It was at 1:37 AM that I sat caressing his poor head, watching as it closed its eyes underneath my touch. I couldn’t tell if it was actually wetness in the mutt’s eyes, or in mine as it quietly passed away.
Its body would be dumped into the garbage truck come morning, something I couldn’t bear. So, I sat there, wondering what to possibly do in its death, that I couldn’t do in its life. I could hear a biology teacher go on a tirade about street animals, bacteria and the merits of decomposition but shook those thoughts out of my head. This animal probably never knew any kindness in its life, judging from what Mr. Wicker had done, as well as the various spots on its body that bore witness to previous injuries.
Even if humans had left it alone, other animals might’ve attacked the poor, dead thing. I didn’t like dead things much, but more than that, it was those who suffered even in life that hurt me more. Maybe I romanticized things too much. Sometimes, I wondered I was far too sentimental but nothing could be done for that in this instant.
So, I unwrapped my scarf, slight child going down my spine from having borne my neck to the cold, and wrapped the dog inside it, careful not to get any blood on me. It wasn’t too big, so my task was made easy. As I was about to carry him off, I had to blink twice in an attempt to clear my eyes. From a crate lying just a few inches away, peered shining black eyes.
I was scared only for a second and reached into my pocket for my phone. As I turned on the flashlight and crept closer, I discovered something, or rather someone. There were two little puppies, who looked almost exactly like the dead dog in my arms, peering back at me, unusually silent for their kind. I thought of the nights they must have spent evading the gun and shuddered, knowing they’d probably seen their dead mother die.
Caught in a dilemma, I chose to put away the little mother to rest before coming back to them. I couldn’t carry all three of them into my apartment. With a heavy heart, I walked underneath the large apple tree near Mrs. Gilmore’s house, and placed her inside the little hollow opening at the roots. She would rest there until I’d come back in the morning to bury her, for now, she’d have to stay there for her children needed more care.
It was then, that the puppies began to bark. A chill that had nothing to do with the cold overcame me. It did not happen as fast as it might’ve, nor in slow motion. I heard more than saw Mr. Wicker yelling about “stupid mutts” right before I saw the puppies run in my direction, or the direction of their dead mother.
It happened in the blink of an eye. Two cracks and silence. Mr. Wicker hadn’t spotted me, frozen underneath the tree. He had good aim.
I didn’t know how long I remained paralyzed, only that I couldn’t bear to attempt more burials. So I stood underneath the apple tree, unthinking, unfeeling, just empty.