By Jael Strong
They put me in the car almost immediately after telling me that my dog had been shot and they didn’t know by whom. Like so much luggage, they opened the door for me and nearly tossed me into the back seat. “Where is he?” I asked just before the door closed on me, but either through ignorance of the question or purposeful oversight, I received no response.
Traffic was heavy that day so the journey from campus to home was rather long and dirty. I say dirty because the blizzard had ended four days earlier and the only reminders of the storm were the filthy piles of wet snow that lined the road ways. My father drove carefully close to the vehicles in front of him, in a hurry to end this silent ride. My mother occasionally whistled.
The phones had been down. In fact, our dorm had been operating on a generator. So, I forgave them for not telling me earlier about Bomber. But when they told me, three minutes after finding me on campus, I wasn’t even sitting down, and that seemed standard protocol for this sort of news. In response, I laughed hysterically, a maniacal laugh that echoed down the halls until buddies and acquaintances came from all directions to see the source of the howling. By the time the crowd had assembled, they only could catch a glimpse of me being carted away in the old wagon.
“Say again, when did you find him?” I asked as we inched along.
“The morning after the snow had died,” my mother responded, pursing her lips at her poor choice of words.
“Where is he, then?”
My father growled, “We buried him, Harold.”
“Oh.” I contemplated the facts.
“But your father put up a nice sign for him. He gave him a very nice burial. He surely won’t be drudged up and carried off. You can be sure of that.” She whistled briefly after finishing her sentence.
“There’s a comfort,” I said softly. “Where was he then when you found him?”
My father, who I expected would reply, said nothing. My mother volunteered, “Not far from the house. Just a little ways out, on the edge of the woods.”
“Didn’t you hear a shot?”
“You know, it isn’t unusual to hear some shooting around the place. We must not have noted it.”
“In the middle of a blizzard?”
“That is strange, I suppose. He was an old dog, Harold. He had a long life. And we don’t think he suffered.”
“How did you find him? How could you see him under the snowfall?” My hands were shaking now.
“You don’t want to know, Harold,” my mother attempted to assuage me.
“Yes, I do. I do want to know.”
“We could see a black leg protruding out of the drift. Then we knew. There, now you know too.” She ended her sentence quickly and we sat in silence.
The rest of the ride was truly silent. The noise of the slush under the tires didn’t even register in my ears. The pieces were coming together but the image was blurry. I could see my father clearly though, his red jacket on and his rifle in hand. Maybe he heard a noise and it spooked him, so he shot. Or maybe out of some horrible desire to do the right thing, he shot Bomber in an effort to end his life before suffering set in. Whatever reason he had, I knew the horrible truth, my father had shot Bomber. As that truth settled into my bones, my laughter returned, louder and stronger than ever. My mother whistled, but my father only watched me in the rearview mirror, a certain fear creeping into his eyes.