Molly didn’t pay attention to cries of, “We’re not tired.” Molly paid attention to eyes that needed rubbing and pink curls of tongues flashing behind stifled yawns. She was waiting for their usual gambit, “Can we have a drink of water?” They knew she wouldn’t let them; but they would ask anyway.
Molly was surprised by their next bedtime request, “Tell us a story.” She wondered if they learned this new stratagem from the landlord’s kids; they were an increasing influence. They wheedled and whined; and not knowing what story to tell, she agreed. The children eagerly wiggled their warm bodies into a comfortable position around and on top of her. And she searched her memory for a story to tell.
“Once upon a time..”
“Mom, tell us a real story.” The littlest objected.
“A long time ago, in a galaxy..”
“MOM!” They squealed in unison.
She forgot they knew that one too, also thanks to the neighbor’s kids. Pausing with the hope that the children might drift off in the silence, she thought of a story to tell. But eager eyes blinked alertly at her, waiting.
“A message traveled easily through the bare trees and echoed in the cool November air. There was no mistaking the content of the howl. Mr. Egan brought home a deer.”
“What’s a deer?” The blonde asked
“You’re a dear, my darling.”
“Be serious, Mom”
“Ok, ok. A deer is a four legged animal that is good for eating.”
“Better than kibble?” The littlest wondered.
“Yes, better than kibble.” They let out an impressed sigh. Molly recently weaned them, and kibble was still exciting and exotic. “Much better than kibble. Every other dog within two blocks got excited. Mr. Egan was a generous man; we all knew we were in for a treat.”
Their ears involuntarily pitched forward at the word ‘treat’, “Who’s Mr. Egan?”
“You’ve met him. He’s the one with hair on his face, but only under his nose.”
They children briefly discussed how strange it was that most of the people they knew had bald faces. Molly was amused by their conclusion. “It must mean he’s part dog. So, he has to be good.”
“Yes, he is good. When he brings home a deer he shares it with the pack. I could barely sleep that night. Each time I woke up licking my chops, dreaming and dreaming of deer. The next day I thought the landlord might take me to see him. So I waited patiently by the door. Every time she walked by I wagged my tail to show her I was ready to go. I wanted to make sure she wouldn’t leave without me. When she opened the door…”
“I wish I could open the door.” The only boy lamented.
“We all do, we all do. And we walked up the street, so I knew we were going to see him. I was so excited I couldn’t stand it. I jumped and bounced the whole way. I ran ahead and barked for the landlord to hurry up. When she refused I ran to her side herding her along so she wouldn’t get lost.”
They turned suspicious eyes in her direction; the glaring whites made moons showing their disbelief. They couldn’t fathom the idea of their mom cavorting up the street.
“When you get your first taste of deer you’ll understand. I knew it was only a few blocks but the walk..” Again, puppy ears perked up at the word. “seemed to take forever; especially after I caught the scent. By the time we reached their driveway the air was ripe with the smell of iron, blood and fur.” I stopped to sniff the car and taste the drops of blood, carelessly left on the hood.”
“Did you go for a ride in the car?”
“No, a ride sure would have been fun. But what happened next was better! Mr. Egan was in the back yard in the car house. Hanging from the ceiling was the deer. He already stripped the meat from most of the body.”
“Oh no, were you too late?”
“No, of course not, the best was yet to come. People don’t eat bones…”
“What? Why not?” The littlest interrupted.
“They don’t have good teeth.” The puppies nodded their understanding; they were just getting their good teeth. “People don’t eat bones, so Mr. Egan gives them to the dogs. It’s better than Christmas.” Molly winked.
“Some dogs get them roasted in the oven, golden brown and easy to crunch. Some of the dogs get them frozen to soothe sore teeth. I love them raw. They smell like heaven on the first day and get even better once you bury them in the yard. You dig a hole as deep as your tail and put the dirt back in. After two weeks bones will reek so much it’s almost enough just to rub your face and back in that wonderful smell.” Molly licked her lips.
“Mr. Egan and the landlord talked while he butchered the carcass. He cut one of the hind legs free and it clattered to the ground. I practically went insane trying to remember my manners. I know better than to take something that isn’t given to me.” She looked each puppy in the eye one at a time. The puppies lowered their heads—sorry for eating the shoe found under the sofa. “Mr. Egan picked it up and held it over my head.”
“Did you sit-up for it?”
“Did you play dead?”
“Did you shake?”
“Did you speak?”
“No. He asked me if I wanted it. And I did. Who wouldn’t? You could see where he clumsily cut the meat from the bone. Chunks of the dark red glistened near the joints. The sinews, holding the joints together, shined too. The bones practically dripped fat. It still had a ring of fur above the hoof, and I could already imagine how it would taste once it went soft.
To show him I wanted it, I wagged my tail so hard my whole backside shook. The leg dipped closer to me; so close I could smell the marrow inside. Then Mr. Egan lowered it more and I grabbed it in the middle. He told the landlord he would cut it into pieces and then he pulled back on it.”
“Tug of war!” The children laughed. Like every dog, it was their favorite game.
“Yes, and I won. I didn’t want to lose my prize so I decided to take it home. I readjusted my grip in the center making sure I wouldn’t drop it and took off for home. I ran the fastest route, down the center of the street. At the first corner, a woman screamed and clutched her child to her chest. A man stopped and watched me when I crossed the street. I was afraid he would try to steal the leg, so I ran faster. I had to dodge between two cars, but I got away from him. The people in the cars cheered me on, honking their horns and waving their hands.”
“Did you run all the way home?” The blonde asked.
“No, once I crossed the last street I thought I was safe, so I slowed down. No other people approached me; though they watched from porches. I trotted down the sidewalk and thought about how nice it would be to lay in the yard, cleaning every last bit of flesh of the bone. But when I got to the yard I ran into a problem.” Molly realized that instead of drifting off to sleep, the puppies were hanging on her every word.
She shushed them and nuzzled their faces; licked each head and sniffed under floppy ears. Molly yawned; and despite their best efforts the puppies echoed her back.
“What happened next?” The littlest yawned.
“I’ll tell you tomorrow. Now you must close your eyes and go to sleep.” This time they did not protest. Molly admired the pile of bodies, chocolate and black, the littlest one: blonde, just like her mother. Their breathing slowed and quiet little snores rose to her ears.
Tomorrow she might tell them the rest. Tonight she would dream.
The gate of her pen hung open on its hinge. Molly, desperate to get through the opening, tried over and over again to get in. Jumping or with a running start, the bones were just too long to fit through. Desperately afraid that the landlord would seize it from her if she left it out, Molly looked around for a plan B.
Usually digging in the flower bed would earn her a beating; but the plants were long dead and hidden under mulch. Molly looked from side to side and quickly dug a six foot trench next to the wall. The dirt fell back into place nicely coving the prize of her life. Splinters stung her nose when she pushed the mulch back into place.
The flower bed looked undisturbed when the landlord returned. The ground froze hard that night and didn’t thaw until the spring. Flowers sprouted, ruling out exhumation. It was safe were it was, improving with age, so it waited. The plants grew so well that year they didn’t die off until the winter’s frost killed them; by then, Molly was heavy with puppies and too tired to dig.
Her paws twitched, interrupting the dream. She nestled her chin between puppy bodies and squeezed her eyes shut in pleasure. The puppies were a joy, but the landlord assured her, a transient one. She would wait until they were gone, off to their own homes with their own landlords. Then she would dig it up before the plants sprouted again.
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED