Written September 2015. This story is not considered canonical within The Valley Chronicles trilogy, but is an excellent example of Hodgey’s voice.
People often speak of family as a thing you are born into- something marked by blood, immutable, eternal. I would like to offer an alternative conclusion, one which I have arrived at after years spent laboring in dumpsters and crowded squares— family, like most things in life, is something we make. There is a sweetness and pride attained through the act of building such a unit, either on the grounds of blood relation or something else entirely. This experience is akin to the feeling of, say, realizing that the evil mailman has fled back to his hellpit after a successful stratagem has been employed by oneself.
I built my family through simplistic means— the dumbest feline would have been able to execute my feeble plot. After years of living homeless on the streets, I stumbled upon her— the scent of something vaguely like fresh grass on her ankles, and a brave angle to her far away face. Violet. I had found someone who I desired to be my friend, and I had no intention of losing her. This, I swore on my precious tail, currently flicking back and forth as if charged with lightning. I had not much to work with so I was forced to try something rather crude. As the saying goes, “No human can resist the whimper-and-follow.”
Stepping into the street, I broke into a steady trot, ignoring the surprised sounds the humans made around me, and focusing on Violet’s brown boots. Sidestepping countless obstacles and appealing- looking treats, I followed her and her parental unit with fierce determination. It was a few blocks before she noticed me- concern flickering on her face, likely due to my disgusting appearance, and also the typical light I saw that all dogs incited in her species. She murmured a few scattered words to her mother, who glanced back at me also. They stopped, and I caught up to them, and began fiercely licking the boots of who I hoped would be my new friend. I prepared myself for the worst— this was normally when the selected individuals tended to kick me away. But Violet had always shown promise beyond the average contestant in the “Who Deserves Hodgey” show, she merely carefully removed me and spoke urgently with her mother.
I was thrilled beyond belief when she picked me up, and brought me with her until they reached the small car. I sat on Violet’s lap in the passenger seat, and delighted at the feeling of comfort and warmth which humans doubtlessly made possible through the mass-selling of souls. I was certainly far less thrilled when they pulled up at a strange building called “animal shelter”, and brought me in there instead, signing a few papers and saying goodbye with not a backwards glance. I was quite hurt, frankly— perhaps my newfound habit of crying myself to sleep every night would suggest I was downright shattered. But the shelter was nice, for such an impersonal place- the meals were regular and I suppose the volunteers were nice enough.
But of course, it was a relief when one day, I was pulled out of the shelter by one of the aides (Darla, I believe) and brought to a counter where I saw, to my utter shock, Violet handing in money to the shelter, which she had apparently raised through various odd jobs and also by tutoring some elementary school kids. It was the happiest day of my life when she and her mother brought me into their small suburban home, and whispered into my ear “Welcome home.”