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The man surveyed the dreariness that had been his home for the past week. The ratty furniture, the rusty pipes that never worked, the blinking lamp . . . okay, so it wasn't paradise, but it was . . . oh, who was he kidding?

"This place sucks," he grumbled as he glanced over to his only companion, the only living creature in the world who . . . who was no longer laying with his head in the chair. He sighed. "Figures. Even *he* can't stand to be around me." Shaking his head, he walked over to the broken mirror on the other side of the bed, sat on the edge of the bed, and just looked at himself.

His brown hair was messy and unkempt, his clothes were torn and needed a good taylor, he needed a shave and definitely a shower by the way he smelled. His eyes were a little sunken in, his stomach growled, and his head was a mess. In short, he was in bad shape. But as he stared at his reflection, he couldn't help but think back to how he got there. It had been a week, but it had felt like an eternity.

He wondered how his pop was doing, if there was anyone taking care of him. Even after everything that had happened, after everything that had been said, he was still worried about him. It was only natural . . . his pop was a good man, but he wasn't really able to take care of himself. Still, no matter how much he cared about him, he couldn't bring himself to go back; it was all his fault, and he would never be able to forgive himself. It was only now sinking in that his mother had died, and that it was because of him that she was dead.

His mother had been a great person with a heart of gold. Any room would light up when she entered it, and she was always able to find a way to keep her family bridged, regardless of the tension that sometimes happened between her son and husband. Still, that heart of gold and bright smile couldn't save her from the cancer. And unlike the last time, it didn't go away. She quickly succumbed to it within a month.

The funeral had been small, just like he knew she would. He and his pop hadn't spoken to each other much after the burial, but then that night, it happened. He still didn't know exactly what started it, but he and his pop got into an argument. He could still hear those words he and his pop exchanged:

"If you had stayed home, spent some time with her instead of thinking of cacamamie ways to make money, she might still be alive. But no, you couldn't be bothered with that, now could you? Couldn't even bother showing up at the hospital. All she wanted was a little time with you."

"I was trying to raise money to help her, Pop. I wasn't going to give up and just sit and watch her die. You know, if that's what you wanted to do, then you shouldn't have married her; she deserved someone who wouldn't give up on her."

"That's it! Get out of my house! I don't ever want to see you ever again!"

"Fine by me!"

And he left, with only the clothes on his back, a hundred dollars in his pocket, and his companion. He never looked back as he drove away in his car. And he drove until the tank was empty, ending up in his new home. And despite the cold and dreary atmosphere, he was determined to make it livable, to show his pop that he didn't need his help.

But living like that, alone all the time, allowed his thoughts to wander back to his mother. He could hear her voice in his head, asking him to go back and make things right; it wasn't his fault, and it was his pop's fault, she reassured him. It was her time, and she loved the two most important men in her life, even at the end.

"Even if I could go back, he would never forgive me," he said out loud. He sighed, his body trembling as he finally let the tears fall. They were tears of grief for his mother, finally allowing the reality of her death to sink in, and they were also tears of regret for talking to his father that way. "It'll never be better." He slowly looked up into the mirror, finally seeing himself for the first time, and he set his jaw. Things might have been bad, but if it was one thing he learned from his mother was that there was always hope in everything, regardless of how bad it was. He got off the bed, his steps a little lighter as he began packing up what little belongings he had.

When he was finished, he looked around for his companion, calling him. No answer. Grumbling, he walked up the steps to the ground level and outside. He shivered against the cold air, pulling his jacket closer around his shoulders. He glanced over to his car and sighed when he realized he needed to fill his car up, which required the one thing he didn't have.

"Aw, man, no money," he whined. He kicked a nearby trashcan, startling a stray cat who yowled and ran away. The man sighed as he dragged himself back into his home. He glanced at his reflection and snorted. Even if was able to go back to his pop he looked like a mess, a far cry from what he looked like when he left. He would need new clothes, a shower and a shave . . . and a new car too. Maybe that would help get some respect back from his pop. But again, all that stuff required money - and lots of it. He threw himself into a chair, thinking of ways to get money, but nothing came to mind. He sighed as he leaned his head back and closed his eyes, trying to figure out what he could do.

His thoughts were interrupted as he heard a dog barking. Cautiously, he walked slowly out of his home and followed the bark. He turned a corner, and found his companion, sitting next to a man laying on the ground, and barking his head off. He hurried over and knelt beside the man. He was dressed in black and unconscious. A huge gash on his head was bleeding, and a nasty bruise was starting to form around it.

The man knew that he had to get the other man out of the cold, otherwise he'd freeze to death. He carefully got to his feet and began maneuvering the unconscious man so he could get him back to the warehouse. He pushed all thoughts about going back to his pop aside as he grabbed the man's arms and started dragging him back to the warehouse. He glanced down at the dog as it walked beside him, growling and barking.

"What?" he asked. "So you found him. What you want a medal or something?" The dog barked and growled. "Well, tough rocks, pal. You ain't getting one." He shook his head as he continued dragging the man, finally making it to the entrance to his warehouse home. He stopped to catch his breath and leaned against a nearby wall.

After a few moments, he glanced down at the unconscious man, then looked at the stairs leading down to his home. "Now, this is going to be fun." He glanced down at the dog, who was sitting on his haunches. "You know, if you really wanted to help, you could help me figure out how to get him down there." The dog just barked. "Oh, what do you know, anyway?"

Sighing, he began racking his brain, trying to figure out how he was going to get the injured man down the stairs. Finally, he remembered the service elevator on the other side of the warehouse. He smiled and glanced down at the dog. "Well, the great Argyle has done it once again." And with his smile set firmly, Argyle slowly dragged the unconscious man around the building with Dog walking beside him.


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