Mari’s sitting on the porch, nursing a sprained wrist, when she sees a dog trying to hide in the grass along the yard. The same dog her husband sent away with a kick yesterday. She picks up a chipped cup, pulls it through the last dregs in the rain barrel, and softly calls the dog. He’s panting in the heat, but as he laps at the mucky water, he’s shivering.
Other than the drink, a rub under the chin is all she can offer. She can’t risk going inside for food, can’t risk waking Billy. She sinks down onto the step, the dog moves closer, and she scratches behind his ears, trying to loosen the ropes of matted fur. He juts his chin forward to rest on her knee. Mari’s finger soon comes upon a slippery blob.
The ticks are terrible this summer, clinging onto tall grass stems, waiting to slip off on pant legs. Or a stray dog’s fur. Mari loosens one of at least five blood engorged ticks hanging along the dog’s neck, and it plops to the ground. She pops the tick, as big as a button mushroom, under her heel and blood stains the step.
Mari hears coughing through the screened bedroom window. She and the dog wait and, when the coughing ends, she plucks free another tick. She squishes it. More hacking and her husband appears in the window, blood spray staining his T-shirt. The dog runs for the bush. Between fits of coughing, Billy points at the car. “Mari! Mari! You gotta take me to the hospital. And she does.
At the hospital the doctor tells her it doesn’t look good for her now unconscious husband, some sort of ruptured ulcer or an infection, she’s not sure. She’s not really listening. On the way home, she stops to buy dog food and sees a sign offering a reward for finding the lost dog. She calls the number.
By the time she reaches home the dog’s owner is there. They search for an hour before the animal bounds out of the grass and jumps on the man. The man offers a thick envelope, saying Mari saved the dog. Mari shakes her head and refuses it. No, she thinks, the dog saved me.
Louella Lester is a writer & photographer in Winnipeg, Canada. Her new Flash-CNF book is, Glass Bricks (At Bay Press). Her writing has appeared/is forthcoming in SoFloPoJo, Daily Drunk, Dribble Drabble, The Odd Magazine, Shorts, Grey Sparrow, Six Sentences, New Flash Fiction, and a variety of other journals & anthologies.
Photo – Louella Lester
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