Here’s Rocket Dog, requested by my darling sister, sumi ink and watercolor on 9×12 watercolor paper.
Last night was my second night at my new job. I showed up knowing that I was the only closing driver, but what no one had told me was that I was the only driver from five until close.
So I started off easy, but then it got a little busier. I took a single run, then a double, then a triple, then another triple with another triple waiting to be cooked.
When I pulled up at my eighth delivery, I got out and started to trot up to the front door. I heard someone calling, but they weren’t near enough for me to make out what they were saying. I looked around, and I didn’t see anyone. I ignored it, because jeez, I’m in a good sized neighborhood around dinnertime. There’s all kinds of hollering going on.
I hopped up the steps and knocked on the door, and I heard it again. It sounded like they were possibly talking to me; I heard a woman’s voice calling ma’am, ma’am. My customer hadn’t answered the door yet, so I turned in a circle, scanning up and down the street.
Half a block away and across the street, nearly hidden behind a blossoming tree, I finally caught a glimpse of someone in a dress, outside with a dog. Help me. Was she struggling with the dog? I couldn’t see very well, since the tree was in the way. She started walking, slowly.
I watched the girl stagger out into the street, and I could see that she was splashed with red stains. She was holding her left arm out in front of her body, and there was a large dark stain near her wrist. It felt like I was watching the scene unfold on a screen before me; I mean, who hurts themselves inside and then comes outside for help? Phones are inside. She wasn’t running; she wasn’t acting at all like a person had hurt her. She wasn’t afraid of someone catching up to her and doing worse to her.
None of this was making sense.
My customer, an old woman walking with a cane, opened her door as the girl began calling again. Ma’am. I asked if she had her phone with her, as I had left mine in my car. I said it looked like the girl was covered in blood, and that I thought calling 911 would be a good idea. My customer shuffled out onto her porch and peered around the corner.
“No, I didn’t bring my phone with me to the door but–” Her eyes widened when she saw the girl. “I’ll get it.”
I was still standing there, holding the pizza like an asshole.
The girl was coming closer, the dog with her. She paused every few steps to call the dog back to her. When the girl was on the sidewalk next door, the dog broke away and ran up to me, on the porch, and tried to get into my customer’s house. She shooed it away with her cane, and I blocked it from the doorway while she talked to the emergency services dispatcher.
The girl was now in front of the house, pacing back and forth, talking more, shifting her complaints in rotation. It hurts. I can’t feel my hand. Please, my dogs are killing each other. I’m moving. It hurts. My dogs.
My customer and I encouraged her to sit down right where she was, as she was beginning to sway. Another neighbor from across the street came outside and I reassured her that my customer was on the phone with 911. The girl was begging someone to call her dad, and the neighbor ran to get her phone and call the girl’s father.
I opened my trunk to see if I had any towels, old shirts, anything to apply pressure to her wounds. I found a small dishtowel, but I estimated that it was large enough.
I was finally able to get a good enough look at the girl; she was definitely in shock. She’d been bitten quite badly on her left forearm, at least twice, but the bleeding on one had stopped long enough to have dried, and the other was oozing slowly. Her palms were both the dark maroon of dry blood and gray and white bits of fur were plastered to them. Her dress was bloody and furry. She was crying again that her dogs were killing each other inside her house and would someone please go stop them.
Obviously none of us were willing to go deal with those dogs, seeing what they’d done to her.
My customer was still on her porch, leaning on her cane, hollering advice, trying to calm the girl down, and pointing out that she’d ordered a Dr Pepper with her pizza. I’d forgotten her Dr Pepper in my car, so I brought it to her. She put it inside the door and slowly made her way down the sidewalk.
I stepped back out into the street to see if anyone was coming yet. A police officer had just turned onto the street, so I waved to let him know where we were. I told the girl that he was coming. When he pulled up and got out, her dog ran straight up to him, and I felt a moment of panic when he reached for his gun.
The girl screamed no, the dog turned to run back to her, and the cop relaxed. The neighbor took the girl’s dog and dragged it back towards her own home, to keep it out of the way.
Sirens sounded nearby, so I looked back up the street and the fire truck was turning our way. They slowed at a corner a couple blocks up, checking for addresses, so I waved to them as well.
The cop asked what happened, and she told him that her dogs were fighting. The fire truck pulled up and the EMTs rushed to surround her. The cop took a step back so I grabbed the opportunity and asked him if I needed to stay, because I was at work. He took in my hat and shirt and nametag, furrowed his brow, and asked, “You’re at work?”
I told him yes, that I was delivering here, and pointed at the house. I continued my synopsis: while I was at the door, this girl came out bleeding, and I asked my customer to call you since my phone was in my car, but you’re all here now, and well, I actually have another delivery in my car that I’ll need to call the store about if I need to stay.
Since I hadn’t made the 911 call, he agreed that there was no need for me to stay. He wrote down my name, birth date, and phone number and thanked me.
I hope the girl is okay.
At my next stop, my customer made a joke that they hoped I hadn’t gotten in an accident with their pizza; they’d heard the sirens. Yeah, ha-ha. Good one.
Randall’s condition was growing worse by the day; even at his heaviest, he was not a large man, but the gauntness in his face was beginning to alienate so-called friends that hadn’t seen him in a long time. They would come once to his lonely little room, and never again.
Randall usually called them train-wreckers when he would laugh about them with his dog Valentine, his only constant companion, but sometimes he would grow silent after a visit, and not speak for days, lost in his depression.
At these times, Valentine would crawl into the bed with Randall to press his warm body into the man’s bony side. Eventually, Randall would come around, and apologize profusely to Valentine, feeding him special treats and pouring sparkling water into his bowl.
One night, he opened up his laptop and went to his Facebook page, scrolling past the dozens of hopes and prayers and wishes. He started to type out a status over a dozen times, but never finished enough to post it. He closed the laptop and laughed, startling Valentine.
“It’s my own fault that those train-wreckers come visit, Val,” he laughed. “I’ve got to stop telling the world that I’m sick. No one ever bothered me when they thought I was well.”
Randall opened his laptop back up and quickly pecked out a short message and shared it for everyone to read as they wished. He turned the computer off and snuggled into his pillow, more at ease with the state of his life than he’d been in a long time.
His soft snores drew Valentine’s attention again, and the dog scrambled up to join his master in the bed.
He woke to seventy-four notifications on his phone and more prayers than ever, thanks to his one-word status: cured.
When Felicia opened the front door that morning, there was a dog sitting on her front steps, a medium sized brown and white dog with short hair and a pointed tail that he whacked good-naturedly on the top step as he cocked his head and stared her down.
Felicia had never owned a dog in her life, but she promptly stepped aside to let this one inside. From then on they were fast friends. Felicia named him Wallace.
Anywhere one went, the other was right behind, and it was a blessing that Hank, the grocery store owner, had known Felicia since she was a little girl, because he believed her when she promised him that Wallace would never be so rude as to shit on the grocery store floor or bite a fellow patron. True to her word, Wallace did neither.
Felicia was not so lucky when she tried to bring Wallace to her next doctor visit. She had no idea that Dr. Vargas had been bitten as a small child by a dog bearing an eerie resemblance to Wallace. She also had no idea that contamination of the bite caused an infection which was the reason that Dr. Vargas always and only wore pants to hide the prosthetic leg that he attached to his stump each and every morning before coming to the office.
No amount of pleading and weeping and promises was going to make Dr. Vargas change his mind, so for the first time in just over four months, Felicia and Wallace spent nearly an hour and a half apart. Wallace was a good boy, so Felicia left him in her car with all of the windows down. The weather was nice enough that the only pain she felt at doing so was leaving her other half.
When the interminably long appointment was finally over, Felicia dashed out the door, and Wallace leaped from the car. They bounded toward each other and met with a crash that any onlooker might have cringed from, but their mutual joy in reuniting kept them from hurting each other or themselves.
Felicia drove them straight home and rewarded her best friend with a handful of his favorite treats.
She then retired to the couch where she spent the next forty minutes on the phone trying to find a doctor that would allow her dog in the exam room with her for checkups. Dr. Breakham was most obliging.
My eyes burn; I haven’t been sleeping lately. But the sound of the rain on the roof soothes me.
The alarm still goes off at the regular time, but I barely notice it anymore. It’s just another background noise that would be annoying if I were alert enough to focus on it. But I’m not, so it buzzes on, unhindered. It turns itself off after an hour. That’s why I bought it.
I haven’t been to work in weeks.
I sit on the couch watching the blank screen of my television. I stopped paying the cable bill last year because nothing on was more interesting then anything they offered. The lifelessness of the screen sucks me in.
But sometimes I watch the white noise.
The only reason I open my front door anymore is my dog. I get her food delivered, and I bring it in at night when no one else is out to see me. I can feel them watching now, like a sunburn on my exposed skin. So I avoid people. It’s fine, really. I don’t need anyone.
Maybe the thunderstorm is in my head after all. I look out the window and the street is dry, and the dandelions still bear their fluff.
I could have sworn I heard the raindrops and thunder.
I took a walk this morning. I don’t know why; I never take walks in the morning. Maybe once in a blue moon do I take one in the afternoon, or any time of day, but never in the morning. Wild hair today, I guess.
I headed towards the library without meaning to, just random turns until there it was in front of me. It was starting to get a little warm out, and air conditioning and books are just about the best two things I can think of, so I pushed the door open for the blessed cool air to hit me.
It was like a wave of relief washing over me. I do like me some AC. I moseyed over to the fiction section, tossing a hand up at the librarian as I passed by her desk. She smiled and kept typing whatever it was she was typing on her computer.
I let my hand slide across the spines of the books as I walked down the aisles. Just the feel of books is enough to settle me sometimes. I paused when a cover caught my eye, and I pulled it off the shelf to have a look. I cracked it open and was about to read a few words when I heard someone talking on the other side of the shelf.
It was a woman, her voice library quiet . If I’d been another row over I wouldn’t have heard her, but I liked the way she spoke. The rise and fall of her words, so soft I couldn’t make them out, soothing as the books themselves.
I kept the book in my hand as I walked around the end to find out whose voice it was, but she must have been ahead of me, because when I turned the corner, no one was there. I continued on to the next row, and the next, but I couldn’t find her. I decided she must have gone to check out whatever books she had, so I went to the desk, pulling out my wallet to remove my library card.
I asked the librarian who the girl was who just left, but she looked confused, and told me I was the first patron of the day. I laughed it off, saying I must have been hearing ghosts, and took my book and walked back home.
I sat down in my recliner and cracked the fresh book open. A few pages in, I closed it and put it down. It was a mockery of good fiction, nothing I could read. I need a story that pulls me in, at least a little bit, and this one didn’t, at all. Well, you win some and you lose some.
I laced my fingers behind my head and leaned back in my chair while the dog wheezed and sputtered in the other room.
13 minutes, and it finished itself. I choose number 17. TBP OLWG #18