Joint Custody - Lauren Baratz-Logsted Page 0,1

not the easiest thing to do.

But then I thought: It’s all about the happy ending . . .

And as the chorus from the Bruno Mars song “Grenade” began running on a loop in my brain—y’know, jumping in front of trains, catching grenades; I told myself it was all just like playing fetch—I dived in.

I nosed around the contents for a time, taking in the scent that was both beautiful and treacherous. But I must admit, after the first taste of chocolate and then maybe the second, I forgot the risks. Because . . .

Ohmygod . . . it tasted SO. GOOD.

That taste was so good, and I wanted it to go on and on, forever and ever, so I just kept eating it and eating it until . . .

Holy crap. How did that box get so empty?

Well, except for all the little brown wrappers. There were wrappers everywhere.

But the chocolate? Every last bit—the milk chocolates and the dark chocolates, the chocolates with cream inside and the chocolates with caramel and the chocolates with nuts and even the chocolates with that crappy Roman nougat stuff (I mean, what is that crap even made out of?). All of it gone. All of it now inside me.

I’m guessing it was the sound of me running around the place like a maniac that finally woke The Man. That and the smell of the vomit. Maybe the diarrhea.

“Gatz! Oh my god, Gatz!”

In my near-comatose state, at the sound of The Man’s panicked voice, I tilted my eyes over to see The Man standing in the doorway to the bedroom, his depression bathrobe hanging open over his T-shirt and jeans, Mets ball cap on backward per the usual, feet bare.

By the way, I was named after that guy who dies in the swimming pool. Don’t judge. It’s his favorite book. Hers too.

OK, so maybe this isn’t the right time for a primer on my name.

“Gatz! What did you do?” The Man cried, rushing over to where I lay on the floor in my filth and my empty wrappers. It might sound like he was mad at me, but he wasn’t. There was real anguish in his voice, and I felt so bad for putting it there. I hated hurting The Man, but I had to do it. It was for his own good. Again, hers too.

“You know better!” The Man said as he fumbled for his cell phone.

Well, of course I know better, you nitwit. Hey, it’s part of my master plan!

“Just hang in there, Gatz,” The Man said, patting me reassuringly as he held the phone to his ear, waiting for someone to pick up.

Yes! I thought. He’s calling The Woman—score! Finally! I knew he’d call her, I knew it, I knew it, I—

Only it turned out he wasn’t calling The Woman after all, which I could tell by the way he spoke to whoever was on the other end of the line.

“Black-and-white border collie,” he said.

“Three years old,” he said.

“Twenty-two pounds,” he said.

See, that’s when I knew he hadn’t called The Woman, because he wouldn’t need to tell her all that stuff about me. The Woman already knew all that stuff about me.

About those twenty-two pounds: I’m on the low range of weight for my breed, but what can I say? I may be tiny in size, but I’m mighty in how I love. Apart from the gender, what Helena said of Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is true of me too: “Though she be but little, she is fierce.”

Realizing that The Man was not talking to The Woman, but rather, what sounded like it was probably some animal hospital, I promptly puked again.

The Man scratched the side of his face with the fingers on the hand that was holding the phone to his ear, as he continued to soothe me with the other hand and said, “I don’t know. It looks like the whole box? I don’t remember what size I bought. Maybe a pound?”

I didn’t know either anymore. By that point I’d started to tremble so bad, my heart pounding harder than it ever had in my whole life, it was pretty difficult for me to focus.

“Yes, I’ll bring him right in.” The Man’s voice came to me through my delirium. “And the box too.”

A minute later, I felt a blanket being wrapped around my trembling body and The Man lifting me up into his arms, filth and all.

If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Then he hurried down