the children.
In a touching move, the family cat, Manny, jumped up onto the old sofa and inched over, careful not to step on his deceased friend’s body. Manny sniffed near the pillow and sat down, giving his fellow pet mate of ten years a moment of silence. He got up, licked his paws then sauntered over to the armrest. The feline perked up, pausing before giving his two-cents worth.
“I always hated that dog, God bless, all of youse.” He sprang from the sofa to the floor and left the room, tail riding high.