Stray Dog


They got used to him. Some would say they were crazy, but they had. He came back every month or so, always through the same window. He'd break it if they forgot to leave it unlocked. In those cases, he would walk right through the broken glass, crunching it down into the carpet and scaring the cat. He'd had a couple of close encounters with the younger of their two daughters as well, but she had wisely fled back to bed without her glass of water. It was always after dark when he came. Although, it didn't seem to be because he was being considerate of them. No…it seemed that was just when he liked to come.

Friends and family had asked more than once, "Why can't he just take it with him so he doesn't have to bother you anymore? It seems awfully rude."

One or the other of them – husband or wife – would say, "You can't take a room. It's the room he visits, you know. The one where his mother…"

And their friends would say, "Oh."

Their family members would usually say, "How sad." Especially her mother.

Both she and her husband had tried to explain to him that they didn't want to keep the furniture; they didn't want the bed and the dresser. He never seemed to hear them. He just stared at the dresser – where, they surmised, pictures used to be – and then crawled into the bed, smudging blood on the covers from his work clothes. If she didn't launder the bed things, the blood would still be there the next time he came, and it would just get worse. He never seemed to notice he was doing it.

They all knew who he was. He'd been marked forever by a mission accident that took his eye. ("Poor thing," her mother said.) Even if they hadn't known that, well, it had been his house, his and his father's, and it didn't take much to put together the old name on the deed with this scrawny boy breaking in every month to visit the room that used to belong to the lady of the house.

Eventually, they started jokingly referring to him as their 'stray dog'. People not in the know had asked them if they put food out for him, which sparked the next phase of their odd journey into the life of a shinobi. She took them seriously. "That's a great idea," she said, and to the rest of the family's astonishment, she left a plate of food in the room where they otherwise feared to tread, and a pair of chopsticks.

In the morning after their nightly visit, the food was gone.

She considered that a good sign.

One day, when it was snowing out and they least expected it…he didn't come. They hoped that was a good sign, too. A sign that maybe, their stray dog, Hatake Kakashi, had been adopted.