In the last minutes of Where The Red Fern Grows Adam sat between his parents, sobbing separately on either side, the world on their shoulders, pillows in their laps. Paul felt betrayed -- "You said, Let's watch a family movie, I thought, you know, I was thinking Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, or something fuckin' animated. But you made us sit through Where The Red Fern Grows?"
She wiped, while her husband patted, and she turned those eyes on Adam.
"It was pretty emotional, huh?"
Adam shrugged, nodded halfway. Tried to be interested.
"It was cool. For an old-fashioned kind of movie."
She stared at him for a moment, convinced he might be a sociopath.
"Do you... Do you get it? The one dog... Got injured and passed away, and then the other one died out of grief?"
Too close. Paul warned her to stop, even as Adam was laughing at them both, and she gave in. Adam asked again for money, and she told him once again he was out of luck. "Are you my Dad?" he snapped, just funny enough that it wasn't punishable, and Paul fell into step. "Buddy, I gave you twenty bucks at the beginning of the week. You gotta learn to make it last."
It was just a movie. It was just twenty bucks. Adam didn't understand the future, or making it last, or crying at movies. He didn't understand grief, or Marlene's choices, or his parents, weeping over long-dead dogs. He was a child. They knew it, but they needed more.
Cathy climbed into her husband's arms, and they sobbed. With sadness performed, and hardships overcome. In the last days of summer, when they sobbed it was with relief: It was just a movie.
Marlene's fish outlasted her; they reminded her of Eddie. When Cathy had wiped her tears and gone back to see the women, she found those fish, long dead, lying on the lawn her son had mowed. Shells, coral, a rainbow of fish. The women were happy to see her, until she opened her mouth. "What did you do to Marlene's fish?"
Lorna nodded: They felt bad. They just didn't know what to do, getting rid of the tank. Tried flushing them, but they were too big and too exotic, and kept coming back up. Cathy swore someone would have taken them, but the women were busy, with lives of their own: Too busy to find a home for every little thing.
Thomas was gone.
Buttercup had an allergy. Or if not an allergy, a discomfort: "I don't sneeze? But I feel like I want to. And my eyes get all runny."