About twenty of twenty-five years ago, in the neighborhood where I lived, a dog was found roaming with a female human skull in its mouth. It made the news for a couple of days, and then nothing...no word from the police or the newspapers or anyone. The matter was brushed aside and eventually forgotten by most people and the few who remembered it was saying that the skull probably came from an old, forgotten Indian grave, although there was no official pronoucement that that was the case.
Much earlier, when I was in high school, I was with my father driving through a small New Hampshire town. He had stopped and went into a drug store for something and I looked across the street where there was a cemetery. Coming out of the cemetery was a large dog carrying a large leg bone with meat hanging from it in its mouth. The bone looked big enough to be a human femur, but I kept telling myself that it probably came from a nearby butcher's shop. I've almost convinced myself of that.
Those two memories have stuck with me all these years. They coalesced in the following flash fiction.
The dog came home and puked up a human finger this afternoon. Luckily the kids were at school. Not as luckily, Sally was in the kitchen putting away the groceries she had just bought. I was well into a rewrite of the fourth Jock Malloy novel when she screamed.
After twelve years of marriage, you get to recognize your spouse's various screams, even when she doesn't scream that often. There's the ugh-like sound that means she's just fed up with the kids, with her work, or with life in general. There's the angry aargh-like sound that usually means that I'm impossible. And there's the scream she made this afternoon, a high-pitched, garbled noise where you could just make out my name in there somewhere. This scream meant better come a-running, so I did.
And stopped short when I saw what was on the kitchen floor.
It was a disgusting mess of bile, well-used dog food, yellow gunk, and a finger. I pulled Sally close to me, comforting her with shh-shh noises, while checking out the finger. It was a woman's finger, the nail neatly trimmed, with bright red polish. Sally could probably pin-point the shade for me but I wasn't about to ask her. I couldn't tell which finger it was, but it wasn't a pinky and there was no sign of a ring or an indentation a ring might make. It had a waxy, pale greenish appearance. Smudged with dirt. No sign of blood. It could have been a prop from some horror movie but you knew in your gut that it was not.
I edged Sally out of the kitchen. Got her to sit on the sofa.
Then I dialed the cops.
It didn't take long before there were several dozen policemen and volunteers scouring the woods in back of our property. I had explained that although our dog Molly could range pretty far during the day, on hot days like this she would often lay down in a creek in the back woods on a hot summer day like this, so that's where they concentrated their search.
They found the body before seven p.m.
They wouldn't tell me much. An ongo-ing investigation, they said, but I heard that it was a young woman, late teens to mid-twenties. Hank Golden, the volunteer fireman who had found the body, told me there were no clothes on her -- or on what was left of her. "She was pretty messed up, Manny," he said. "Jesus, I hope I never see anything like that again."
I suppose that they'll find out who she was sooner or later. I could tell them but why spoil the fun? Her name was Chrissie Managan. She was twenty-three years old and I grabbed her from a 7-11 parking lot in Edgham, thirty miles away. It was a spur of the moment thing -- usually I plan these things out, but there was something about her that called to me. I was pressed for time but I made the best of it. The time crunch was the reason why I buried her so close to home. (Also why I didn't bury her deep enough.)
All in all, this time was a rush. A real rush what with the police, the news cameras, and Sally's nervous, sickening feeling. Jesus, I could get used to that.
All of this raises a question. Should I go back to being careful and methodical, or should I continue going with the moment? It's great either way, but this time it felt super-great if you know what I mean.
So I have a choice, don't I? I'm going to have to weigh the pros and cons and come to a decision. Or, perhaps I won't even have to do that. Perhaps, I'll see a girl and it'll all come together and my body and mind will scream, "Now!"
Time will tell.