Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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Flash Fiction
485 words
SHJ Issue 1
Spring 2010

Dog Eat Dog

Leslie What

The terriers were a barking alarm clock that wouldn’t shut off. Another Saturday ruined.

“Sorry,” Letty said.

“Effen dogs,” Joshua said.

“It’s just temporary,” Letty said.

“Temporary,” said Joshua. “Right.”

They worked erratic shifts as EMTs, were lucky for one weekend together a month.

Outside Letty found a snarling tumbleweed of blood and foam: Bonkers and Pucci, her mom and dad’s Jack Russells, a love/hate relationship in fur. Her parents were back together again (nothing like break-up sex, her father had confided), but their new apartment enforced a No Pets policy. Letty was stuck “babysitting” until they worked things out.

Pucci, her father’s dog, didn’t respect boundaries. He’d burrowed under the kennel fence into Bonkers’ territory. His teeth tore at her neck.

Letty grabbed the hose. She turned on the faucet, walked firefighter-straight into the flames.

Pucci’s jaw slackened. He traded enemies, lunged toward the water, snapped at the nozzle and pistol with his teeth. Letty jerked her hand, too slow to avoid the bite. The water made the bleeding look worse.

“Not cool.” Joshua joined her on the lawn.

Pucci’s spotted fur was mangy as an old jackal. It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission, her father liked to say.

Bonkers face was rouged by bloody whiskers. Forgive and forget, was her mother’s line.

The dogs chased the water stream in parallel play and sprang like pronghorns, attacking the spray. Pucci remembered his jealousy, abandoned the water. He sank his bite into Bonkers’s foreleg. She limped away, licked her wounds. Pucci claimed the hose and chewed through the rubber.

“They’re making a mess of our lives,” Joshua said.

“I can fix it,” Letty said. She knew about hoses and fittings. Knew when plumber’s tape was enough, or when the female fitting needed a clean cut and a new male part, knew when the damages were too great and you had to chuck the whole thing. “I’ll take care of this,” she said. Years of therapy and she still felt responsible for her parents’ misery.

“That dog needs to be fixed.” Joshua twisted off the faucet. “Did you call terrier rescue?” he said.

She couldn’t send the dogs to foster care. Joshua wouldn’t ask if he’d ever been sent away. Even if your parents hit you, it’s clear they love you. Strangers hit, too, without love.

Pucci and Bonkers wiped their muzzles in muddy water. A distant ambulance siren set them howling.

“Bastards,” Joshua said. “It’s me or those dogs.”

“They’ll work it out,” she said, but he had already disappeared into the house.

Her mother swore they were a happy couple until Letty was born. In theory, Letty knew she wasn’t to blame. Who to believe? A therapist, or her mother?

It felt like she’d been given one chance to make things up to them. She stared after Joshua. Sometimes she wished he’d strike her instead of letting his anger burn.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury