Jason Miller

A First Look at Red Dog

Sep. 3, 2015

Little Egypt. The Shawnee. A place called Simpson Barrens. As I tear through tangled berms of yellow rocket and rape mustard on my way up the hill, I can feel them on my heels. The killers. A pair of them. My heart is rattling like a jazz drum and my mouth is full of blood. I’m not in full control of my legs, and they get out from under me. Funny how that can happen. Less funny if you fall.

I fall. I try to hug the world, but the world doesn’t want my hugs. Instead, it tips me asshole over teakettle and backward I tumble, through the mosquito stabs of the pitch-pine needles and finally, painfully, into the toothy grin of a sandstone brace. I’m imagining what Anci would say when the cell purrs in my pocket.

Once. Twice. Silent.

Maybe he’s given up or maybe the signal’s dropped out again. I’m not sure. I’m not sure it matters. It won’t be long now. They’re in the rocket, in the rape mustard, shredding the flowers, coming on fast. There’s blood on my hands. In my mouth. I spit gobs of it against the trunk of a pignut hickory, the deep rivulets of the bark.

It won’t be long now, I think again, and in that same instant there issues forth a wild-animal cry and a crash as the high grass bows down as though in reverence or fear at their approach.

The killers.

The dogs.

My death.