by Shane Waldo
Its cold and its night; you have got the new baby tucked tight in his blue blanket, in his nice new crib. Your wife is awaiting you in your warm bed with its crisp cool sheets. Your legs hurt like hell from a long hard day standing at the factory machines and you are about to take the last sip of the last nights beer when some worthless cur start barking and yelping at your front door.
Its gonna wake up Jake, is all Ted can think as he puts down his beer and heads for the front door of his single wide trailer. Bolt, knob, the door swings open. A medium sized mutt with brown/black fur paces back and fourth; a black screen door separates Ted from the dog.
"Get the hell out of here!" he says, moving his hands like a third base coach telling a runner to go back. The dog continues to pace. Its paws thump and tromp on the wooden deck. It utters low gibbering noises and occasionally a full-fledged bark.
"You heard me you fucking mutt get out of here!"
No response, pace tromp, tromp, bark.
The baby starts to cry.
"Sherry, baby will you get that." Ted says.
"What the hell is wrong with you!" She says from the other room.
fucking bitch "Just get the kid, OK." he says.
"Allright, all right" Scuffling noises, tromp tromp thud bark whine. Ted turns his attention back to the dog. He turns on the porch light. Yellow incandescence arches out across the deck.
"My god.." Ted mutters.
With the new lighting Ted sees what the dark hid. Now, pacing on his deck, was a medium sized brown and black dog with twisting scars over its sides and snout; its ribs sticking out like a cartoon greyhound. For a moment Ted forgets that this is the thing that woke his child. Ted hears gurgling laughter from Jake's room. Ted flips off the porch light not liking what he saw, not liking it one bit.
"You gonna shoo the thing before it wakes him up again."
Ted jumps, "Scared the shit out of me, man"
"I told you not to call me Man." Sherry says as she walks into the bedroom closing the door behind her. Thump, tromp, wolf, whine. Ted looked around his living room for anything to rid him of this god-forsaken mutt and found nothing.
This time loud, Ted wasn't going to take this crap any more. He swung the screen door open in a wide arc. It came to a crashing halt as it smashed into the trailer side. The mutt looked at him with sad pitiful eyes. Ted put his foot between the dog’s front and back lets where those emaciated ribs were. The dog yelped scurrying off into the darkness. It gave Ted a haunting backward glance as it went, the light caught in the golden rings of its eyes. Then it was gone.
Ted feeling a little guilty now closed the door. Locked and bolted, finished his last sip of beer and went to bed.
Ted was running. Running for his life. He was wearing his red and green plaid boxer shorts and nothing else. The mud squished between his toes and spattered the backs of his legs. He pumped his arms, craning his neck more and more often to see his chaser. Ted saw nothing. But he knew. Knewit was there. He could hear it rustling through the dense woods. Hear its paws or feet or whatever the hell it had tromping in the mud; breaking fallen limbs. So he ran. He looked back as two large trees swayed apart and then back again. Snapping branches, beating, approaching, breathing. Its closer, Ted thought jumping over a fallen tree. He lost his footing on the loose wet soil and went sprawling on his ass and hands. Ted's muddy, scraped and bloody hands searched for purchase, searched to grab, to get up, to run again; finally he found a downed branch sitting against a tree trunk. Ted lifted himself up. The darkness in front of him howled with sounds and exploded with movement. Ted put his hands up in a childlike gesture...
and awoke screaming with warm urine flowing down his leg, settling in a small pool at his crotch. Ted looked to his right. Sherry had left already, always left first anymore. Her maternity leave at Wally World had expired a few weeks ago. Ted was, for the first time, relieved that she was not here. Wetting yourself at his age wasn't exactly something you wanted the love of your life to know about. He got up stripped off the sheets, took off his boxers and threw the smelly lump of wet laundry into the machine.
The morning continued without further incident. Ted got ready for work. Got Jake ready for Grandma's house. Went to his mother-in-laws place and picked up breakfast on the way to work.
Ted came home that evening tiered and a little frustrated. See, Ted worked in a factory. Ted's job, for the last month at least, was to drill small holes in large pieces of sheet metal that would later be folded to make some part or another for some car or another. Ted couldn't really give a shit less. Wheat he did give a shit about was how he had kept breaking bits on that hard-ass galvanized steel. He would be standing there, OCEA insists that you stand at your machines so that if it blows to high hell you won't waste a perfectly good chair, and suddenly the bit would whine, flying off the check threatening life and limb. That wasn't the worst part. The worst part was his numb fuck boss who kept insisting he show Ted how to do the damned thing, step by step, over and over, as if Ted had developed Alzheimer’s at the early age of twenty nine. This had all left a bad taste in his mouth. Now he saw two things, which might possibly make it a bit sweeter.
Sherry was sitting cross-legged in one of the kitchen chairs feeding Jake with a plastic spoon. Jake seemed to be taking the food well today, none of it was on the ceiling yet.
"How was work today honey?" Sherry asked.
"Not to good actually."
"Well, I have good news and bad news."
"Great." Ted said as he took off his coat and laid it on the couch.
"They said they were gonna shut off the phone in two days if you-
"You know that is just great, they wait three months to send me a bill then expect me to pay this large amount in two weeks, how am I suppose afford that crap, it is all a bunch of fuc-
"Not around Jake!" Sherry said, scornfully.
"Sorry honey, you know how it is when I get going."
"So what's the good"
"I still love you." looking at him with those sparkling emerald eyes.
Speaking around the meat loaf in his mouth Ted told Sherry about his day. She more politely told Ted about hers.
"Jake almost said a word today."
"Really." Ted surprised.
"Ya, my mother thinks he was trying to say something but couldn't quite get it out."
Jake sat in his high chair listening to the conversation go back and forth, pounding when hungry. Damned he sure is cute when he wants to be, Ted thought. Jake was 10 months old now with small strands of blond hair and his mother’s bright green eyes. The hair he also got from his mother. She was a green eyed blond, about five-five, ample breasts and long legs. Once dinner is over Sherry and Ted sat down on the couch and watched TV with Jake. Ted had to adjust the rabbit ears frequently. A thunderstorm was approaching. The kind you can feel in your bones. Smell between smells.
The rain didn't start until Jake was in his bed; Ted and Sherry were on the couch finally alone for the evening. Ted, with his left arm tightly around Sherry, looked from the TV to her. The dull pulsing light of the television painted her cheekbones with a strange luminescence that he associated with first morning’s light. How long had it been since he had waken up beside her. Forever it seemed.
"I love you." Ted said, Sherry turned to him her green eyes standing out from the dull lighting. The rain swooped down on their tin roof in sheets.
"I love you too."
He felt a sudden longing for her. Felt it in the pit of his stomach. In his ears with now fuzzed oddly. And he felt it in his loins; red-hot pulsing light of desire. Ted leaned over and kissed her lips. They were warm and soft. They kissed back and forth like JR-high kids learning how fun it can be. His passion grew from a mumble to a lunatic scream. And so did hers. In passion lies forgetfulness. Forgetting how Sherry had been moody and negative. Forgetting how Ted was burnt out and loveless ever since Sherry had been working again. That is the joy of love, to be caught in the moment. Ted stood up still kissing. The rain drizzled outside and the wind whipped; Sherry followed.
She looked at him again with those deep emerald eyes and let herself be led into the bedroom. The trailer rocked slightly in the wind, the rain though, had stopped.
They started slow. She lay down on the bed. He kissed her as he removed her cloths. They traded positions, she now naked and on top; the red light of the alarm clock painting her flawless skin in shades of red and black. She unclothed him as they kissed. He flipped her to her back and kissed her lips then trailed to her ear, her breasts. They were soft and warm the nipples standing out like small exclamation points. He embraced her and slid in. She was warm wet and inviting. He thrust slow at first then speed up as her breathing increased and moans began to surface.
Bark, Ruff, Whine, pat pat, tromp.
"Son of a Fucking Bitch!" Ted said.
"That dog again." Ted said.
"It'll wake up Jake."
"Fine!" she said a little reluctantly pulling the covers up over her. Ted slipped into his red and green plaid boxers making his way into the living room.
They didn't have much. A floral designed couch, a 19" TV, small entertainment center, bookshelves with assorted authors was all but it was enough. Ted was relatively happy. Not "Happy Ever After" happy but he had his doubts if that was ever possible.
If it is that same dog, Ted thought as he opened the front door, knowing all too well that it was. The door swung open and he flipped the light. Same dog all right but oh god what the hell was that. The dog was two from the door sitting on its hind legs wagging its tail. Behind it on the deck was a relatively large pile of dog shit. My present for kicking you Hu doggy. Ted didn't think this dog was gonna shu easily, if he tried to boot it this time it might bite him. Ted put his hands to his temples and tried to think what to do.
Bark, Whine, Ruff, tromp, tromp...
A vague smile crossed Ted's face as an idea came to him. He wasn't a mean man by nature but this dog, man it knew how to work your nerves. Just sitting there a pile of shit behind it; acting like it didn't just interrupt the first sex you have had in a week or just wake up your kid or just shit on your god dammed porch. Ted walked into the kitchen his feet making small squeaking noises as he went. Se squatted down and opened the cupboard under the sink. Ted rummaged thorough the cleaning supplies and finally came up with what he wanted. Raid for flying insects, he knew how this stuff worked; Ted had had a wasps nest in his car this last spring. This stuff didn't spray like a can of hair spray, oh no, it jetted out in a noxious stream. Ted popped the cap and sat it on the counter then walked over to the front door. The dog was passing now in circles around the shit as if to say, See what I left you a nice smelly pile of shit, Merry Fucking Christmas. Ted tapped the glass of the screen door in an attempt to have the dog come and investigate. The dog came over. Ted slowly opened the door so his hand could fit through. He positioned the can and pressed the button. A white jet of insecticide came from the top smothering the dog's features. The dog let out a whine turning to run for the hills. As it ran off into the woods a long cold shutter ran through Ted. He didn't like the sounds the dog made as it went through the woods, didn't like them onebit. Now for the Shit.
Ted went back into the kitchen, recapped the spray and returned it under the sink. To his left was a stack of paper plates. Ted grabbed two of them and headed out the front door.
The yellow incandescent light wasn't much but it was way too much, that oh, so, run of the mill dog shit was anything but. The first point of revolution was the smell, like opening a recently deceased's coffin. Then the blood, it stood out is crimson streamlets and puddle around the base. Finally, the white squirming maggots, twisting and tunneling with all the delight of a kid in a candy store. Ted thought kind of a funny thing as he puked off the deck. I cant stands no more.
Ted composed himself and scooped the shit onto the paper plates then hurled it into the yard. Ted went back inside bolted the door, washed his hands, washed his hands again and went to bed.
"What took you so long?" Sherry asked.
"It shit on the porch."
"Oh, sorry, where were we.."
"A, well I kinda lost the mood." Ted said, and it was the truth, just thinking about that dog made him want to double over and wretch.
"Oh, OK whatever." Sherry, a little upset.
Ted lay there for a few hours before being pulled into thin sleep, thinking about the dog and if it came back again.
Ted didn’t have any bad dreams last night and for that he was thankful. He sat in his chair in his kitchen eating a bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheat’s. Sherry was already at work and Jake was still asleep. Ted, in his half-awake zombie state, was thinking how he was going to spend his Saturday off work. Well, what exactly was there to do? Ted wasn’t quite sure.
There was Jake.
Yes and what about Jake, well, Ted decided to do a kind of selfish/unselfish thing. He would take Jake to the movies. There was currently a Disney cartoon running and he was sure Jake would like to see it.
Well if he could voice his opinion.
Or if he knew what a movie was.
The full Monte of the matter was this: Ted himself was interested in seeing the film and was going to use Jake for an excuse. He had seen younger kids at movies.
Ted finished his cereal and walked into Jake’s room, his red robe swaying with his movements. Ted opened the door to the west bedroom of his trailer in the Ozarks of Missouri and found his son, asleep.
“Son of a—
Ted reached into his robe pocket and turned off the baby monitor. With the wretched squealing off Jake now began to cry. Ted walked over to the crib without a word and picked him up. With Jake’s blue blanket still wrapped around him only his head was exposed. Ted rocked his son in his arms and slowly like a toy car loosing battery power Jake stopped crying. Ted looked down into his arms and knew he loved his son. He had known he “loved” him before but it was a distant kind of thing; the love you feel for a well-written likable character in a novel perhaps. But now he knew he loved him more than that four-letter work could profess. His heart felt warm and cozy. Warm and soft like his son held gently in his arms. The morning’s light shone through the blinds painting Ted and his only son in zebra shadows. Highlighting Jake’s wisps of hair. Dancing in his sleepy eyes like emerald fire works. Ted began to weep, gently like a summer rain.
After Jake was calmed and placed nicely in his crib Ted went into the other room and got dressed for the day as he thumbed through the paper for movie times.
A few hours later Jake was dressed, fed, changed, re-dressed and they were off for lunch and a movie, a father and son, day on the town.
Ted thought the movie, excluding the musical parts, which he always hated, was pretty good. Even though they obviously stole the basic plot element form Hamlet. On the drive home he kept thinking about Jake. Kept thinking thoughts, which seemed alien to him until now. Jake was his, no, was he. Him and Sherry, at least he was now. Every parent loathes the day when their child becomes their own. When the product of their loins becomes a stranger.
Ted sat back and belched. He had cooked breakfast for dinner and nothing was better than a good bacon belch. Still his mind wondered. Wondered to where Sherry was. Late, kept at work no doubt. Those asses always insisted their cashiers put in a couple of extra hours of minimum wage, stressful, overworked cashiering. Just how we say We Care. Or some bullshit, self-absorbing corporate brainwashing, bend over a fucking pole so I can shove it all the fucking way up your ass nonsense. At least that was Ted’s opinion. I’ll put it in the oven to keep it warm, Ted thought. It was 6:00; she was due home at 5 and wouldn’t make it for another fifteen minutes. Ted felt a little guilty sitting at home while she worked over time. Of course he worked a hearty forty hours a week but when he was out to lunch and a movie with Jake he would occasionally sadden at the thought of Sherry. Sherry hunched over a register all day. Sherry her knuckles stiffening with overwork on those little keypads, Sherry slaving away for those god-forsaken Wal-Mart taskmasters.
Ted got up and went over to the baby monitor sitting on the kitchen counter. He put his ear close. Nothing abnormal, he went to the fridge and grabbed a beer; sat down on the couch to watch The Simpsons.
Sherry walked in the door, her hair a mess, while Homer, Marge and the kids hit a deer in the Springfield tar pits. Ted’s eyes were wet and he was doubled over laughing. The little pun about the sound of music always got him right good.
“What exactly is so goddamned funny?” her hands on her hips.
“O-Oh, just this, you look like crap.”
“Thanks for the complement.”
“Well that’s not what-
“Don’t worry about it, just had a hard day.” Sherry was taking off her coat.
“Dinner is in the oven.” Ted said.
“Thanks, really sweetie.” Her green eyes were slack and empty. She finished as she looked in the oven, “I think I am just gonna slip into bed tonight after I eat, you don’t mind do you?”
Yes I mind, and I feel guilty as hell, ”No, I don’t mind.”
She ate like and Ethiopian at an all you can eat bar, kissed Ted goodnight and slipped quickly into a thick dark dreamless sleep. Ted by this time was on his third beer. He was seriously thinking about finishing six more before going to bed.
Five beers later or after the Sienfeild reruns, however you want to measure it, Ted heard something at the door.
“I swear to Furkin’ Christ!” mentally he finished, If it is that god damned dog. Ted got up form the couch the eerie changing light of the TV painting the room in moody hues. Ted opened the door.
Ted had, in high school, red the book Cujo. He had been scared pretty much shit-less. But the initial dislike of stray dogs went back further. As a child his favorite movie The Never Ending Story, featured a large talking black wolf. Scariest damned thing he had ever seen, till now. The first time he saw that wolf he had wanted to cry and did. Cujo had made him look frantically around when he heard a dog’s bark outside but the memory of what he saw now would surely haunt him until he was flat on his back starring at the roof of a church.
The dog/thing was pacing on his porch. It’s scrawny-scarred haunches trailing bony backbone and protruding shoulders. Its tong hung slackly out a puss and blood lined hole in the side of its cheek. Its right eye glared, bloated and blood-shot; the other closed to a red slit. The skin on its snout hung in grotesque folds and flaps that reminded Ted of how the end bad guy in Robocop had looked after his acid bath. Ted closed the door but kept the light on. He put his back to the closed door and slid down holding his knees to his chest. What the hell is wrong with that thing? That insecticide melted its god dammed face. This isn’t just about annoyance anymore. I’ve got to put the damned thing out of its misery. Ted got up and went to his room. As he went the dog started gibbering, then it emitted gurgling coughs and finally chattered its teeth. Ted’s face went white with fear.
“Sherry baby stay in bed.” Ted leaning over her.
“That dog is back I think its sick or something I gota’ put it down.”
“OK.” She said in a drunken dreamy voice. He didn’t think she heard him did it matter? Ted went to his closet filled back his cloths on their hangers and grabbed a nylon bag about four feet long. He pulled the shells off the upper shelf. Ted took his 16-gauge shotgun and the shells and went into the living room while the dog still made those horrific noises. Ted unzipped the sleeve and produced the gun. He loaded the three-clip and loaded the chamber while rechecking the box, 100 SHOT LEAD and went to the front door.
Ted swung the door open and kicked open the screen door; it flew on its hinges and smacked the side of the trailer. The dog reared back. Ted aimed and fired squeezing the gun to his shoulder.
The gunshot echoed through the night, ripped through the surrounding trees. The dog’s head pushed back, the top half of its head erased in a red spray. Ted reloaded the chamber and aimed again. The dog lunged at him. He fired as he stepped back and to the side. The sound echoed off the trailer and made his right ear ring. The shot hit the dog in the right side as it was in mid jump. The dog rolled off the porch and dropped onto October’s fallen leaves. Ted reloaded again, knowing that it must now be dead but too fucking scared not to do it. He couldn’t see past the edge of the porch it was obscured in shadows. He heard rustling and panting, then it was gone. Ted scratched his head in a comical expression of incomprehension. He squinted his eyes but still couldn’t see where that fucking mutt was. I sure as shit aint goin’ out to look for it in the dark. He would wait till morning.
Sherry was up now and looking around for Ted. He explained what happened, she resentfully accepted and went back to bed. Somehow Jake didn't awaken and as Ted laid in his bed the adrenaline wearing off trying to sleep, he didn’t mind one bit.
He had the dream again.
This time it was the all inclusive, extended version. This time when he was slipping and sliding on the forest floor’s mud as the woods in front of him exploded with sound and movement, he was what it was. Its one good eye gleaming, glairing, blood and snot running from its twisted snout; its brains wet and shining through the gaping hole in its head and it had something, in its mouth. As it stood over Ted, big a semi truck, its forepaws inches from his legs, he saw what it had in its mouth. He recognized the French tipped nails and the golden wedding band.
Ted awoke a scream bit back behind tight lips. Sherry bolted up from sleep and embraced him.
“Its that dog isn’t it?”
“Yesss.” Forced through tightening jaws. Clenching back another scream.
“You killed it didn’t you?” she asked.
“Ya, I am sure I did.”
“You gonna be OK?” she asked. He didn’t look at her hand on his chest.
The rest of the morning, until they went outside, was uneventful and basic. Jake ate string peas. Ted ate lasagna TV dinner and Sherry had cereal. Finally the whole family eating breakfast together. The day’s plans were made at breakfast. The family would go out and do something, walk around the mall in town, then eat lunch. Sherry wanted to see her mother, whom Ted hated, then go home, maybe rent some movies. Ted already had an excuse lined up for not going to his mother in laws. He was going to work on the broken guest toilet.
They all got dressed and ready. Ted, with a small lump in his throat, opened the front door. Nothing, well there was a small maroon stain on the right of the deck but that was all. They stepped out.
“So where is this dog?” Sherry asked. Ted looked. Morning sun dappled through the half barren trees onto the fallen leaves and brown/green grass. A small puddle of drying blood was to the right of the porch. A crimson trail led into the woods. Ted got a chill.
He thought about the dream.
“I don’t know, maybe animals drug it off.” Ted didn’t fully believe this.
“Sure, sweetie lets go.”
And so they did go.
Ted was on the shitter. It was 5:00; Sherry and Jake should be home any minute. Ted was currently giving his handy work I plumbing a hands, or asses, on test. Ted was just hoping he wouldn’t have to clean his shit off the bathroom ceiling. He got up, wiped, and flushed, A-OK. He was pleased. As a matter of fact the day had gone pretty well. Sherry had been rather bitchy lately but today she was a joy. Again he was reminded why he married her, why he would do it all over again the same way, money problems or no. Headlights splashed across the living room. Ted, in his thoughts and distracted, ran to the door but was stopped short falling on his face. He looks down to see what the hell the problem is, even though he knows already. He, in his haste to see his wife and child had forgotten to pull up his pants. A car door, Ted pulls his pants up and goes to the front door. Sherry and Jake were coming up the front drive. Ted looks to the woods where the dog was dragged, or whatever the hell happened, and worries. Sherry walks unscathed up to him giving him a kiss. Jake is giggling, spittle running in clear streams down his chin.
“Something on your mind honey?
“Hr-no just glad to see you.” Ted said.
They all stepped inside.
“I got some movies.” Ted said.
“Good let me get dinner started.” Sherry said as she took off her coat, Jake snugly in his daddy’s arms.
The Mac&Cheese was good, the chicken breast was better, Ted felt sorry that Jake wasn’t able to eat grown up food quite yet. He had some Mac but Sherry was reluctant to hive him any chicken. After dinner Ted, Sherry and Jake sat watching a movie, Jake was propped up between his parents, their arms locked around each other’s shoulders. Ted felt home, warm in all its goodness. Fuck money, fuck bitchy mother in laws and fuck never enough consumer lifestyles. He was home with his wife and child, and he was happy.
There was a rustling outside.
Ted immediately turned his head to the front door.
Gibber, rustle, tromp, dragggggggggg------------
Ted stood up, he saw the alarm on his wife’s face even in the tallow hues of the TV. His son sat happy as a pig in shit. More gibbering and dragging noises, like a burlap bag of rotten potatoes on wooden plank flooring. The front door banged dully. Ted mentally measured the distance from here to his closet and the distance from the front door to his wife and child.
The door banged again.