The Dog Dies
By Katie Broyhill
“Sit,” I said. No response — but he was deaf. “Buckley,” I said. “Sit.”
He sat, narrating his efforts with an accomplished huff. Stiff hips, you know, he seemed to say.
I raised the gun, looking down at him through the sight. He blinked slowly back at me with the mild interest that comes with age. How close was I supposed to be? I took a step forward, then back, testing the feel of it.
The gun was Jodi’s fathers. He’d let me pick it from his collection earlier that night, before dinner. We’d gone back to his study together, just the two of us — a dim room with heavy furniture.
“That one?” he’d said, when I’d picked the gun I now held. He had said it somewhat incredulously. “Not the shotgun?”
I had not wanted to admit that I had picked at random. “I’m more comfortable with a handgun,” I’d said. He looked at me long and hard, and at first I’d worried it was out of suspicion.
“I can’t tell you what this means to us,” he’d finally said. “Jodi picked a good man.”
I had felt such a thrill at that. I was, I thought. A good man. For doing this. I hid my pride behind my most somber nod. “Thank you, sir,” I’d said. But I’d ridden his regard all through dinner. I’d ridden it through Buck’s last hamburger, through the long walk by the pond, through Jodi’s tears. I’d ridden it all the way out here to the backyard with a shovel in hand.
I took a breath. Buck snuffled vaguely at the end of the gun as I lined it up — though I doubted he could see through the white glaze of his cataracts. This was for the best, I tried to tell him with a final scratch under his warty, scraggly chin. Cancer would be a slow, mean road to walk for a dog of his stature.
I pulled the trigger.
And then, suddenly, he was on his side in the dirt, and I was falling to my knees — because he was still panting, his breath strained and coming out in soft, disbelieving whines. “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!” I said to him. Part of his forehead along his brow was grisly and half-gone. Had I looked away at the noise? Moved with the kick? I fumbled with the gun, readying it again, resting it right against his temple. His forehead was slick. I felt like I might be sick.
But a second shot would echo. They would hear.
I fidgeted at the thought. He keened softly yet again. I lowered the gun.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” I insisted, choking back tears and rubbing his neck in slow circles. “Just a moment more.” He bled fast, and they didn’t need to know that I had let him suffer.
I waited there with him as long as I could stand, but I could not stand it long. The grave. I began digging instead. He quieted as I did, his paws twitching, like he was dreaming of running. I hoped so dearly that he was. I dug faster, as if it would speed him along. Big relief from all the tension.
But he was still not gone when I was finished. He was calm, taking big breathes now. Blinking.
I could not hold back the panicked tears. How long had I dug? A quarter hour? A half? A second shot after moments was one thing. But now? I sat by him and held him as I cried, sniffling, and snotty. His fur beneath my hands was soft and warm.
I didn’t know what to do.
So, I put him in the grave and I covered him in dirt. His belly still rose and fell under the clumps of soil as I did it, the effort growing heavier as I added to the pile. His eyes rolled around to watch me, and his gaze was unwavering until I finally buried his face.
When I went back to the house, all they knew of me was that my eyes were red. They noticed, I think, because her mother’s voice cracked when she thanked me, and Jodi held my hand and put her head on my shoulder for the ride home.
“You always take care of me,” she’d said.
Katie Broyhill is a hopeful new writer based in Charlotte. Many thanks to Elisa’s mom for the use of her image — Elisa the dog is alive and happy. You can see some of Katie’s other work at www.katiebroyhill.com
Flick Knife Summer
By Geralyn Pinto
The air was gluey with the essence of pineapples. Some were a hard and rural green; others, gold-skinned and ready for the table. But many bore evidence of soft rot. An overabundant harvest is also a curse.
Charoibi saw him at the gate. He hesitated before entering.
“I know his kind,” she thought.
He adjusted his Gatsby which she guessed had been gifted to him by some missionary fresh out of America; some American Soul Hunter. He had a slow leg and his walk was halfway between drag and glide. One pocket of his jeans bulged.
He was at the doorway now.
“My name is Athou Ayangba. You can call me Thoy,” the young man introduced himself.
“Why are you here?” Her hands were sticky with pineapple ooze and she wiped them on her apron.
“Er…to help with the harvest. They told me at the neighbouring farm that you were alone and might need some help. And I needed work.”
She was in shadow. The young man in the brutal sunshine of Manipur in summer. She looked at his hands – the thick, waxy nails stained with nicotine. The hat tilted forward to obscure his eyes. She could imagine what they looked like: deep set and dead fish. And his skin: speckled.
Meitei’s had become like that. When the first ‘red currant’ spots had appeared on his nose-bridge and forehead, he disappeared from home. For the first six months, morning mist over the river took the shape of him. In her dreams he was a tiny cloud billowing from a steam engine and calling out to her, “Mo-ther! Mo-ther! Mo-ther!”
She’d wake, “Meitei! Meitei!”
No reply, and every time she’d die into the silence.
She swatted a fly with a rolled up newspaper and flicked it across the floor where it lay broken almost precisely midway between Thoy and herself, and returned to her work with the fruit. She gouged the eyes out of pineapple flesh leaving behind irregular pits. It was difficult to be skillful without her coring knife. It had vanished with Meitei. Together with other items of cutlery and garden implements. They’d fetch a price and Meitei desperately needed the money.
“What’s that I found in the pocket of your shorts?” She had asked him one evening three years ago when they’d sat down to their night meal of sinju n erongba. He slouched. “That’s nothing there.”
Cold had wafted in from somewhere and she shivered. Life used to be cosy – just herself and her boy.
Newspaper headlines began to tell her things:
Manipuri Youth are Courier Boys
Young Road Runners of the Golden Triangle
‘Brown Sugar Train’ runs daily from Laos, Myanmar and Thailand to North-East India’s Manipur
Codeine Quaffers and Smack Snorters
When she’d asked Meitei about the syringe under his pillow, his lips had curled back in a snarl. His eyes were between pale leopard-yellow and cataract white.
It was the boys whom he hung around with who’d done it.
Now her breath was rasping like a rusty blade. “You’re one of them, aren’t you? You took my boy away from me…Yes, you!” She spun around.
Thoy was advancing with an outthrust flick knife.
“You wouldn’t dare!” She snatched up the meat cleaver still splattered with pig blood and gristle. She had slaughtered a young boar the previous noon for market day.
Thoy shook his head. “Meitei asked me to return this to you. Said you needed it for coring fruit. He made me promise. Last night at…the Mission Hospital.”
A bluebottle stunned itself against the glass pane of the kitchen window and lay motionless on the counter. Midges presided over a pineapple which showed early signs of death.
Geralyn Pinto has been published and won prizes nationally and internationally. Her stories have earned top honours in the Save as Writers Contests, Canterbury as also in the U.S. and India. Her poems have been featured in several journals worldwide.She is a member of Alibi, a British writers group.
TIED FOR THIRD PLACE:
Woman (in memory of Kim Wall)
By Anna Genevieve Winham
New job starts today! Very excited. First time working for a professional photographer! #FirstDay #Photography #RoleModel
It’s so great how he basically said fuck you to art school and developed such skill & this striking outsider perspective
His photographs are so unlike any I’ve otherwise seen. They’re alien, almost.
Pretty gets boring
Matt thinks he hired me bc he wants to be alone with a young woman. If this were true he’d take different photographs.
A little demoralising: he works out of his apartment. He doesn’t have a separate studio.
I guess even prominent photographers don’t make that much $ #Capitalism #StarvingArtist
Or maybe he just doesn’t like to waste time traveling between the two. Anyway, I’m excited to get an inside look
It’s so rare that you get to see how someone LIVES #PrivateLife
The building isn’t that grand, but this apartment. The VIEW.
I’d take a pic but I don’t want him to see me taking it.
Come to think of it, I hope he doesn’t have a Twitter. It’s totally obvious I’m talking about him.
Ok so – he’s totally weird, which is obviously what I expected, but you can never predict HOW someone’s going to be weird.
He’s weird like no one I know. It’s like he’s on a mix of coke and acid.
I mean, maybe he is.
He sat me down in this chair by the window (you can see all of central park) & showed me his photos
Then he blindfolded me & made me SMELL the photos
He says they have different smells & you can hear what they look like.
He says you have to really LIVE the art, you have to breathe it, eat it. #StarvingArtist Haha
The actual photos I haven’t seen before. Once again, I would snap a pic but I don’t want him to notice.
They were super strange though. They looked like body parts scattered among household objects
Everything looked so weird, like it was on another planet or underwater.
Super zoomed in so you couldn’t really tell what they were.
I sent my stuff in the application but who knows if he really looked at it
So today I showed him the one of the dead rabbit that I did
And the one of the rats in the subway
He seemed into it. Actually he said if I do really well today he’ll show me some work no one else has seen yet #Wow #StarStruck #BestFirstDayEver
Okay, sorry it’s been like an hour. I was in the dark room. Apparently he has several in his apt!
His personal hygiene is a little lacking through. Just found a fingernail on the sink counter in the bathroom.
Rest of the bathroom was sparking clean though – still smelled like chemicals. These art types, so finicky!
Wait, that doesn’t make sense, a WHOLE fingernail?? Probably for use in one of his weird photographs.
Actually, another weird thing. I’m in the kitchen pouring wine because we’re going to have lunch
I guess he drinks at lunch. Not complaining!
Anyway, I open the fridge and there are THREE whole hams in there. Who eats that much ham??
I asked if he was having a dinner party, because of all the ham. “In a way,” he said. So cryptic! #ArtisticProcess #CrazyArtistQuotes
Ooh, this wine is good! Maybe photography gets the big bucks after all.
Convo is great. We haven’t stopped talking for like 45 minutes. I can only tweet because he went to the bathroom.
He says we’re going to play a game. What a wild first day of work. #Eccentric #ArtistLife
I guess expensive wine is stronger than normal wine owoww oo
Game s fun, good thing cn type with one hand
Wow ok so I tihnk he’s into bondge because the blindfold is back and he just tied my legs#t
o the chair he is kindof cute but I didnt think he w
Im feeling quite wooowzy and sorry I can’t see if I have typos but #Autocorrect #FirstDay #Wwine
He keeps filling my glass thoug not C#omplaining#
I think he is putting ice cubes on my toes ouw ow actually once I had a wart
Had to go to the doctor and it feess like that but better because of the wine
Tying my arms to each other now but what about my phone hi I think actually this is bad
Ah I need to call matt ma
call matt can’t feel my
siri call matt hurts need help
Anna Genevieve Winham writes at the crossroads of science and the sublime, cyborgs and the surreal. She is Ninth Letter’s 2020 literary award winner in Literary Nonfiction, and she writes and performs with the Poetry Society of New York. You can find her work in Q/A Poetry, Panoplyzine, AAWP: Meniscus and Pandemic Poets and soon in Oxford Public Philosophy, Rock & Sling, Tilde~, and Breadcrumbs Magazine. While attending Dartmouth College (which was the pits), she won the Stanley Prize for experimental essay and the Kaminsky Family Fund Award.
The Hill Beautiful
By R. Louis Fox
Nick limps through tall grass, at the end of a long driveway, looking for the crumbled fieldstone foundation of an old farmhouse.
Everyone said it wasn’t his fault.
There are rocks old plumbing and remains of a well. He takes a few more steps and looks up. In his mind’s eye there is a window,
but his blue eyes see only blue sky and late morning clouds. He turns around. From where he stands can be seen Torch Lake and most of Grand Traverse Bay, but Nick is looking down
at the ground
thinking about how he fell.
He drops to his knees amid chicory, goldenrod, and milkweed, touches them and smells his hands, pushes his fingers into soft warm soil, pulls some Queen Anne’s Lace and presses it to his nose.
This is where his brother died.
He looks to a steeple three hills over on a church his grandfather helped build, where Sidney met Lorraine and a choir in robes sang for the family,
Mother in a veil,
and a man in black vestments
holding Nick by the shoulders.
“It’s all right, my son.
He is with Jesus now.”
No one ever said what went wrong with the well that night. Puppy barked. Nick found the light. A black cloud flowed across the ceiling and out the open window. Nick pulled Little Henry from bed, but they were blocked at the stairs
He fell over Puppy, called for Mother, but all he could hear were chattering flames and Puppy’s constant barking. Nick cried at sea in the smoke, Lovely lost until recognizing vague shouts from outside. Nick groped the warm floor, legs thrashing, pulling with arms and hands, swimming through the heat toward voices
out the window
down in the yard.
“Jump!” begged Mother. “Just like Superman!”
Nick got to the ledge and leaned into the cool night air, Mother and Father in a dancing glow reaching.
Little Henry called.
He turned back.
Mother’s bellow shivered him.
He lost his grip
and Father caught him.
Smoke bubbled from the eaves. Orange heat prickled Nick’s face. He pointed at the fire. “My toys!”
over and over.
Only Puppy came to the window.
“Oh please, no! Oh dear-God, PLEASE
House made noises. A window burst. Flames lashed the darkness
Puppy yipped and vanished.
Mother yowled and ran to the porch.
Father stopped her.
She pulled from her robe.
Father held her arms and she kicked him.
The shrieks grew shrill
into the dew,
convulsing in the fire’s light.
The roof began popping, sagging, moaned and let go. Wreckage spilled smoke and spiraling embers skyward.
The mushroom fireball
made him to look away.
Sirens filled the heavens. The moon was setting above sparkling towns across the bay, and far away, Grand Traverse Point lighthouse gave its notice to mariners. Flashing lights sped through the valley,
crackling heart pine
a beacon on a gravel road at the top of a hill, Engine One leading the way, volunteer firemen stepping off as vehicles fanned across the lawn. Hand-held lights whipped this way and that. Father covered Mother with her robe and pointed.
Grandfather drove up too.
Nick stood alone in underpants, crying.
“Thank God. Nick, you’re all right!”
Firefighters ran shouting, rolling out hoses, aiming their nozzles, and pouring all they had where the bedroom window had been.
Flames hissed. Steam crowded into the smoke.
Grandfather looked around. “Great God, Nicholas! Where’s your brother?”
Nick pointed into the fire.
“Toys all burned up.”
Louis Fox is captain for a research vessel currently docked due to the COVID pandemic. When not seafaring, Captain Fox likes to write, play music, and build things. This is his first attempt at Flash Fiction.
Mother Emanuel by Warren Woods
My Pet Jeff by Raymond Lane
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