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Syndic Literary Journal

Etching & Short Story by Bob Thompson

Etching by Bob Thompson

Steve, killed 9-25-66 Quang Tri Province / Mezzotint Etching


Short Story by Bob Thompson


Dog’s Out

 Dear Editor:

Your ignorance is only matched by your hypocrisy.  You urge Afghan citizens to pick up their guns and take their country back from the Taliban but you would leave your own citizens empty handed.

My fingers rested for a second on the keyboard as I composed my next thought.

If an intruder broke down your door, wouldn’t you want the opportunity to defend yourself?  S 845 allows all citizens to carry concealed weapons.  Your misguided editorial opposing this legislation dated … 

I looked around my desk for the editorial that I had torn out of yesterday’s paper.  Not seeing it, I got up and started to look around the small bedroom that was now my study/office.  I shuffled through stacks of old Wall Street Journals, News weeks, Field and Streams and unopened solicitations that sat on the coffee table and two chairs.  It wasn’t there.  In the poor light away from the desk I noticed a National Geographic with a bristlecone pine tree on the cover.  It’s the oldest tree in the world and they won’t even tell us where it is because some idiot might go and damage it.  What has happened to this country?

I scanned the bookshelf that covered one wall but didn’t see it.  Damn!  Marilyn has been moving my stuff again and she wasn’t here to tell me where she put it.  I’ll just finish the letter and talk to her when she returns from the gym or wherever she went.  

As I sat down I glanced out the window next to my desk and saw a police car coast slowly to a stop in front of the house.  A uniformed officer with short hair and dark glasses got out of the driver’s side, looked up and down the street and walked up to my front door.  The urgent ring of the door bell caused me to jump slightly.  As I got up, I slid the nine millimeter pistol off the stack of mail on the desk into the top drawer and closed the drawer.  I watched the stack continue to slide to the floor knocking over the picture of my son and his family leaving the torn editorial uncovered on the desk.  Just seeing my grandson’s picture brought a smile to my face.  I crossed the carpet softly plodding to the front door.

As I opened the door, the officer identified himself as Sergeant Johnson and asked if he could come in.  I led him down the short hallway to my office, moved a stack of magazines and newspapers off the sofa, and offered him a seat.  As I put them down I noticed a headline: “Promising College Student Shot at Barbershop.”  I said, “So have they made any progress on this?” pointing to the paper.

“They have a seventeen year old in custody.” Johnson said looking at the paper.

“Sounds like one of those gang things?”

“Actually, no, it was a case of mistaken identity.  The suspect was out looking for a guy who had threatened his sister.  Unfortunately he had a gun and when he found someone who looked like the guy he shot and killed an innocent kid.”

I turned my chair away toward the officer and sat down. 

He leaned towards me.  “Do you know why I’m here, Mr. Weeks?”

“I presume it has something to do with the dog incident the other day.”  I said.

Johnson looked up from his notebook, “Yes, I’ve been told that it was your dog.”

“Who told you that?”  I responded sharply.

“That’s not important.  Is it true?”

“No, it’s not.”

“Why would someone tell me that?” Johnson inquired with a poker face.

“Maybe they were confused.  All I did was help the Patterson’s get the dog but that’s it.”

“Tell me more about your role in getting the dog.” Johnson said.

“John told me his wife, Carol, had been asking him for weeks to get a guard dog.  Every night she recounted for him another murder or assault described at length on the TV news.  He tried to ignore the problem and told her not to worry.  I told him that it wasn’t something to be taken lightly and having a tough dog is good protection against criminals, almost as good as having a gun.”

“Have there been problems with thefts or break-ins on this street?”

“Hmmmm, not that I know of personally, but it’s all around us.” I stated with conviction.

“I’ve patrolled this neighborhood for almost three years and the only thing I’ve heard about was a car radio stolen about two blocks from here ten weeks ago.”

“Not to argue but those are just the reported crimes.  Anyway, one can never be too careful.” I responded.

“Do you have a dog, Mr. Weeks?

“No.  You may have noticed the sign on my side gate – this house protected by Smith and Wesson.  That’s better than any dog.” I said proudly.

“Do you have guns in your home?”

“I would be a fool if I didn’t.  I had them when we lived out in the country because calling the sheriff wasn’t an option.  They were at least a half-hour away.  And it seemed prudent to keep them when my wife wanted to move back to the city.  She said we would be so much closer to everything.  She didn’t want to hear about all the crime.  I bet you have guns around your house?”

“No.  I saw more than enough guns and shooting in the Army.  I wouldn’t have a gun if the job didn’t require it.” 

“But what if someone was breaking in your house?”

“That’s what the police are for.  Have you had formal weapons training?”  Johnson inquired.

“Mostly self taught but I’m pretty comfortable with long guns and pistols.”

“What about Mr. Patterson and the dog?”  Johnson returned to his task.

“Yes.  Even after we talked he wouldn’t change his mind about a dog.  He kept worrying about liability and all the things that could go wrong.  I told him he worried too much.  I should have known.  He had similar feelings when we proposed a plan to hire armed security guards for the neighborhood.  Finally, I talked to Carol and told her that I knew a contractor who had a dog that guarded his equipment yard at night.” 

“So did you get the dog for Mrs. Patterson?”

“I gave Carol his number.  She followed up and I drove her over to the guy’s office and helped her bring it back to her house.”

“Was the dog licensed or neutered?”

“I don’t know, that was up to the Pattersons.”

“The hospital asked me whether the dog had its shots.  Do you know?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Did the dog have any training?

“Not that I knew of.  The contractor might know.  All he told me was that the dog ran loose in his equipment yard at night and that he hadn’t had any problems.”

“Is that what you told the Pattersons?”

“Pretty much.  When we went to pick him up, he was loose and barked and jumped at the gate.  But when the contractor came out, put on his leash, he calmed down.” 

“Did the Pattersons ever take the dog out of the yard?”

“Yea, a couple of weeks later I saw her with the dog on a leash over at the park.  She was having trouble with it.”

“How do you mean?” Johnson appeared puzzled.

“Well, it was a high spirited pit bull, full of energy.  Carol was barely strong enough to keep the dog from pulling her over, jerking the leash from her hand, and running after other dogs.  It was short but built like a tank, very strong.  Actually, it seemed kind of foolish, her speaking to that dog in a stern tone – ‘Roman, stop pulling, sit, stop,’ all that stuff and the dog just doing what it wanted.  It didn’t look like she was in charge.  I told her right after that she should get someone to train the dog.”

“And did she?”

“I don’t know.”

“Roman… that was the dog’s name?”

“I think so.  Carol named it.”

“Could I stop you right there for a minute.”  The sergeant interjected.  “When did the Pattersons get the dog?”

“I think about 8 months ago.” 

“Ok, tell me about last Friday.”

“Well I was right here at my computer.” 

“About what time?”

“It must have been around 10:30 in the morning because I was waiting for my son’s wife and my grandson to walk over from their house.  He’s just one, about two feet tall but wants to walk everywhere.  That kid is really something.” 

“What did you see that morning?”

“I was working on some stock trades, watching the tape to buy some big pharma company stock when the price dipped.  They have a new drug in the development pipeline that reverses the effects of alcohol on your liver.  No more cirrhosis after years of drinking.  If you’re interested, I could get you in on it.”

“No thank you.  Now about that morning?”

“I was pretty focused on the screen when I heard Carol shouting, ‘Roman, get back here.’  She was yelling at the dog.  It had gotten out of their backyard and was running loose in the middle of the street.  The dog paid no attention to her.” 

“You had the window open?” Johnson inquired.

“Yea it was one of the few nice days.  Not nice like the country but better than average.  I could see her trying to run but with her stiff knees, arthritis you know, makes it hard for her to get around.  She was looking down the street not where she was going, legs kind of flailing at the ground and after several steps, her feet crossed and she went down hard, face first on the pavement.  Her glasses skidded a few feet as her head hit the asphalt.  She lay for a minute.”  I could almost see her sprawled on the street. 

After the Sergeant finished writing he looked up and said, “Then what happened?”

“The dog looked briefly in her direction.  But he too was focused on something or someone down the street.  I got up from my chair, pulled the curtains aside, but my neighbor’s shrubs were in the way.”

“Where was Mrs. Patterson at that point?”

“Ah… she had lifted her head, kind of coughed out, ‘Roman, stop, come here.’  She looked dazed.  I noticed that the dog didn’t seem to hear her but was entirely focused on something down the street.”

“Must have been the woman with her kid.”

“What woman with a kid?”  I interrupted.

“I don’t know, nobody got their names.  Do you remember seeing Mr. Patterson?”

“Right as Carol tripped and hit the pavement, he came running out from behind his house.  He tried to help Carol to her feet but the best he could do was lift her to her knees.   She kept on hollering, ‘Roman, stop, stay, sit’ or something like that.”

“And the dog?” the sergeant shifted his weight a little and then focused on me over his pad.

“He seemed very alert, taking in the entire neighborhood while remaining focused on whatever was down the street.”

“And then what happened?”

“I remember the dog started to move slowly, almost casually in the direction he was looking.  By this time, Carol was getting on her feet, although unsteadily.  John was helping her stay upright.  Both of them were looking at the dog and then down the street.”

“And you were right here looking out that window?”

“Yea, John was trying to move Carol, who was wobbling and semi-limp, over to the curb to sit down.  But Carol would have none of it and kept yelling at the dog.  She lurched toward the dog and grabbed his tail, like to stop him.”

“Did the dog react?” Johnson’s eyes widened slightly.

“Oh yea.  The dog stiffened and then snapped at her hand.  She let go of the dog’s tail and kind of fell backward a little.  But she wasn’t giving up.  She regained her balance, staggered forward and tried to grab the dog’s collar.”

“How did the dog react?”

“He didn’t bark as you might expect.  But when she tried to grab him again, the dog kind of growled and lunged at her knocking her down.” 

“Could you point to where she was?”

“Sure, if you look out this window, it was near the curb on the other side of the street directly in front of those bushes over there.”  I pointed across the street to the walkway leading up to my neighbor’s house.  Thankfully the fireman cleaned up after the medics and hosed down the mess left on the street.

“What happened next?”

“I can still hear her screaming.  I presume the dog was biting her because its head was lunging and shaking from side to side.  Her arms were bleeding but she kept beating on its head.  John tried to grab the dog’s collar but couldn’t because the dog bit his hand every time he got close enough.  By then Carol had collapsed on the ground like a rag doll not moving, and the dog jumped at John and had his arm.  He started yelling for help.”

“What did you do?”

“What could I have done?  It happened so fast and before I knew it …..”

“Is that when the SMUD employees got involved?”

“I think so,” I said, “It was only Carol and John with the dog going crazy and…   They drove by as this was happening and stopped.  There were three of them in the truck  and they tried to distract the dog.  But that didn’t work, the dog just kept on snapping, biting, like in a feeding frenzy.  One of the guys grabbed a big metal bolt or wrench from the truck and started to hit the dog with it.  The other guy had on some big leather gloves and grabbed at the dog’s legs.  They all were yelling at the dog.”

“Did it look like the SMUD guys may have hurt Mrs. Patterson accidentally?”

“No, I don’t think so.  They were really focused on just the dog, trying to get it away from the Pattersons. The one guy kept hitting it, trying to knock it out.”

“Was Mrs. Patterson moving at all at this point?”

“I couldn’t really tell, she had rolled to the gutter while the guy with the tool kept hitting the dog and finally it fell in the street.  John fell in a heap on the sidewalk, crying out in pain and then I heard the sirens.”

“What did you do next?  Did you call 911?”

“No, I was so focused on the events, and it was all over before I could even think about it.   It seemed like only seconds from when I heard the sirens until the fire truck and ambulance came. 

“And you were here the whole time?”

“Yes, I didn’t move away from this window.  The ambulance pulled up right where your car is parked and blocked my view.  But I noticed that the medics didn’t jump right out, like they were checking to see if it was safe to get out of the truck.  I could hear the SMUD guys yelling for them and I saw one of them finally get out.  At some point I heard pounding on the front door.  It was my daughter-in-law and her boy.  She was very frightened and he was crying.”

“And then?”

“I was surprised it was them because normally I see them walking down the street and up to the front door.  But they must have come the other way … the way …that my vision is blocked by my neighbor’s shrubs.  Anyway, I let them in, closed the door, and held them both.  By the time I looked out the window again, the ambulance was pulling away.”

“I think that answers all my questions.  Thank you.  Is there anything else you didn’t mention?”  He stood.

“Not that I can think of.”  I walked him back to the front door with my mind racing.

As he was half way through the open door, the Sergeant turned and asked “Have you talked to the Pattersons since the incident?”

“I didn’t want to bother them at the hospital, let them recuperate in peace.”

“He should be home soon, but I’m sorry to say that I got word this morning that Mrs. Patterson died last night.”  With that, he stepped off the porch and walked to his patrol car. 

I gently closed the door behind him.  Returning to my desk, I picked up the picture of my son with his wife and baby, held it for a second and carefully set it on the desk.   When the computer screen came back on, I highlighted the text of the letter and pressed “delete.”


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