The terrier chomped on the clasp of the leash while Mrs Garrison repeated her accusations. Again she demanded Vulcan stop shitting in her yard. Again she suspected him of pissing on her flower beds. Again, she demanded that I silence his bark when the trash truck arrived on Tuesdays. Again she declared Vulcan a menace, declared his entire breed a menace. Again the crusted pebble of mucus skewered by that one long nose hair rattled in her nostril like the unhitched hook of speeding truck’s dangling cargo strap. Again that errant twitch in the muscles of her flapping cheek. Again I glimpsed the smear of powder red lipstick on her front dentures. The terrier still chomped on the clasp. I sensed Vulcan’s anxiety though he stood statuesque as ever, his paws flat, his face averted from the horror of this woman and her pet. As if the terrier had just picked a pair of cuffs, when the clasp fell from the leash, she dashed from the path with her tiny appendages scissoring across the grass at a surprising clip. Vulcan made chase without hesitation. Just as I trained him. Mrs Garrison screamed. I felt no need to track them myself. I could see the state of the race through the morphing shape of her face. She reached for me, grabbed my shirt, screaming for me to do something. I waited a few seconds more before I called out Vulcan’s name. He stifled a frustrated whimper when he returned to my side. Mrs Garrison never found that dog. She held a mock funeral three months later. Vulcan cannot travel that edge of the park without a glance at the terrier’s last trajectory.
With the increasing weight of the air she breathed, she saw the fire in the black distance marching like a demonic caravan along the ridge line. The wind spoke of the fire’s intended path and she knew they had to veer west or turn back. Turning back provided several possibilities but most of them ended badly. She had no idea how many men were combing the forest from the direction of the camp or if there were any at all. Only three miles west, the craggy hills meant a slower pace than they needed to make the river by dawn. Sam had warned of the unexpected in the forest and how risky this plan could be in light of the unrest in the valley. He had warned her and she had insulted him. She wished he were here now to roll his eyes and solve the problem. She wished the children’s legs could move faster. She wished she had a weapon.
Chrysalis, a growing collection of very short fiction.
That Night Filled Mountain
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Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.