The desert air burns his nose. Dry and dusty in the July heat. He watches the highway. A black oil slick tapering into the horizon. Cars pass like cometsand disappear and he is alone again with the sun and the wind and the flies. If there was a place on earth more godforsaken he didn’t know it.
Lila, come ‘ere.
He taps his thigh and the ragged mutt comes and rests her head at his feet. Licking the condensation from his beer bottle while she swats the lingering flies with her tail. He picks the bottle up and she looks at him with dark eyes as the cool liquid slides down his throat.
What are you starin’ at mutt? Don’t you look at me with them eyes.
He empties the beer and tosses it onto the highway. Swaggers into the kitchen and gropes amongst cartons of juice and curdled milk until he finds another bottle. He takes two deep swigs and slams the door. A photograph falls to the ground and he picks it up. Him and Gracelyn. All those years ago. He balls it in his fist and lets it drop. Swaggers across the hot dry earth to his chair where Lila is waiting doe-eyed and dumb. His foot slips in something soft and dark. The stench wafts to his nose and his face lights with rage.
Fucking bitch get here.
She slinks towards him. Tail between her legs. He grabs her by the collar and pushes her nose into the mound of shit.
What’s this? What’s this?
He takes off his shoe to beat her but she whimpers and wriggles free and he throws the beer bottle after her. She skitters onto the highway and in front of a passing car. A silver comet that catches her in its wheels and drags her behind it as it slows to a stop. He chases after her and the driver gets out of the car white-faced but the man pulls a gun from the back of his pants and says get back, what business is it to you what happens ‘tween a man and his dog?
The driver gets back in the car and speeds away and he kneels on the ground beside his dog. He cradles her head in his lap and she looks up at him with sad dark eyes, but they’re Gracelyn’s eyes saying please baby don’t shoot it’s this fucking desert you’re not right in the head you’re not yourself don’t shoot don’t shoot and he says for the last time shut your fucking mouth bitch and he pulls the trigger and shuts it for her.
Lila whimpers and her mouth fills with blood. He pulls the trigger and her head drops. He goes back to his seat on the porch. Flies pool in the wound in her head. The cars turn to dust as they disappear into the horizon.