Photo credit: Lisa from scenic Michigan
That afternoon I was out at Bobby Evans’s place, south of town, with Randy and Purvis. We were shooting baskets, when Bobby’s dad stepped outside and asked who wanted to shoot a rifle. We dropped the ball and followed him down the stairway to the corner of the basement. He unlocked the case, took out a 30:06, and grabbed two shells from a box. He handed the rifle to Randy, who passed it to Purvis, who handed it to me.
“You like the feel?” Mr. Evans took the gun, held it to his shoulder, and aimed at a deer’s head mounted on the wall across the room. Pow! He mouthed the word, lifting the gun barrel in mock report.
He said, “Who wants to shoot that old dog we got?”
We looked at Bobby, who glanced down.
“He don’t hunt,” Mr. Evans said. “He eats, shits, and barks.” He handed the gun to me. I handed it to Purvis. He passed it to Randy, who smiled a nervous smile and ran a hand up and down the rifle stock.
Mr. Evans tossed a shell up in the air and caught it. “One of these ought to be enough.”
We followed him out the back door. At the edge of the yard was a dog pen, where just then the dog, a mangy Brittany, pressed its pink nose to the fence, watching us approach.
“Who wants to do it?”
We knew it would be Randy.
Mr. Evans opened the pen, fastened a length of rope to the dog’s collar, and pulled the animal out of the pen. We followed along as he walked down toward the river. Randy cradled the rifle in his arms. The dog ran with a limp, its nose to the ground, close to Bobby’s dad’s feet.
At the river’s edge Bobby’s dad stopped and tied the dog to a sapling. He held out his hand and cradled the dog’s muzzle, then patted it on the head.
“Here,” he said, and tossed Randy a shell.
Randy loaded the gun, aimed at the dog, then lowered the gun. The sound of traffic came from the road up the hill. He looked at Bobby, then at Bobby’s dad, who nodded. Randy took up the rifle again, aimed, and fired.
I’d heard gunshots in the distance, sounds that carried, lingered, then faded. This was a deafening blast, so close it was right inside of us. Then came the silence. We stood still, too terrified to move.
“You got him,” Mr. Evans said.
He said we had to bury it. At the bottom of that hill, where the river flooded every year, the digging was easy. Careful not to look at each other, we tossed shovelfuls of sandy brown dirt to the side, dragged the dog by its rear legs into the hole, and covered it up.
“That’s done now,” Bobby’s dad said.
We followed Bobby’s dad back up to the house, back to driveway and ball. Back to ourselves.
Rick Bailey’s work has appeared in Drunk Monkeys, Journal of Microliterature, and First Stop Fiction. Email: baileyrv[at]gmail.com