By: Ed Nichols
I have a strange dog. She can talk when she wants to. Sometimes she says, “E Pluribus Unum” when we are walking. I ask her what is she saying. She doesn’t answer. She usually turns her head so I can’t see her eyes.
I got her at the local animal shelter. She has been with me three years. She likes to bark at other dogs, and humans too. I think she sort of knows what she is saying. She is telling me she is one out of the many left behind at the animal shelter.
On some cold nights, standing beside the fireplace she looks at me as if she wants to say something else, something besides E Pluribus Unum. She never does. She just tuns her head and stares at the fireplace.
I was there in North Africa with Patton. I was the driver for our Sherman tank. We were hit hard on the third day and I was the only one to survive. I don’t know how I got out. The others burned up inside the tank as I lay on the ground. I still hear them screaming. A German soldier came walking by, saw me and shot me in the neck and walked away. I thought I died. Maybe I did die. Sometimes blue-black clouds look like the smoke coming out of my tank. I didn’t die. Last night I held my first Great Grandchild.
My daddy signed the lunatic form and the sheriff took my mother to the insane asylum in Milledgeville. I wanted to ride but they said I was too young. I told all of them my mother was no lunatic, she just gets upset at some things. A strange rain storm hit us that afternoon soon as the sheriff drove away. Lightning struck a tall pine tree near the barn. Run down to the ground, up in the barn and killed Amos, my daddy’s favorite mule. Scared even my daddy. I figured that was punishment for what he’d done.
Two weeks later we drove down there to visit her. When he told her about Amos getting hit by lightning she smiled. Surprised me. She waved her arms high over her head, and mumbled some words I’d never heard before. Then she closed her mouth. Didn’t open it again while we was there.
In the spring they called from the insane asylum. She had died. Said she was walking outside to the dining room when a big lightning bolt hit and killed five of the lunatics. We buried her in the family plot a mile from our house. Sometimes, when a big rain storm comes I’ll walk over to her grave and stand there for a while.
Things are not as bad as some say. Russians and Chinese are coming to get us some say. Life is strange. You never know what is coming next year, or even next week. Or, Lord help, tomorrow. When will it end? That’s a big question.
The ants want to know, the squirrels want to know, my dog would like to know. I would surely want to know. What is that new sound far away—maybe a bomb, or a meteorite? Or my imagination?
It could be any day. Like the farmer who got tangled up in his hay baler and strangled to death. The trout fisherman stepping into a deep river hole and his waders filling up. An old woman crossing a busy street. Are there signs? Do some know the date of their demise? Lots of questions. No answers yet!
Ed Nichols lives on Lake Oconee, Georgia. He is a journalism graduate from the University of Georgia, and is an award-winning writer from Southeastern Writer’s Association. He has had many short stories published, online and in print. In 2020 he decided to start publishing his poems. He is currently working on a collection of his southern short stories.