Marck L. Beggs

Stray

By the time I remembered the dog in the trunk, the pores of the leather seats were suffused with musty rot. As the air conditioner coughed into gear, the fate of the car—unlike the 33-gallon Hefty bag enveloping the corpse—was firmly sealed.

Helen turned to lock the door of her apartment and, in a split second, I drove off, leaving behind the sudden gleam of her hair as she shifted from shadow to sunlight. I didn’t consider how she was going to get to her job downtown; I didn’t think about how I was going to rationalize any of this. My grey matter was focused on trying to remember the route to the Bauxite gravel pits, interrupted by fits of dry heaves as I fought off the smell.

When you hit a dog—like you were trained to by a driving instructor to avoid swerving—it’s the yelp, more than the initial thud, that’s so irritating. But I hit this lab clean and hard, so he went down without so much as a whine. Normally, I would have just blown over and past this one, but I thought about Helen complaining that only a heartless bastard would hit a dog and not at least bury it proper.

Helen loved dogs, a connection I never could make with her. She would sit for hours transfixed on the Eukanuba or American Kennel Club dog shows, ooh!ing and ah!ing over the poodles, flat-coated retrievers, Pharaoh hounds, and her favorite, the Bouvier des Flandres, a big, scruffy farm dog from Belgium. I feigned interest because I knew these things loosened her up, but the reality is that at the end of the day, they are all the same: crapping, barking, and scratching for attention.

I had intended to show her this chocolate lab and then drive us all out to the woods and give it a real ceremony, but when I got to her apartment, she was distraught that her piece-of-shit Daewoo had broken down in the 104-degree heat and now she didn’t even know how she would get to work in the morning. I promised her a ride to work and it didn’t even cross her mind that I didn’t own a car, but I had a story all worked out to explain my sudden gain in mobility, how I had borrowed from a friend (rather than rolled it out from a random octogenarian’s garage the night before). Fortunately, the conversation never got that far. Between her tears and pink wine, she grew very amorous, and once her bra dropped off, I didn’t give the dog or the car a second thought.

***

The beauty of an old water-filled quarry is in the paradox. You stare down into crystalline water—so clear it reminds you of a freshly scrubbed window—but you cannot see the bottom. And if you are like me, you know what is down there, and you do not want anyone to see it. If they ever do find this car, the owner won’t know how it got there, nor will he be able to explain the canine skeleton in the trunk. It won’t be a good day for anyone involved.

But at least I won’t have to watch Helen cry over a dead dog, and with her temper, she won’t miss me for long. The dog never knew what hit him.

As soon as I hitch a ride to Biloxi, I can make a quick buck hustling up smaller dogs in the RV park while the owners drink the night away in the casinos. The boys up in Bogalusa and Hattiesburg pay out a fine disbursement for bait to train their Bull Terriers and Rottweilers. It’s a long, mean road ahead of me, but it’s fine. Everything is just fine.