Busto With Gusto

“I put Busto to sleep.”


“Busto... I put Busto to sleep.”

“Okay,” said Judy, and then- looking up from the New York Times crossword puzzle: “Wait- what?”

“I put Busto to sleep today. And then I stopped at the grocery market for basil.” Tino put the brown paper bag of groceries on the counter, tossing the receipt in the trash barrel. Judy looked over at him from the living room,  sitting on the couch, pen in her hand and magazine on her lap. She was frozen.

“Why? Why did you do that?”

“I needed it for the pesto, babe”

“No!” Judy said, uncrossing her legs from their Indian fold, taking her eyeglasses off. “Not the pesto!”

“Not the pesto?”

“Busto, not the pesto! Where is my dog?”

“I put him to sleep, babe…” Tino unpacked the groceries, stacking the tomatoes in alphabetical order.

Judy blinked. “Why did you do that?!?”

“Do what?”

“The pesto! I mean Busto! Why did you put Busto to sleep?”

“Babe…” Tino look at her from the kitchen, spoke as if it was understood. He pulled a jar of black olives out of his bag, unscrewing the cap and flipping one into his mouth.

Judy stood up. “'Babe?!?'”

Tino, chewing, pointed at his mouth in the universal symbol for ‘I’m chewing.’ He said with a mouthful of olive meat: "Yeah, babe?!?"

“Why did you do that Tino? Why did you put Busto to sleep?”

“He had some good years…” Tino pulled a plastic bag of fresh-ground Romano from the rumpled brown paper, “but nothing lasts forever.”

“He was two!”

“Babe, that’s at least 35 in dog years…” Tino pulled out a sack of fresh pasta from the bag, adding, “Busto lost his gusto.”

Judy marched to the island counter: “Is this some sort of joke to you?”

Tino could barely hide the smile on his face: “No… Not at all. I’m laughing at something completely different.”

His grin spread wide like cracks in the ice.

“Why did you kill my dog? Why did you kill Busto?”

Tino bite his tongue. “It was completely humane, babe… the vet gave him the shot and he was out in a rush. Never felt a thing.”

Judy swallowed the sob. “You’re a monster. You're a hot shit, Tino. I never trusted you, you dirty son of a bitch. I should have trusted my instincts.”

“Just think how much you’ll save in chew toys, babe…”

“I want you out of here,” Judy folded her arms. “I don’t know you anymore. I don’t want you in my house.”

Tino paused, a bulb of wild garlic in the palm of his left hand. He gestured to the groceries on the counter before him. The smile was gone. “You don’t mean that, babe. You see, I forgot to tell you that -”

“I mean it. Get out. I don’t ever want to see you again.”

Tino on pause, the light going out of his eyes.


Tino took a deep breath, air full of oxygen actual, lungs adjusting to the atmosphere of planet Earth. His could feel his heart pounding, in his chest, his temples. Finally he cocked his eyebrow, an all-knowing grin of the know-nothing man, raised his head up and asked her: “Who’s gonna make you pesto?”

Judy felt her heart swell, a surge of courage rush her body like electrocution, like sticking your finger in the electric socket for the very first time-  not because it tasted good but because it was good for you. She felt the stutter. She was charged, positive.

“I’ll make my own goddamn pesto.”

Tino looked at her for a long moment, eyes dulling embers behind broad smile, before he saw that his woman felt nothing, that she had already made up her mind. Judy made him taste stone-cold sober. He didn't like it. He put the garlic down on the counter.

He searched her eyes for a trace of why.

Tino, the organics of his shopping trip laid bare before her, opened his mouth to speak, and realizing there would only be tears he closed it again.

He pulled his cell from the wall charger, turned and walked to the apartment door, stepping outside softly before closing the door behind him.

The latch make click.

Judy closed her eyes, shaking her head. She looked at the ingredients on the counter in front of her. The tears were sharp. They made pain. She moaned through the salty discharge: "Busto..."

She took a knife from her utensil drawer and began to chop the garlic slow.

Busto ran out from the bedroom, sniffing, his tail wagging playfully behind him. He panted as he looked up in love at his owner, licking warm and wet at Judy’s ankles.

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