Dog Called Buffalo
Fritz watches the dog limp down the street like the last American bison. Ma breathes through a tube in the living room. Trumpet vines choke the wood of the utility pole.
These things are all familiar and tired to Fritz. Even the dog – which he hasn’t seen before. It’s just another thing coming.
Like every year, in the weight of Santa Rosa’s August, Fritz watches the power company men come out and machete away the vines on the pole. And every year, he watches those vines come back, bloom red flowers on the electrical box.
Now this morning, like any morning, Fritz hears the power lines whirring.
Earlier, Ma had soiled herself again. She’d lain there motionless in the living room – where she hadn’t moved from in a long while, hooked up to her machine – and sat in the smell of urea till dawn. When Fritz woke up, he’d wiped her down. Then he’d changed her clothes.
From the front window, he watches the dog come closer on the horizon.
It’s easier to see, now, that the dog is a big, black, three-legged pit bull. Three-legged like it’s seen things, coming and going. The pit bull pants in the heat, a pink rip in its ear, its spotted tongue drooping out.
To Fritz, the dog is just the last of its sort. The rest of the dog’s dog-people are vanished, eroded originals of the open western plains. The plains just outside of town, maybe, Fritz imagines.
And if the pit bull were to come to him now, he would come to the animal’s side, he thinks. Yeah. He would name the dog Buffalo.
Because that’s just the way Fritz is. He lies to himself about tiredness, and he lets the last of things hang around. Like his dead father’s duck decoys, his dying mother’s long-vacant summer blouses. Like this entire house, the house he was born into. Behind him, in the living room, Ma’s tube-breaths become harder.
But then something different comes down Fritz’s street.
All of a sudden, from his spot in the window, Fritz hears the power lines, and sees the big dog limping, and then a white van peels into the neighborhood, squealing and burning rubber, and the side of the van reads TEXAS ENERGY SOLUTIONS.
The vehicle stops with a tire on the sidewalk and three men hop out with machetes on their belts. They open the back doors and pull out a huge old-timey lumber-killing hand-saw, and then two of them grab either side of the saw and bring it over to the utility pole. Then they start cutting wildly into the wood. The third man watches excitedly, starts calling out, ‘Fuck you pole, fuck you vines!’
And in the seconds of sawing, the dog hobbles closer and closer, the power line rings harder and harder, Ma’s breathing gets more and more, and then a big crack. The third man screams – ‘TIMBER!’
And the pole falls. The vine tendrils rip. The sounds are all tremendous. Fritz cries out.
Because now under the pole is that last dog of the open western plains. Dead in front of Fritz. Back broken, spotted tongue splaying from its black mouth, red trumpet flowers floating down all around it with accidental grace, falling onto the street’s sudden cemetery.
Fritz is in horror. The van leaves. Fritz is left in even more horror.
Because when those three men depart, they do it unconscious of the murder – slapping each other on the asses, laughing, climbing into the power van, peeling away from the scene. Fritz watches the cut lines twitch on the ground.
But then Fritz stops being in horror. He stops the crying. He watches the dog’s body.
The pit bull doesn’t move. The three legs don’t limp, or jerk. The lines around it stop sputtering all together.
And for this, Fritz can’t turn away from the window.
Cause the last of something has become the very last. Cause the lines don’t whir. Cause the street is totally silent.
Because Fritz can hardly hear Ma breathe in the background, and he’s relieved.
Evan Nicholls attends James Madison University (‘20) and is from Fauquier County, Virginia. He is involved in JMU’s literary magazine, Gardy Loo, and has work appearing in CHEAP POP, Penny, and formercactus as well as forthcoming in Lost Balloon. Follow him on Twitter @nicholls_evan.
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