by Jane Doe
The closer I came to going back to school for my freshman year, the less I wanted to think about stud service, puppies and pregnancies for anyone. I found the whole subject distasteful and wondered how I could have spent so many hours of my sweet life wishing for something I didn't have. Mother was right. I should be glad I didn't have to mess with menstruation. I decided that if my period wouldn't start, then I didn't want it ever to come. I'd dedicate myself to being a child forever, if that's what my body wanted.
I got out my old doll, astounded that I had so tenderly packed away such a cracked, dirty, tattered relic of my childish days. Ashamed that my neglect had reduced this orphan to such an outcast, I washed her face with the tiniest amount of water on the corner of a washcloth. I tried to comb her hair, but it stayed as matted as ever. To redeem myself, I offered to make her a long white dress with a matching bonnet to cover her lost curls. Mother seemed more than shocked when she saw my latest project, so I took some satisfaction that my pleasure upset her.
I felt better the minute I heard the car fading into the distance on it's way to church without me. I stretched out on the wrinkled sheets absorbing the silence of the empty house. I liked the house best when it was empty. I liked me best when I was empty. I wished that I could attain a state of being like rooms when every removable object is out like just before moving in or when doing spring house-cleaning. All the walls assume their fundamental completeness. I would be able to put my feet on the floor with my head pushing against the ceiling until small cracks appear. Nothing hidden, no pretending. No hard edges softened artificially with foreign existences. Able to let the sunlight sweep out all the corners where doubts lie and breed. Dressers and dressing table drawers, multiplied the number of corners by 38, filling the warming room with endless possibilities for the begetting of decay.
I got out of bed, lifted my short baby-doll nighty over my head to drop it in a heap, adding to the clutter of the unmade bed that I wished stayed Saturday clean all week. Naked, I sat in the sun living in the east window. I smelled the gritty blackness of the metal screen while staring at the assortment of bugs which had died there in the nights trying to get to the light of my reading lamp.
As my glance wandered over the green and less green countryside, I was relieved to see the virility and vigor of the growing greenness was fading from the trees and fields. The cutover fields were so tranquil. So used and ready at the same time. Lately, the abundance of verdure in leaves, weeds, grains and crops had irritated me. The shameless reproduction of the plants, the filling fruits alarmed me. It was reassuring to know that there was some force, powerful enough to control the growing, the greening the always making more than necessary so air and sunlight could creep into the corners of the out of doors, also. The trees were wearing the middle aged green of acceptance of the end. A car was driving down the field road over by the ditch between our farm and Badecher's.
No one drove cars down that rutted farm lane in the daytime. Occasionally couples would park there at night, feeling protected by the high, wild hedgerow growth. I never wanted to be there as it felt to me the branches had eyes on their leaves and even in the dark, they rustled against one another to get a better view of the activities in the car's murky depths.
Still lost in daydreams, I watched the rooster tail of dust pointing to the speeding car, and then when the car stopped, letting the dust gobble it up. That so many bits of minuscule dust could block from my sight something as big and solid as a car. Amazing, the contradictions in the world.
Two men got out of the car. One was carrying a gunny sack in his arms. The other had a gun. I sat up, squinting through a torn place in the screening to see the details. There were none. The way their bodies hugged the car, told me they were planning an act that wasn't to be seen. I shrank behind the limp, ruffled curtain of my disappointments. I was right. The men were already feeling guilty. The one held the gun so it looked like he had a fat leg. The other dropped the sack on the ground as if it didn't belong to him. The man with the gun pointed to a stump some yards away. The younger man picked up the sack, carried it over and laid it on the stump. It rolled off. He bent over, nearly unbalancing himself, to lift it back in place. Satisfied that it would stay, he ran back to the car. I saw him put his hands to his head and turn away. The older man, raised the gun, took aim. The sunlight made a dagger of light on the barrel, the man moved and a shot rang out. Both men dropped to the ground. For a long time I couldn't see them. I could see a dark spot forming on the gunny sack. The trunk lid of the car was open. Then the older man laid down the gun to take out a spade.
Down in the leafy gully below the hedges he began to dig. I didn't see the younger man anymore. The older man went to the stump, picked up the bag by the corner, held it away from his legs as he carried it to the hole. He shoveled the dirt back in place, kicked around the leaves and put the shovel in the trunk and closed it. He walked once more to the stump, bent over it, then kicked dust up all around it. Golden in the sunlight, the dust hung there like a little cloud floating above the earth.
He went around the car to the side I couldn't see. Then he came back and both doors opened. They got in, tried to start the engine but it wouldn't go. During this time I had been asking myself what they were doing. Big or little it had to be a wrong. I preferred that since they had done it they leave. I was scared that if the car didn't start, they might come to our house to ask for help to get it going. I decided to hide and not answer. I hoped the ruckus the 10 Chihuahuas would raise would frighten them away. The engine coughed and caught. In reverse they roared out the lane, the dust pushing them away with its pointed nose.
I considered crying. I guessed that the men had come here on a Sunday morning when they thought everyone would be in church to put a dog "out of its misery" as it is gently expressed to children. I imagined the younger man to be the owner of the dog, so he had to have the other man shoot it and bury it. In stirring up sympathy for the dead dog, I wondered if it had been sick or old, or if they just didn't want it anymore.
I recalled how noble I felt the day the vet said Rosita's legs were healing. Dad had hit her with the car one tire crushing both back legs. We had rushed her to the local famers' vet. He took one look at her one and half pounds of mangled Chihuahua, said she'd never live through the operation and the setting of her legs. The wisest action was to let him put her to sleep. Mother refused. Using her intuition, or her desire not to be cheated out of two hundred dollars, she felt we could pull her through without a cast or setting the bones. Mother or I stayed with her day and night the first week. I slept with my hand in her basket so she wouldn't whimper in the night. She was so pathetic those weeks as she dragged her useless back legs around behind her. We kept her alive and functioning with castor oil in hamburger, but I often wondered if the kindest advice was the old vet's suggestion. But now she ran with the other dogs, a little stiffly, yes, but she was alive with a joy and gratefulness for humans that is not natural for Chihuahuas.
I continued my sorrowful feelings for the dead dog lying there under the rotten leaves and his young master who had to put his friend in a sack on the stump, who had to watch and hear the shot. No wonder I didn't see him while the other man buried it. The poor guy was probably collapsed in tears and grief.
All my morbid thoughts made me eager to get out of the hollowness of the house into the warm sunshine. I dressed, made a peanut butter-mayonnaise sandwich with crisp lettuce on two slices of soft white bread and went out to the kennel to let out Cheech, my favorite dog.
I sat in the grass, eating my sandwich as if each bite was the last I would ever have. I was watching Cheech race between me and each of her newest interests. I was very glad I was alive. I was glad Cheech was alive. I encouraged tears to roll down my cheeks for the death of the nameless dog. I held Cheech's small, wiggling, furry body while she licked the salt streaks from my face. Holding on to just a dog was better than having nothing at all to touch.
My folks, came home, not too surprised at my speedy recovery, and mother got dinner while I went out to clean the dog pens. Somehow, in my dreamingness, I hadn't seen mother's note taped on the cabinet, saying in effect, if you can't worship, work. I hoped Dave would come in the afternoon, so I wanted to be sure to have all the pen work done so he didn't catch me out there scooping puppy poop.
During dinner, I told mother and dad what I had seen that morning. Once their eyes met to ask a question I hadn't. They both seemed rather tense and not very sympathetic about the dog or its master. You never can tell with parents, I thought, when they'll be hard hearted as a chunk of coal or taking something all the wrong way.
As I started upstairs to change into the dress Dave liked so much, I heard mother ask dad, "Should we call the sheriff?".
"No, we are staying out of this!" he whispered harshly, listening to hear if my steps were still going up the stairs.
I didn't have a chance to tell Dave about the incident as when he came he was full of his own talk. He was worried that the rain was increasing the spread of black soot in the corn, his mother was advertising for renters for the tenant house and at dinner the wife of his oldest brother announced that she was expecting a baby at Christmas time.
We agreed to drive to Dave's to walk through the corn field do determine how much damage there was. When we counted the infected rows, it was bad enough, but not as disastrous as it had appeared to Dave alone in his anxiety.
"See how much I need you." he whispered as he held me, circled by rows of corns no longer growing higher, but filling in the sheaths below the dark, silky hairs. The leaves rustled in the afternoon's warm breeze, repeating the new words they had learned "need you."
We had stayed out longer than we had intended so Dave just drove up to the house, I jumped out of the car and ran in the house hoping to say I was home a few minutes before I really was. Mother and dad were sitting at the table over the remains of supper. I was indeed late. I knew what was coming. One of those little talks about my not minding my parents.
Dad got up and went outdoors. He was letting mother alone to drop the bomb on me about being late. I sat down, casually assembling the left-over roast beef on my bread, determined to give mother the impression that I had enjoyed my time with Dave, and nothing she could gripe about could touch those shining hours.
"Jane, I want you to know something before you hear it from anyone else. Did you tell Dave what you saw this morning?"
She looked as if she didn't believe me and yet, couldn't fathom why I should lie about that. "You weren't the only one who saw what those men did. Shirley's mother was home with Freddy who has the summer flu. Mrs. Badecher, too, wondered what was in the sack. She called the sheriff. This afternoon deputies were all over the place. I was glad you were gone so you didn't have to answer all their questions. They wanted very badly to find someone who had seen the license number of the car. Did you?"
"How could I read a license number from my upstairs window? I don't have SupDorothyn's x-ray vision." Irritated with mother's careful beating around the bush, I mashed my sandwich into a gooey mess with impatient fingers as I munched.
"What was so terrible? Was it someone else's dog they shot?" I asked mother.
"It wasn't a dog in that sack. It was a baby boy – only about twelve hours old."
Copyright © the Estate of Jane Doe 2010