Rickie was sent to find the family dog. His father had been working on the car. During one trip to the basement for tools, he left the door open and the terrier-mix Snappy was out and down the street to the drainage ditch that ran along the railroad tracks and farmer’s fields. A look from his mom told Rickie all he needed to know.
After three months of drought, only a thin ribbon of water crawled down the concrete bed of the ditch. While front lawns browned and farmers worried their crops, the thistle and dandelions and volunteer trees that pushed through the seams and cracks in the concrete grew taller, greener, stronger. It was as if the more hostile the world became to cultivated life, the more the disordered thrived.
At places where the trickle was thin enough, Rickie could step over without breaking stride. At the widest, he hopped across on one foot. The damp concrete wet only the edge of his shoe. The rest of his sole stayed untouched. At one point, a corrugated metal pipe discharged a heavy flow that pooled beneath it. Rickie jumped with both feet into the puddle and baptized himself from head to toe with the brackish water. He would catch hell for that.
That’s when he heard the scared yelp from the dog. The echo off the concrete confused the direction. Rickie started towards home. Then away. Then back again. He paused. The cry became sharper. Rickie called the dog’s name. Then silence.
He ran to a thicket along the soy fields. Snappy was backed against a tree. Two taught coyotes leaned in. They were calm, contemplative, unhurried. Their eyes told intent. One coyote snapped at the back legs of the dog who turned to defend itself. The other coyote bit into the near shoulder. The dog screamed and fell on the ground. The first coyote clamped onto the neck while the second tore chucks of fur and flesh from the hind.
Rickie barked orders. The coyotes were methodical and disciplined. Rickie brought a fist-sized rock onto the head of the coyote latched onto the dog’s neck. Stunned, the animal let go and looked to the sky. Rickie smashed the rock again, and again, and again, frenzied, not with hate, but with brutality. The coyote lay curled as if asleep, safe in its den.
The first coyote fled up the side of the drainage ditch to the tracks. It turned and looked at Rickie, the mangled dog, and its mate with a crushed skull.
Rickie collapsed. The bloodied rock rolled oddly along its uneven sides until it came to rest in a depressed section of the broken concrete bed. Folding inward, head tucked, legs taken in, arms folded at the chest, hands against the face as if in prayer, Rickie sobbed. The dog, bleeding and shaking, climbed atop the boy and began to lick away the tears.
About the Author
Richard Stimac has published a poetry book Bricolage (Spartan Press), over forty poems in Michigan Quarterly Review, Faultline, and december, and others, nearly two-dozen flash fiction in Blue Mountain, Good Life, Typescript, and several scripts. He is a poetry reader for Ariel Publishing and a fiction reader for The Maine Review.