Stories & Lit
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Dwight throws her a chain. A big, heavy chain, the sort you’d use to haul a car out of the mud. She chains Dante to a tree and joins Dwight on the porch. As she walks into his arms, the yelping splits the air like a scream. They watch the dog hit the end of his chain and flip over onto his back, repeatedly, mouth foaming with the sweat of his exertion.

Dwight says, “I do believe that dog is crazy.” “I better go get him.”
“Hell, no. You want him to run you?”
“I guess not.”

She follows him inside, where he undresses her, and pins her to his bed, like so many times before. His pants are halfway off, hobbling him around the knees, when something slams against his door. From the sound, something about the size of a tractor.
“Shit,” Dwight says, stands up and trips over his pants.

They can hear him chewing at the door. Tearing at the door. Dwight kicks a leg out of his pants and runs to the window, his urgency mirroring her own. If Dante wants in, she figures he’ll get in. Dwight pulls back the curtain, and the shadow, the shape, crashes against the glass, shatters it, but bounces off again. Dwight locks himself in the bathroom before the next, successful leap. Dante hits the bathroom door once, as if for effect, then stands with his head down, growling, intimidating it.

“Dante!” He jumps onto the bed beside her, slapping his tail. Kisses her face. She checks him for damage. Blood, some, on his face, and one leg. Nothing deep or dangerous looking. “Oh, Dante. You broke your collar.”

Dante rests his head between his front paws in shame.
“Ellen? What are you doing?”
“Getting dressed.”Having said so, she gets started on that.
“Ellen? I really think the best thing for everybody would be if you let me shoot that dog.”
“Everybody but him, you mean.”
“You figure on keeping him?”
Dante’s eerie yellow eyes come up to meet hers. He must have heard everything. “He’s a good watchdog.”
“Yeah, well, either he goes or I do.” She pulls on her sweater, Dante curls around her legs all the way out the door.
“It’s been real,” she says.

Dwight sends her a bill for the damage; she pays it without comment.

I dwell on the past. Always have.

Lying in bed with Grant. After. My mind a perfect blank, because that’s how it always was.My body and head hollow, humming, like a tuning fork almost ready to go still. But not quite.

My eyes closed.

It was always better than great with Grant, but mostly with my eyes closed, because none of his greatness was visible. So I wondered, sometimes, if I was imagining, manufacturing the good parts. I never held tangible proof of their existence.

When I first told Carrie she said, “Ooh. Tell me all about him. Is he young, is he handsome, is he hung?”

Even one out of three might have redeemed me, but as it was, I didn’t answer.

“So, the sex is, like, great, right?”
“That’s something.”
Anyway, we were lying there, his mouth against my ear, a good moment for tender words, if that had ever been Grant’s style. “If anything happens to me, Ellen, I want you to take my dog.”

Don’t talk, Grant. Just enjoy the moment. It’s gone so long, in between.

“Nothing will happen to you. Don’t be silly.”
“If it does.”
“Everybody outlives their dog. That’s why I don’t get one.”
“Doctor thinks I’m ripe for an MI. Cholesterol, blood pressure. Family history. For starters. I’m not a kid, Ellen.”
“Can we talk about something else? After you tell me what an MI is?”
“Myocardial Infarction.”
“Like a heart attack.”
“Exactly like one.”
“Then why don’t you just say heart attack?”

By this time he was putting on his clothes. He’d stayed longer than usual.
“Just promise me.”
“Wouldn’t your wife want the dog?”
“No. She wouldn’t. Promise me?”

I wanted to, because I always wanted to be what he wanted. Helpful. Intelligent. Loyal. I felt like a Girl Scout in his presence. I firmly believe Grant died owing me a handful of merit badges I worked hard for and will never see.

“I’ve never even met your dog, Grant.”
“Well, you’ll have to, then.”
“Bring him with you when you come next week.”
“Okay, I will.”

But he didn’t.

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of the story collection Earthquake Weather as well as numerous novels, including Pay it Forward (which was adapted for film and has been translated into 20 languages),Chasing Windmills (Doubleday, Spring '08) and The Day I Killed James (Knopf, Summer '08).

Photograph by Marcy Robinson

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