Sunday Stories: "Gus's Seat" by W. Christian Ward

W Christian Mental Ward
by W Christian Mental Ward
sunday stories gus s seat by w christian ward

It was Sunday. Sunday was coffee day.

Gus knew some things, not everything, but he knew enough. He knew that the passenger seat in the old Malibu was his. He knew that when it rained his hips ached, and that in the hot months the floor of the kitchen felt good against his stomach. He knew that he was safe, loved and he knew Sunday was coffee day.

During the week, Stefanie usually brewed a small pot at home before work, but after she had gotten the old Chevy roadworthy, she had made a habit of driving to the diner on Sundays to get a cup of coffee. It kept the car from sitting and Gus loved it.

Stef would get up, attend to her morning routine, and then she would back the red ’66 out of the garage and let it warm up. While it idled, she would slip back inside, grab her purse and call for Gus. He would trot to the passenger side and wait for the door. Stef would let him in, roll down the passenger window, and hop in the driver’s seat.

Once at the diner, Stef would go inside for her coffee. She would speak to the regulars, occasionally engaging in an extended conversation about the unrestored ‘Boo, and more often than not, Gus would get a small slice of bacon or another treat from the woman behind the counter. Another nap on the way home and he would spend the rest of the day in the corner of the living room on a dog bed that was as old as he was.

Gus had no words for the old red car, its owner, or the days of the week. Like humans, he thought in pictures. It didn’t matter; he was fed in the morning and again in the evening. In the afternoon he laid next to the couch on his old bed and at night he slept on a flannel pillow in the bedroom. It had been so long ago, he had almost forgotten the pound. He was housed, fed and loved. And, for the last 10 of his nearly 15 years, Sunday was coffee day.

Today was no different. He dozed as he heard the small block fire and the car back out of the garage. While it warmed he heard Stephanie come back inside, grab her purse and call his name.

Winter was coming, so his hips hurt. The half of an aspirin ground into his food hadn’t kicked in yet, so he struggled slightly. But by the time he walked through the garage to the passenger door and looked at Stef expectantly, his tail wagged in a steady motion. Had he been human, he would have been smiling. Stef was smiling as she opened the long door. When Gus only placed his front paws in the car, she lifted his rear haunches and placed him delicately in the seat.

His seat.

As they idled out of the subdivision, Gus’ nose confirmed all was right in his territory. He settled and curled into a ball, snoozing during the ride to the diner. It was chilly so Stef leaned across at a stop sign and rolled the window back up. Gus was grateful when she adjusted the heat controls to warm the cabin. He inhaled deeply and let out a contented sigh.

This was as it should be; his seat, his day. He was still asleep when Stefanie eased the Malibu in front of the diner and popped inside. She returned quickly and he didn’t notice she had left until she placed the bacon near him. His tail thumped sleepily on the dark red velour as he slowly chewed the crispy treat. When it was finished he returned to slumber, asleep before Stef even secured her coffee between her legs and backed the Malibu out of the parking space.

It was a perfect day. When they got back, he knew he would find his spot on the floor and Stefanie would spend the rest of the day on the couch, typing on her laptop and occasionally rubbing his head. It might even be cold enough to start a fire. Gus thought of the fire and how the waves of warmth would ease the throb in his hips. There in his seat, contented, safe and loved; he dreamed of that evening, of bacon, and of slender fingers gently patting his head as he slipped away.

When the Chevy made the right into the driveway the shocks creaked, making the old car bounce slow and lazy. Stefanie parked and shut the engine off just outside of the garage. Gus was still motionless in his seat, and Stef went to gently rouse him as she had many times before. This time, there was no response, no matter how long she shook him, until she stopped and collapsed forward against the wheel.

The tears started flowing as Stefanie looked for the shovel, and kept flowing while she dug an over sized hole next to the deck in the backyard. By the time she was finished, it was almost sunset. She wiped her eyes with a dirty glove and returned the shovel to its spot on the wall. Then she went to the toolbox and grabbed two wrenches.

She carefully unbolted the passenger seat and broke it loose. It was awkward and heavy, and her friend was still curled there, his eyes closed, his breath stopped. She lifted the entire seat carried them both to the back yard.

It was after all, Gus’s seat.

W. Christian Mental Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is a graduate of Panoz Racing School, loves cartoons and once exceeded the speed of sound. Married to the most patient woman in the world; he has three dogs, including the one pictured above. Her name is Shady Ray and she is quite healthy at the time of publication

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  • Brettc Brettc on Oct 21, 2013

    Thank you for this! We have a shelter dog who is now 8 years old (had him for 7 of them). He's my first dog ever. I didn't know what to think of him when he was first brought home but I've become attached to him and vice versa. He's a good dog overall. He loves us and we love him back and all is right in his world. He knows when my wife is home due to her noisy old TDI and he sings for her every time she returns because he remembers that she's the one that rescued him from the shelter after 18 days. Sometimes he's as dumb as a bag of hammers, but it can be pretty funny when he barks at nothing. He'll be missed when it is his time, but we hope that he sticks around for a while. For anyone that has dogs with joint problems, we use "Missing Link Hip and Joint Supplement" from Amazon. It appears to have eased his pain some.

  • David C. Holzman David C. Holzman on Oct 21, 2013

    I don't have any of my own dogs, but I sit regularly for Comet and for Zorba, and Molly lives downstairs with my tenants, but spends most of workdays with me, as her humans go off to work and I work out of the house. I used to take them to the coffee house with me, and just about everybody loved them. But--major bummer--they recently stopped allowing dogs.

  • Azfelix From certain angles the bonnet appears oversized with respect to the rest of the car - like a skinny teenager wearing a bulky sweater nicked from her older sister's wardrobe.
  • Tassos This is way too god damned OLD, 21 years old to have all the necessary options you need TODAY. You need a 10 year old or less car. AND if you give us THIS POS, a 21 year old model, that is not even a LUXURY car, whoever pays $10k for a Golf, And I Do NOT care what anniversary it is (they are all UTTERLY INSIGNIFICANT) deserves to get this MOST UNRELIABLE AND COSTLY TO REPAIR OF ALL LOUSY ECONOBOXES< EVEN THE DOMESTICS AND THE KOREANS.
  • Tassos As you say, Toyota confirmed this on TUESDAY. Today is WEDNESDAY. Why is everything on TTAC held back one or more days before you tell us the NEWS when it is NO MORE THE NEWS?
  • MRF 95 T-Bird You can find a decent and far more stylish Audi TT or an S4 of a similar vintage for under $10k.
  • RHD "In all situations, the grip of the tires (225/40R18 front, 225/35R18 rear) brings with it road noise."Are the rear tires actually smaller than the fronts??!! Adding just a bit of sidewall would take care of the bumps and rough ride. I'm not a fan of BMWs, personally, but this is a very enjoyable car. There are times when driving a convertible is pure bliss, and with a bit of power it's fun as well. (And certainly a better drive than a gussied-up, overpriced German taxicab!)