The Black Dog
The car slammed on its breaks and avoided hitting me by inches. I smiled distractedly at the motorist who was hovering between anger and relief. Hysteria won out, and he let out a slew of oaths that would have made a sailor take notes. I continued across the street my attention never straying from its target.
The black dog, tail and ears down, was still slinking around the garbage cans on the side of Hartman’s Grocery Store. The canine was of mixed ancestry heavy on the Labrador. It was agony personified. Dante himself was not as tortured as this animal. I put out my hand as a friendly gesture and spoke to him in soft encouraging tones. Warily, he started to move toward me.
“What are you doing?” A voice pierced through the tentative truce and shattered it. The dog retreated behind the mound of refuge.
“Blazes, Dave.” I snapped at my brother. It was amazing how a couple of harsh words could transform a Marine into the kid brother I knew some ten-odd summers ago. “ Now I might not see the tags.” My failure at retrieving the animal plus the onslaught of sleet quickly dampened my usually sunny disposition.
“What tags?” The hurt look melted into confusion.
“The dog’s tags.” I sighed looking at the dog peeking from around a garbage can. I ran a hand through my hair a sure sign of exasperation. The ice was turning my ponytail into a snarled mess.
“I haven’t lost my tags – see?” He produced his tags from under his uniform with a flourish.
“Not service tags. I am trying to see if the dog’s collar has tags.” I pointed to the dejected animal.
“What dog?” Dave’s face was a mix of sympathy and apprehension. I knew that look well. My mother offered it to me the day I tried to explain how a cat helped me get out of a tree. The tabby saw me up in a tree unable to get down. If a cat could have sighed it would have done so. Are you really that stupid? The question was clearly seen in the eyes of the cat. It climbed up and nudged me with its head. I understood and followed it down. The feline disappeared as it touched the ground. Only two others – the psychiatrist I was forced to visit soon afterward and my brother, had mirrored the strange look my mother had when I told her.
I offered no comment as we retrieved the few needed items from Hartman’s. I was able to free myself from Dave when he met up with an old buddy.
He agreed to take the groceries back to the apartment where my husband, Mike, impatiently waited for dinner’s ingredients.
I quickly went back to the garbage cans. The dog was still there moving silently around. He came to me without hesitation. His wet nose sniffed my hand. I noticed that the recent sleet had left everything covered in ice – everything but the dog. The cloud cover had broken, allowing a very fat moon to illuminate the grey surroundings. I petted the animal and noticed the absence of warmth from the downcast canine. He also lacked a shadow.
“You are not of this world, are you boy?” I whispered in awe rather than fear. The dog whined a reply. I looked into eyes that reflected the nocturnal sky.
Do not be sad. The time is right for her journey. I will watch over both of you. They seemed to say. He nuzzled once more, licked my hand, and disappeared.
The next day was Christmas. I was enjoying having my whole family around me. The day was dotted with fantastic smells, luscious food, laughter, and presents. My mother held her grandchild and reminisced about the time when she held me in similar fashion. We laughed over the little anecdotes she told about my childhood.
It came time for everyone to go. I waved goodbye along side of my husband. The warm Christmas-cookie feeling I had inside of me erupted into devastating grief as their car turned the corner. Mike stared at me dumbfounded.
“Honey, what is wrong?” He asked as he pulled me into the comfort of his arms.
“I am never going to see her again.” I managed to get out between sobs. My husband’s incredulous look is still burned into my mind. While my mother was not in the best of health, there had been no indication that she was dangerously sick.
On the twenty-ninth of December, the phone rang. It sounded hollow and vile. Although I was sitting next to it, I did not want to answer it. At Mike’s insistence, I picked up the receiver.
“Bonnie…” My dad’s voice sounded old and far away.
“I know.” I whispered. “Mom is dead, isn’t she?” I did not wait for the expected response. I quickly handed the phone to my husband and ran to my room. The selfish little girl inside of me cried. She wanted her mommy back. NOW.
The tears gave way to wonderment when her perfume permeated the room. I felt a kiss on my cheek as an unseen tongue licked my hand.
We are going home.
Their joy warmed me and my grief became wonderment as I thought of the journey she was about to take.
Now every time someone I love is about to die, the dog appears to console me. Although I grieve over the death, I never forget to thank the black dog for guiding my loved one through the veil.
Last edited by Branbeith
on 09 Oct 2004, 22:52, edited 1 time in total.