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Mr. Edwards’ Dog by Michael Neal Morris - Twist in Time Literary Magazine
His coat was a mix of yellow and brown, and he had eyes of two different colors, one blue, and one darkish yellow. He had been Mr. Edwards’ only roommate and companion for the past seven years, attending to him in the mornings during walks, which people around were never sure were for the dog or the human. The animal went everywhere with the old man, even riding happily in the truck a few times a week, each Friday to the grocery store, and each Wednesday evening and Sunday morning to church. Now he was on the porch with his head away from the sun, sometimes sleeping, sometimes looking forlornly at the empty, cold pickup in the driveway. Mr. Edwards’ neighbor, a widow named Stella, brought food and water each day to the shady side of the porch. Every other day, she called the man’s daughter, hoping she would come and take the animal home with her, each time stating that animal control could come any day, but that she’d hold them off as long as they could. The old man’s family lived in Oklahoma, some ways away, but they could take a day to get the poor creature, Stella reasoned. But they kept trying to put it off until they would have to come for the old man’s things. In the meantime, the daughter hoped the dog would run off. She had two kids of her own, who would love a pet, but her husband was allergic, and the adults were trying to avoid the commitment. The dog stayed mostly on the porch for two days after the funeral, nibbling the food, and gulping water when Stella came. He licked Stella’s hand each time she came, and then would go to the shadiest part of the porch to resume his sleep and mourning. On the third day, the dog entered the house through the dog door, ignoring the black and yellow crime scene tape. He had sniffed the area where the blood had pooled after the old man was shot. The dog whimpered as he remembered the noise: the bang, the grunt of the man as he stumbled back, the thud of him hitting the wood floor. He remembered the second bang, and could feel again the bullet whizzing past as he raced to get away. He managed to hide behind the sofa, and while the intruder was making his way through the house, then slipped out the dog door, and under the house. The creature sniffed along the trail of where the drops had fallen after the intruder, assuming the old man was dead, left him, and the old man hobbled toward his phone and dialed the police. The cops found him sitting in the chair by the landline. The EMTs were too late, but one officer heard the man ask, “Where’s my dog?” Now the dog was laying on the floor beside the chair, where he’d slept or kept watch many times since coming to live with the old man. The house was getting darker, as it was nearing sundown, and the smell of dust and blood mixed with the familiar odor of the man’s scent on the seat cushion. The dog crumbled into a whimpering sleep. He woke to the now familiar sound of the widow’s footsteps crossing the yards and stepping onto the porch. His ears rose, as he expected to hear the old woman dropping dry food into one bowl and then filling the other from the hose at the side of the house. But she sat in the old man’s rocking chair and sighed sadly. After a minute, the dog slipped outside and licked her hand. She was not rocking, but sitting back in the chair, watching the sunrise over the cold truck. When she felt the tongue on her fingers, she turned her palm to the dog without moving her head, and sighed, then cooed. Once the sun had come up enough that the roof seemed to be shooting them in the eyes, the widow stood. “Guess you gonna live w’ me, dawg. Ain’t nobody coming but the Lord, and I reckon He’ll be a few more days.” ____________________________________________________________ Michael Neal Morris has published short stories, poems, and essays in a number of print and online venues. He most recent books are Release and Haiku, Etc. He lives with his family outside the Dallas area, and teaches at Eastfield College.