From my story collection, HEADSHOTS:
On Going Deep
That’s a damn shame. Dog like that with all his ribs poking out. If that was my dog… But it ain’t. I ain’t had a dog in years, its hard enough taking getting my own self fed. But shoot, if he was mine, I wouldn’t let his damn ribs poke out. I’d find him something to eat.
His name is Barrel so I say, “Barrel, how ‘bout you and me head up to Chicago and shack up at Brenda’s place. How you think she like that? Shit. She’d kicked my ass that’s what.” This makes me laugh but then the chocolate lab is all scrunched up against the brick wall like he’s afraid I’ll kick him. Like he’s afraid to be touched. Shit. That damn dog ought to know.
I tug on Barrel’s chain until he turns those miserable, brown eyes on me. I say, “When things settle down at home I’ll take you back with me. And if Brenda don’t like it she can go to hell. What’s she gonna do? Call the police on my ass again? Shit. If I had you I’d say run on Brenda, run on down to that lesbian Trina. That’s right. Do what you’re gonna do ‘cause I got a dog and don’t need your drunk-ass, drill-sergeant shit.”
Brenda is my old lady and the reason I’m down in Memphis. She gave me the boot last week out the clear blue. And there wasn’t no damn reason for it, only she’s got issues. Shit, we all got issues. So I just took my ass down to my sister’s house in Tennessee. Hell, let Brenda have her space. Let her run on down to Trina if she wants. I tell her, “Go on now, have at it,” like it don’t bother me none. And maybe it don’t.
I look out over Teresa’s backyard at the flowers all red, pink, purple and blue. The grass is greener than any I’ve ever seen and the swimming pool water looks as clean and blue as window cleaner. Teresa done good, she done real good. I see all this and know Barrel ain’t ever going anywhere with me. Not even when he ain’t being cared for proper. I could do better for him and that’s a damn shame. Shouldn’t be that way is all.
Crouching down in my ragged jeans I hold my hand out to Barrel. “Come on now, it’s just Ray.” But he won’t come to me. Damn Mark anyway. Why’s he want this dog for if he’s just gonna neglect it? I asked Teresa what we’re gonna do ‘bout this dog, but she says we’re gonna do nothing. Now how’s that? Mark don’t deserve this dog and she knows it. But Teresa ain’t got it in her to say no to that prince of a son.
Still I know it just ain’t right for a dog not to have anyone to love him or care for him. I’d care for him. I’d hide him inside my coat on the bus. I seen someone do that once. He had one of them chew-wawa dogs just tucked up in a coat with his face popping out. Right there on the bus. Ain’t that something? I’d like to do that.
Barrel is looking at me, wanting me to rescue him. He needs someone to help him. I see it, but what can I do? Shit. I shrug with a heavy sigh and hang my head. “I know boy. I know, I know, I know.” When I stand up I’m all lightheaded. Ain’t no-one around, just me and him. I clasp my hands together and wonder, “What we gonna do?”
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