Last time I saw Paul’s brother Ian he had his hand wrapped in a gauze bandage, grey and dingy, like he’d dragged it through charcoal.
A ferret bite, Ian said.
Since when do you have a ferret, I said, because not a boy in that family had ever been able to keep even a cactus plant alive.
He said it wasn’t his ferret, and they were vicious beasts anyhow, and smelled like ass; he’d never want one.
Ferrets don’t smell half as bad as Paul’s bedroom, though, I said, and he laughed and said truth, but his mom had cleaned it since Paul left.
It’s a Marie Kondo room now, Ian said, and then we both looked at other corners of the street, maybe both thinking of all the time I’d spent in Paul’s room, and where he was now, and finally I asked Paul’s brother if they ever heard from him, or got to see him.
‘Course, Ian said, when they could—it was a long ride—but he was doing better, and they had him in this program working with dogs.
Therapy dogs, no lie, he told me, because he must have seen I looked surprised.
I’d never seen Paul even try to pet a dog in the street or speak a nice word to one—Good boy, nice doggy, the way you do.
One of them lives with him in his cell, Ian said, they train every day, it’s a bonding thing.
Now would have been the time for me to ask if Paul ever mentioned me but I didn’t ask, and Ian never brought it up, only said he was on his way to get Indian takeout and did I want to come along, we could eat in the park and go for a walk after, and I stopped thinking about Paul or asking about him and all I said was yes.