Chapter Three

3.1K 113 7

We stand over Ranger, he's crumpled on the sidewalk just outside the garage. His eyes are wide-open, his mouth also, partially. His bloody teeth are bared in a snarl frozen by death. His large pink tongue hangs grotesquely out of his mouth. A large, darkening pool of blood has oozed from his muzzle, I watch it spread across the sidewalk.

It's not the first time I've seen something dead, but this portrait of Ranger's unyeilding loyalty affects me in an unsuspected way.  It's a selfless love, whether deserved or not. There is something vaguely familiar about it. I clear my throat.

"Lung shot," Jake says. I accept the assessment, I guess it makes sense. I can't tell if he's upset, other than angry. He's hard to read.

There are a series of spatters on the concrete leading up to where Ranger fell. Blood expelled from the dog as he coughed, desperately trying to clear the blood from his lungs. They look like Rorschachs. I don't see butterflies or birds, or anything pleasant. I see death, raw and painful, I see the last moments of a living thing.

"At least he went down fighting," Jake adds. I snap out of my daze and pull my hands out of my pockets.

Ranger is a big dog, a yellow lab. Like our dog, except she's black, half the size and well, not lying in a pool of her own blood.

It's awkward carrying him to the backyard, not only is he heavy and bloody, but sickeningly limp. We place him on the grass and Jake fetches a pair of shovels. We dig in silence for a while until Jake starts swearing up and down about the god awful clay that lies just inches below the thin layer of top soil the builders threw down when they put up the neighbourhood. He leaves again and returns with a pick ax, two beers and a pair of gloves. I'm a bit embarrassed thinking they are to protect my soft hands, I am relieved when he pulls them on and attacks the grave with renewed purpose.

We take turns swinging the pick, while the other takes a break and drinks. We don't talk much, but the silence isn't awkward, there is a job to do and idle chatter has no place. He disappears again while I'm excavating his yard and returns with some kind of dried sausage.

"Try this."

I take a bite. It's salty and smokey and unquestionably delicious. "It's really good."

"Venison and goose." I must look shocked because he adds. "It's perfectly safe. Smoked it myself."

It takes a bit of work, but soon enough we have a suitable grave dug. We place Ranger in the hole, Jake tosses an empty beer can in and follows that with shovels full of clumpy clay. Filling the hole goes much faster in no time we have a mound of dirt at our feet.

We stare at it for a while. I try desperately to think of something appropriate to say, but nothing comes to mind. Instead my mind wanders and I find I'm thinking about cashing out my stocks.

"Well," Jakes says. "That's that." He adds after a pause. "Was a damn good dog though."

I nod my silent agreement.

He invites me back into the garage for more sausage and more beer. Not sure I can handle much more of either. The walls in the garage are plastered with posters, there are two themes - hunting and babes. Some posters feature both.

Next to the word mancave in the dictionary there is a picture of this garage, I'm sure of it.

Half the garage is taken up by his truck. I immediately recognize it, I've seen it driving through the area many times. It's loud and obnoxious, but it suits him. Turns out my initial impression of the truck's driver was spot on. Jake is exactly the guy I pictured behind those tinted windows.

Being overly judgemental is one of my fatal flaws. Surprisingly though, the guy isn't as much of an ass as I thought. His second impression is much better than mine.

PrepperRead this story for FREE!