There’s a dog in the street. A cocker spaniel, I think. His head is flat and a tire track runs down the middle of his back. When Marilyn and I were first married, we rescued a cocker spaniel from the shelter. It was one of those “bring us closer together” things. I spent forty-five bucks for the dog and then another hundred to get him fixed. To thank me for saving his life, he pissed on the rug. Marilyn’s always been into rescuing things. She’s the queen of lost causes.
The dog’s bright red tag says My Name is Pepper — Call Jenny, and a phone number covered in blood. Pepper’s hind legs point south and his front legs point north. He crossed against the light and now his furry body looks like a black and white S. There’s a homeless guy standing by the dog, a stack of newspapers at his feet. He’s a bearded Danny DeVito, but thin and grimy, selling the news for beer money. DeVito weeps dirty tears. He regrets not stopping Pepper when he had the chance.
Look at those hot air balloons up there, through the window of the cop car. There must be a dozen of them, racing away from the scene of the accident. One balloon is shaped like a witch, another a rainbow. A ladybug. A soccer ball, Dora the Explorer brings up the rear. Poor Dora. My kid loved her. He watched her before school every morning, years before this day when the cops have locked me in the back of a blue and white striped car to watch flies land on a dead cocker spaniel. Now, the kid could give a shit about Dora. I have to pick him up after school. He has band practice at four, track at six. That’s all the kid cares about.
Hot air balloon races are stupid. You only go where the wind takes you, there’s no skill. Overhead, the witch pulls ahead of the ladybug. She must be more aerodynamic. Or maybe it’s luck. A lot of things happen because of luck. Like not hitting a dog in an intersection.
My kid had better shape up or he’ll have to take summer school. We’ll have to cancel the cruise. Blood trickles out of the dog’s ears. These handcuffs are killing me. When I went through the intersection, there was a red shadow and then thump… thump, thump. One… two, three, like Count von Count on Sesame Street. My kid watched that show, too. It came on after Dora, when the kid was still young.
I told the cops the sun was in my eyes. No, Officer, I wasn’t drinking. An ambulance wails a few blocks over, he’s coming this way. No need to hurry, I’m not hurt. I hope they didn’t send an ambulance for me. Or Pepper.
Marilyn pulls into the parking lot across the street and gets out. What the hell is she doing here? Too late, Marilyn. The dog’s dead. Can’t save this one. She crosses against the light and stands by Danny DeVito. One more illegal street crosser. Why didn’t the bum stop her? Nobody wants to read his crappy newspapers anyway. The least he can do is stop dogs and people from crossing against the light.
How did Marilyn know I’m here? Maybe I made the news. Two days from now, DeVito’s newspapers will read Man Kills Dog. Why were there three thumps? Just one more mystery in this fucked up day. Down the street, a group of men huddles in the middle of the road. I have a big deadline in the morning. A presentation for the board. Flies swarm around the dead dog’s head, feeding on the pool of blood there.
Why won’t the cops let me go? One of them motions for Marilyn and DeVito to move. He snaps a few photos of Pepper, and then covers him with a black tarp. To keep the flies off. My kid cried last night when I told him he wasn’t getting his allowance. Why should he get money from me, his grades are shitty. He doesn’t deserve a damned thing. Marilyn and I had a fight after that. I slept in the den.
The cars pass by, driving slowly, eager to watch the show. Hey, look at the guy in the suit. He’s wearing handcuffs for killing a dog. Pepper had a pink leash. A pink leash and a red collar. They matched the dog tag. Call Jenny, it said. The wailing ambulance turns the corner at the end of the street, on the other side of Pepper. The cop opens his trunk and tumbles the mutt inside, tarp and all. Poor Pepper, with his dog tag that says Call Jenny. No need for an ambulance. Can I go now?
Marilyn and Danny DeVito and the cop and all these fucking gawkers stare at the guys working down there, near the place where the ambulance stops. I hate them all. The balloons are mostly gone. They’ve floated away, except for Dora the Explorer. She’s come to see the handcuffed project manager who ran over a dog because the sun was in his eyes and he’d stopped for a few two-dollar beers at happy hour. Or maybe the wind blew her the wrong way.
The ambulance has parked two hundred forty-seven feet from the intersection. That’s what the cop will say at the trial, four months, two days, and eighteen hours from now, because that’s where her body landed. Jenny. The girl’s parents will cry, the judge will pound his gavel, and the prosecutor will show I was driving too fast when I struck the thirteen-year-old girl walking her cocker spaniel named Pepper across the street.
A cop covers the girl with his jacket, the ambulance driver turns off his lights, and the last hot air balloon passes by. Dora the Explorer floats out of sight. She’s leaving the scene of the crime.
Kip Hanson lives in sunny Tucson, where his wife makes him watch Poltergeist while insisting clowns are not scary. You can find his work scattered about the Internet, at Foundling Review, Every Day Fiction, Inkspill, Bartleby Snopes, and a few other places, proving that a blind squirrel does occasionally find a nut. When not telling lies, he makes a few bucks writing boring articles for technical magazines.
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