The End of the Town Dog
By: Michael Gigandet
No one agreed if the dog apprehended his destruction or if he “never seen it comin’” like old man Forrest said. The old man had the best view from his bench outside the courthouse where he spent his days whittling on a stick of pine. “Capt’n just froze up.” The old man called the dog Captain, but then he called anyone captain if he didn’t know their name. “Always said bound to happen sooner or later.”
It was the prettiest stray dog anyone had ever seen, black with white patches, a collie maybe with traces of beagle and spaniel. One of his eyes was black and the other an ice-like sliver of blue like you would see in a glass marble. His tail was always wagging which the townspeople said was a sign of the dog’s friendliness.
Mrs. Tucker, the widow lady who made blackberry preserves from the berries the children sold to her in the summers, opened her garden gate every morning so the dog could visit and see her flowers. “Isn’t he the most precious thing?” she would ask her neighbor Mrs. Clem over the fence which separated their yards. The dog, who she called Toby, never visited Mrs. Clem’s yard.
The dog had his daily stops. At the Fine and Dandy Restaurant he was known as Chief. School children threw a ball to him during recess, factory workers fed him lunch scraps, and Al the butcher gave him meaty bones. Late afternoon, the dog curled up on the porch of Mrs. Shoemaker’s house just off the square to nap. She called him Petey. He usually spent his nights in an abandoned stable out back of the fan factory where he had molded a place in the straw.
The dog was subject to epileptic fits. Horns, bells and whistles paralyzed him. When the factory horn signaled the end of a shift, the dog would stiffen and remain immobile until the sound finished reverberating off brick walls and between buildings. Car horns, the school’s buzzer-like bell announcing the change of classes, even a door bell caused the dog to stiffen and stand as if he was trying to remember something, something to puzzle out just beyond the bounds of recollection.
People got accustomed to seeing the dog standing still as a statue and left him alone until he recovered and resumed his wanderings. Soon, people began avoiding these unnecessary sounds. The factory stopped its horn, and the school silenced its buzzer.
One day, the tractor trailer rig delivering frozen food to the Piggly Wiggly store blew into town. The usual driver was sick that day, and his substitute was driving this route for the first time.
As the truck sped down Main Street, the dog walked into the road. The driver honked, and the dog froze in place. Unable to swerve because of the cars and pedestrians and unable to stop in time, the truck ran over the dog.
Old man Forrest buried the dog in the grassy park around the public square with a white, wooden crucifix. They could not agree on a name so they painted “With Jesus” on the cross. Some people said it was sacrilegious to bury a dog beneath a cross. Others said the dog should not be buried in an area near the monuments to the county’s war dead. Some people quit talking to each other. Several days later some high school kids stole the cross.
After the dog died, the town people never fed another stray dog. Instead, they shooed stray dogs on their way whenever one turned up. The factory resumed using its horn, the school its buzzer. Some people like old man Forrest and Mrs. Tucker commented about how noisy things were.
Michael Gigandet is a lawyer living on a farm in middle Tennessee. He has been published by the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Reedsy, Spelk Fiction, OrangeBlushZine, Transfigured and Potato Soup Journal. He has published stories in collections by Palm Sized Press, Pure Slush and Down In The Dirt.