Roscoe by Christopher Murphy


The big one, Telly, held my Cutco to Roscoe’s throat. Roscoe looked at me with his brown dumb eyes and licked Telly’s hand. Telly switched the knife to his free hand and wiped the other on his leg. He pulled Roscoe’s nape so tightly his eyes slanted, but this just made Roscoe lick harder.

“Have they hurt you, Mr. Swanville?”

“No. They’re threatening to kill the dog.”

The little one, Bob Feathers said. “Get our money!”

“Mr. Swanville, everything will be ok.”

“It’s not even my dog.”

I had come home from the bar and thrown Roscoe’s little green football in the backyard. I was drunkenly patting him on the couch, both of us watching 36th Chamber of Shaolin, when Telly put his fist through my door window.

“He was supposed to have shit,” Bob Feathers said. He was tiny, tweaky, with a neck tattoo that said ‘FUN. I’d seen him playing foosball at the bar.

“You’re a professor. Where’s your money?” Telly pulled back Roscoe’s head. Roscoe’s shaggy tail thumped the floor.

“Professors don’t have money,” I said.

“Computers, guns, Visa. Don’t fuck around.”

“Please don’t take my computer.”

Telly’s biceps flexed. He was a large square Indian. At the table next to us at the bar, he’d hit on the waitress and laughed a large happy laugh. He hadn’t seemed like a bad guy.

“Please don’t hurt him,” I said. I loved dog-sitting Roscoe. I loved his goofy Swede of an owner. After breaking up with his girlfriend, he’d gotten the dog and she’d gotten his friends. He wasn’t in a place to handle Roscoe getting killed.

Bob Feathers went through my house filling a pillowcase with DVDs, my external hard drive, a blazer. He came out of my bedroom holding a pocket pussy I’d gotten as a joke gift, though I’d tried it out. He shook it at me. “What the fuck?” he said. “Where’s the computer?”

The blanket Telly hung over my door jumped with police lights.

Telly let go of Roscoe and stood over me. His ECKO sweatshirt smelled like weed. He took hold of my wrist and drew the knife across the back of my hand. It opened up. I tried not to look at the blood. I did scream. Roscoe laid his head on my lap. My phone rang.

“Mr. Swanville, are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” I said, though it was pretty obviously a lie. “We’re in the front room. I’m sitting in the chair by the TV.”

Telly said, “Shut the fuck up.”

“They just want the money and a car.”

“Put me on the phone.”

I handed Bob Feathers the phone. He put down the pillowcase but held onto his gun. He listened, said, “We told you”, then “Ten and a car,” then “I’ll shoot this guy and his fucking dog. Twenty minutes.”

“It’s not my dog.”

Telly slapped me across the face so hard my teeth rang. Bob Feathers said, “It was nothing. Twenty minutes!”

They waited on the couch. Bob Feathers rubbed his head with both hands. Telly smoked and stared at Roscoe. Roscoe lay over my feet and sighed. My hand bled everywhere. I didn’t want them to hurt Roscoe because I didn’t want to die.

“We need music,” Bob Feathers said.

“Shut the fuck up.” Telly stared at the dog. Roscoe had barked chasing his tail when they broke in. Telly had tripped over him. Roscoe gave me the time to dial 911.

“They don’t think we’re serious,” Telly said. Bob Feathers said, “Oh man, oh man,” and started to smoke. Telly took the gun and gave Bob Feathers the knife. He walked towards me and Roscoe.

“Take my computer. You can have it. Take my car.”

Telly led Roscoe by the collar to the door. “Call them,” he said, “Time’s up.”

Something popped another of the door’s windows, tore down the blanket, and exploded.

The cops left a lot of Bob Feathers on my wall. Telly bled on my floor and grunted as the EMTs arrived. Roscoe, scared by the noise, had run under my bed.

I stood over Telly and said, “You don’t hurt dogs. You don’t hurt dogs.”




Christopher Murphy’s work has appeared in Gulf Coast, This Land, Five Quarterly, and Thuglit among other places. He teaches creative writing at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK.


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