Saturday, August 23, 2008

They shoot dogs. (Don't they?) Guest short story by e.a. Monroe.




I was nine when the sheriff shot the Collie dog dead.

School was over for the day. The school buses and kids had all left and gone home, except for me. I was standing on the steps of the west portico waiting for my mother to pick me up.

She was late. Normally, she didn’t pick me up after school. I always rode my bike home. I don’t even remember what the reason was, only that I had to wait for her.

I was loitering at the west end of the school building and the sun was hot when I saw the collie and the sheriff in his Western gear tromping toward the stray dog. The sheriff looked one of those cowboys on television. He wore a Colt holstered on his hip, a red bandana tied around his neck and a ten-gallon hat mashed down on his head.

He must’ve come for the dog, summoned by a teacher to remove the collie from the school grounds. I never wondered which teacher, only that the collie must’ve hung around waiting for one of the kids.

But, the kids had all left and my mom was late picking me up from school. I never liked waiting much.

Our school was made from huge granite blocks quarried from the mountains that cracked through the earth along the north and curled around our town like the protective spines of some slumbering dragon. The beast guarded the treasure chest stashed on Mount Baldy. At least, that was my grandpa’s story.

The entrances of the school were inset "pigeon holes" wrapped in granite blocks and it was inside the niche of the lair that I stood spying on the sheriff trying to coax the wary collie to come to him.

But, the collie wouldn’t come. Instead, the dog crawled beneath one of the teacher’s parked cars and tried to hide.

The sheriff got down on his hands and knees in the gravel and dirt. I peeked a little further around the edge of the granite blocks and watched. After more coaxing from the sheriff, the collie still refused to crawl out from beneath the parked car.

That was when the sheriff leaned back on his boot heels and looked around. I didn’t think he was looking out for bad guys — just kids, I suspected, or teachers — anyone who might see what he was doing. He didn’t see me and even so I was just an insignificant kid and not worth his bother to notice.

The sheriff was careful about looking around and taking his time, and after deciding the coast was clear, he leaned back down in the gravel and dirt and looked at the collie hiding beneath the car.

He pulled his Colt from his holster and shot the collie. A single shot. Then stillness as blood pooled in the dirt beneath the dog’s head.

I fell back into the inside niche and hid in the shadows for everything I was worth. Terrified. He might come for me. Shoot me in the head like a collie dog for what I had witnessed.

That was when my mom drove up and parked in a vacant slot where all the teachers parked, a few spaces down from the parked car and the sheriff and the dog he had killed.

I dashed down the porch steps, my legs pumping as hard as my heart. I yanked open the passenger door and dove into the safety of my mom’s old blue and white Plymouth. I don’t know what she thought or if she even noticed.

I sat rigid in the car seat, unable to speak much less breathe and I wanted to scream at her for being late. Why was she late? She never picked me up after school. I don’t even remember why she had decided to change the routine for that one particular day that nailed its memory into my head forever.

“What’s the matter?” she said.

“Nothing.” I stared straight ahead. I didn’t want to look at the sheriff who was tromping over to my mom’s car.

“Sorry, I’m late,” she said.

15 comments:

Donnetta Lee said...

I remember this story. Excellent as is usual for EA. Things leave impressions on us that we typically never share with others. Things that happen seemingly by happenstance. Adds to the makeup of what we become. The fiber that makes us who we are. Enjoyed it much.
Donnetta

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Donnetta,
Yeah. The story has a layer or two in it, doesn't it.

Charles Gramlich said...

A powerful piece. I can see how that would be a profoundly influential experience.

ivan@creativewrirtintg.ca said...

In the good, American declaritive sentence tradition.

Anonymous said...

somewhat reflective of what society does with all manner of strays and lost souls...a touching account of one's inadvertent and unavoidable visit to the"darker side"of life...if you give this man a ride.........

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Anonymous: T?

Exactly.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Donnetta,

I was just thinking of a story (novel?) of yours of which I have been privileged to peruse a chapter or two, the one about the bones. Both you and Liz write so well.

ea monroe said...

Ivan, I like what you did, especially the "pigeon holes" -- I never knew quite what to call those inset porches where we used to shelter from the North wind. I guess we were a bunch of pigeons flying into the coop for a day of school! That's a great imagery. Thanks much. ;-)

I can't wait for Donnetta to finish her "bone" book! ~Liz

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Thnx Liz.

I can't wait for Donnetta to finish that bone book either...Great beginiing.

benjibopper said...

This is great, kind of a more southern Alistair MacLeod.

Also reminds (tangentically) of the small town cops who shot the mayor's dog somewhere in the US. Anyone here that crazy story? Stormed the mayor's house and shot his dog. Guy wants an inquiry. Confidential to hick-town mayor: You're in charge, Man!

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Thanks, Benji.

Oklahoma is not Georgia, but there are cracker cops.

Liz's stories aren't always so existential. There is, in some of them (again?) innocence to experience. But happy, nostalgic stories.
It is my opinion, that in her own Oklahoma way, she can outdo Alistair MacLeod.

I was so taken with one of the happier stories that I just have to reproduce it below. She has the copyright, but she can say she was published by Island Grove Press, my hip-pocket publishing company that I'd set up for my students at Seneca College, Toronto.

"The Crush"--A story by E.A. Monroe

When I went to spend the summer of ’66 with my best friend and walked into her bedroom, she jumped up and down and said, “I’m in love!”
Photos clipped from the latest teen magazines of all her favorite guys — John, Paul, George, Ringo, and a new group I had never heard of, Paul Revere and the Raiders — plastered the whitewashed bedroom walls.
“The Raiders are the coolest guys on Planet Earth — next to the Beatles, of course! Fang is absolutely the cutest! I adore him!”
The contagion of my best friend’s excitement swept over me. Forget the Man from Uncle. Forget Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuriyakin. They were kid’s stuff, history .Curious, I stared at the faces, my first encounter with an collage of guy's pictures cut from magazines, taped and tacked to my friend’s bedroom wall; she introduced me to the new guys — Drake Levin, Phil “Fang” Volk, Smitty Smith, Mark Lindsay and Paul Revere. “I’m in love with Fang! Oh, don’t you absolutely love Mark! Tell me you love him!” How could I not? One look into those soulful newsprint eyes left me gazing into a mirror. I was Mark Lindsay’s younger twin; surely his long lost, teenage girl soul mate! My friend and I cast aside dull ordinary her and dull ordinary me, and during the summer of ’66, she became Salty Smith and I donned the guise of Silky Revere.After I returned home, Salty and Silky kept in touch, writing adventurous letters in which we described our antics as Smitty Smith’s and Paul Revere’s kid sisters and those of our loves — as much as any small town, naive fifteen-year-olds could know about such things.We reinvented ourselves and the fantasies we spun from teenage imagination sustained me through the trenches of teenhood, family moves to new towns and new high schools, separations from childhood friends, graduation, and growing up. I look back upon those halcyon days of summer and the homemade, ice cream flavor of first love, innocence, and time spent with a dear friend who has remained true, despite separation as we each tread our life paths and the distance between the towns where she and I lived.
High school social activities sucked us into busy lives, and one day Salty Smith’s letters stopped arriving in the mailbox.
During the middle of my junior year, my family moved from our small Oklahoma town to a larger town and a larger high school than the smaller towns where we had always lived and the smaller schools that I had attended, where the kids were related to each other and most of the teachers had taught the parents, if not the grandparents of their students.
One hot July, during the drudgery of cleaning the garage, I boldly announced to my mom, “I am going to marry Mark Lindsay!”She laughed!I was crushed.But, the truly desperate never give up trying to meet their teenage heartthrobs! I had read how one could send a fan letter with a stamped, self-addressed envelope to a favorite celebrity. Okay, I could do that. Better yet, what if I sent an entire box of stationery and at least half of the envelopes stamped and addressed to me?Brilliant!
I bought a box of white stationery laced with a delicate edge. I wrote my adoring fan letter to Mark Lindsay, tucked the letter into the box of stationary and the stamped, self-addressed envelopes, and sent the package to an address I had found in a teen magazine.

As hard as it was, I went on with my life, until one day I received one of my return envelopes in the mailbox. I held the envelope to my nose and inhaled — California, sand, surf and a whiff of cologne, Sandalwood — the scent I imagined him wearing. I savored that envelope. I wanted to lick its sweetness. The letter had come from him; he had touched it! Mark Allen Lindsay! Wow!
I tore open the envelope, more excited than I could remember ever feeling — even more exciting than Christmas, birthdays, and the Fourth of July. A photo fell from the opened envelope. No letter; only a photo — a wallet-sized, black and white glossy autographed photo.I suppose that was my first disappointment, but I put his photo in my wallet and carried it everywhere. I lost count of the times I pulled out the photo and marvel at how wonderful and beautiful he was in the black and white glossy photo. Any day, I expected the arrival of another stamped, self-addressed envelope, a personal letter written on lacy white stationary and tucked inside.
The days slid into weeks, and the weeks disappeared into months.
My mom pressured me to date. I was in high school, but I was not interested in boys or dating. After all, I was in love and I was going to marry him! Whenever a boy called, I always said, “Sorry, I can’t,” or “I have to go to my Grandmother’s house this weekend.” My mom was furious when she discovered what I had done; mothers in small towns talk to other mothers.

Eventually, I dated; I even went on-and-off steady with a boy from my high school and I went to all the teen hops and movies. The feelings weren’t the same though, for I could never love anyone else as much as I already loved him. But, like youth and summer, love fades when the expected letters never arrive in the mailbox. Life drifts into tomorrow, and a teenage girl sets her gaze upon the horizon where the final year of high school and college looms. She grows up.One Saturday night, after cruising the Boulevard, I sat in the passenger’s seat of a car with my girl friends at the PowWow Drive-In. All the kids parked their cars and hung out at the PowWow, because eventually all the high school kids, and kids from nearby towns, who were cruising the Boulevard that night would make the rounds.Music crackled through buzzing speakers tucked beneath the PowWow’s tin awning that covered the parked cars — Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay. Otis Redding crooned the mood I felt that night as I watched the cars packed with teenagers circle the PowWow, and listened to boys and girls shouting to each other, their laughter raucous and carefree, car hops delivering orders, the slam of car doors, the blare of a car horn, wheels peeling out on gravel.
Sitting there, feeling the future rolling toward me upon a wave of departing summer, I knew I was never going to meet Mark Lindsay, much less marry him. I was a teenager headed toward graduation and college.
Somewhere, beyond the PowWow Drive-In, my future waited and my future wasn’t a black and white glossy photo that I carried around in my wallet.I don’t know why I did it. Maybe I needed the liberation. I took his photo from my wallet, pinched its edge between my fingers, and gazed at his face, an unchanging face captured in time.A warm breeze, smelling of cheeseburgers and limeade sodas and whistling the late-sixties music of the PowWow Drive-In, floated through the open car windows. I leaned my arm out the window, lifted his photo to the breeze, and opened my fingers. Mark Lindsay fluttered away upon a summer wind.
“Hey! Look! A photo of Mark Lindsay!” a girl screamed to her friends. Debby. I remember her name was Debby, one of the popular girls, and I remember the joyous rapture that brightened her face when she held up the black and white glossy photo of my long-lost soul mate.And I smiled.I have often wondered whatever became of the photo. Perhaps Debbie carried him around in her wallet, and from time to time, she took out the photo, looked at him, and remembered how she found the photograph blowing across the gravel beneath the awning of the PowWow Drive-In. Did she ever wonder where the photo had come from? Someday, I may ask her.On that sweet summer’s night, I let go and never looked back.

ea monroe said...

Ivan! Donnetta's gonna shoot me, but she's the best friend in "The Crush."

Yesterday, on the radio she said she heard an advertisement for a cruise ship on which Paul Revere and the Raiders are the featured musical entertainment.

We are both plotting on how to get on that boat! Hah! ~Liz

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

You and Donnetta.

Well, for us, you are he Bronte' sisters from Norman, Oklahoma. Sometimes you get serious.

I am waiting to read about the local Heathcliffe. :)

Donnetta Lee said...

Hi, Ivan: Yes, I was the friend in The Crush. Actually, I measured the heights of the Beatles and taped their pictures to the wall per how tall they were. So, it was like having them standing there! Then, along came the Raiders. Liz and I fell madly in love with them. We had many adventures. We wrote songs. We were heading for California just as soon as we graduated from high school. Oh, we had plans. We always had plans. Liz was my lifeline. How do you pay somebody back for saving your spirit? And, need I say it, she still does.
Donnetta Bronte, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

"Bronte sisters" forever!!!