Dog/Bottle/Blood


by Jackson Burgess

Steve

Me and the boys, we were heading home, walking our boards across the tracks and riding, just riding, past the hospital, over the freeway bridge where we always toss our smokes off the edge, it's what we do, doesn't even matter if you just lit up, and we were out in front of Joey's place when we saw this big ass dog bolting up and down the street, not even going anywhere, just bolting like it owned the place. Big old German shepherd with a collar and everything, like there was no doubt it had just escaped and its owners were probably out looking for it, but we couldn't see them anywhere. We stopped and watched it as it ran around, wagging its tongue, stopping to piss here and there, and Joey was like, Maybe we should go catch it, but nobody was feeling it so we went inside. Joey pulled out his mom's gin and I put on some tunes.

Veronica

Professor Juarez says it's fallacious. That it's just heteronormative values imposed on young women. Or old women too, I guess. The whole idea of it. Men expecting sex. Like if they wine and dine you, you owe it to them. Like you're repaying a debt. And as a woman, I'm usually on the same page. I'm a feminist, sex shouldn't be a commodity. But that night if I'd gone home with Richard things would've been different. I wouldn't have this cast, for one thing. I'd still be in school. It doesn't get you anywhere. Thinking like that. But you can't help it. I'm a good driver. Fuck the crime report, anyone would've flipped out. What are you supposed to do. I was going the speed limit and everything. Cruising at sixty and bang, there's a bottle in your windshield. What do you do. I'll tell you, you flip out. Of course I feel bad. I tried to attend the service. They wouldn't let me go. I think her mom told them not to. They should have let me go.

Charlie

Well, I don't know, Booboo never got out before, Pops kept the gate closed, and she was happy. I think she got too excited when she saw the gate was open. She just like ran out. I think it was me, I think I left the gate open. I don't know. Pops wouldn't have left it open because he's always so strict so I think I left it open. It must have been me, I was the last one to open it. Everyone kept asking me, but not like they really wanted to know, more like they already knew that I'd left it open but they like wanted to hear me say it. Must have been when I got home from soccer because I remember I went in the back door because the garage was locked and I had lost my house key. I don't know, but I think it was me. I think it was my fault.

Steve

You know how it goes, me and the boys went at it, Joey found his mom's bong and we went ham, you know, chilling, bumping something or other on my speakers, talking shit, like, Hey Dennis, how's your sister, and, Hey Dennis, can I have her number? Dennis was the bitch, that's the way things worked, Joey hooked us up with weed and drank and I brought the speakers and everybody made fun of Dennis and his hot sister, but that's just how it was. Things should've been chill but that day we all knew something was up, beats me why we were so bummed about it, but we couldn't stop thinking about that dumb dog running around out there, all happy and pissing on bushes and shit, because you know, you see a lot of strays out on the streets, like at the skate park that's just something you see, but this one clearly belonged to someone, and we could've caught it, wouldn't have been a big deal, Joey skates real fast, so finally I was like, I think we should go find that dog, and everybody agreed. We were all a little fucked up at that point, especially Dennis, who had his knife out and was poking holes in the couch in the shape of a frowny face or a hot dog or some shit, who knows, he was feeling kind of down, but we got up and grabbed our boards I took the bottle and we went out the front.

Veronica

I wasn't drunk. I mean Richard was pushing shots but I knew I was driving. Wasn't looking for that DUI. And I had a midterm the next day anyway. Not that that mattered. It really wasn't my fault. That fucking bottle. I mean, who does that?

Charlie

I was home alone, since Pops was still at work and my mom was getting groceries, I think, I don't know, so I let Booboo out and dished myself some ice cream. By the time I'd finished, Booboo wasn't scratching at the door like she usually does. But I just thought maybe she was pooping so I got more ice cream. I ate it all and Booboo was still not at the door. That's when I got a bad feeling, so I went out and called for her, but she wouldn't come. I put on my mom's slippers and went out and called for her again, but she still wouldn't come. And then I saw the gate was open. I swear I thought I closed it but I guess not. I don't know. I felt like I might cry because Booboo wasn't in the backyard I just knew she had got out, so I ran out through the gate calling her name.

Steve

Shit, I don't like talking about it, but it was bad. Real bad. A whole lot of blood, a whole fucking lot of it, and Joey kept saying, Oh my God, oh my God, because it was still alive, even though it was completely fucked up, some of its ribs were sticking out, and Dennis was real quiet, and it was just lying there in the middle of the street, twitching and shit, kind of whining, its legs moving every once in a while like it wanted to run, but it wasn't going anywhere, the thing was fucked. I still had the bottle of gin, I tried to take a swig, but I just spilled it all over my shirt. I was like, What are we gonna do, and Joey just kept saying, Oh my God, and Dennis had his knife out and was stroking it, sort of looking around, so I said it again, What are we gonna do? Nobody said shit, but I didn't want to just leave it there, so I bent over and started patting its head. I don't know what that was supposed to do, but the thing was so out of it that it didn't even notice, so I looked at Dennis and then back at the dog and I grabbed its hind legs and started dragging it. Didn't even have a destination, I just knew I had to move it out of the street, but as soon as I pulled it an inch it flipped a shit and started screaming and howling. I've never heard anything like it, and somehow I didn't notice before but it was sitting in a pool of blood, so I jumped back and saw I had blood all over my hands, blood on my pants, and I just lost it, I started bawling like a little bitch, but Dennis and Joey weren't about to say anything, they were freaked out too, and I didn't know what to do, call the cops? Who has the number for animal control? I just booked it, I dropped my board and didn't even look back, I just started running, spilling gin all over the place, and the last thing I heard was that poor fucking dog, screaming and howling.

Veronica

Ok, I'll admit. I'd had something to drink. But only a couple. They knew right away after the crash with the breathalyzer and everything, but still, I don't like admitting it. It makes it sound like I was drunk. I drive well when I'm drunk. Actually, sometimes I drive better. But I wasn't drunk. That's not what I'm saying. I was going sixty when their minivan pulled up in the lane to my right. She was in the backseat. She was looking at me and smiling. So I smiled back. I still had both hands on the wheel. But every time I looked over at her she had that same smile. Her mom was going at exactly my speed. So we were side-by-side for a while. She was adorable. Six or seven, I don't remember. But her hair was tied up in a little bun. Had these big gold earrings. I wouldn't pierce my daughter's ears. Not until middle school at least. Eventually I sped up a bit, or they slowed down. I can't remember. So I was a little ahead of them when it happened. Like half a car length. The radio was on. I was sober as a rock.

Charlie

I'd seen them around before. One was Dennis, I didn't know the other's name, and they were just like sitting on the curb looking sad. They're big, they're high schoolers, I don't like talking to high schoolers. Especially not guys like Dennis, because everybody knows he's mean, but I'd looked everywhere, in like a hundred backyards and driveways, so I ran up and asked if they'd seen Booboo. Dennis didn't even look at me, he had this pocketknife and was cutting the grass with it, but the other one said, Who's Booboo. So I said, My dog, and he said, Your dog, and I said, Yeah, and he said, Your dog, and I said, Yeah, I think I left the gate open. I was tired from all the running around, and pretty sweaty too. By now Dennis wasn't cutting the grass anymore, he was stabbing the lawn with his knife, which was pretty scary, by the way. It was a pretty scary knife. The guy who was talking to me was quiet, and then Dennis got up really fast and pushed me to the ground. It hurt because I landed weird on my arm, and I didn't know why he did that, so I stood up and said, Why'd you push me? But Dennis didn't say anything, he just pushed me down again, harder. And then I noticed he was crying. It was quiet but he was definitely crying. I started crawling away on my hands and knees, but Dennis followed me and kicked me in the stomach, and I started crying too, saying, Why are you doing this, why are you hurting me? But Dennis didn't say anything, and his friend just looked away.

Steve

It fucking sucked, I couldn't get the blood off my hands, when I finally stopped running I tried wiping them on the grass and washing them off with the gin, but nothing worked, so I stopped to catch my breath and have a smoke, but my hands wouldn't stop shaking, so I threw the cigarette away, and the lighter too. By then I could hear the freeway, and I've always thought, damn, it would suck to live this close to the freeway, you'd hear it all the time, it'd fuck with your dreams and shit, and the whole time I was thinking, maybe I should've killed it, maybe I should have found a brick and bashed its head in, or used Dennis' knife, or called my mom or something, but I just froze up, you know how it is, it's like fight or flight, and when the shit hits the fan you don't know what to do, but there I was, with fucking dog blood and gin all over my clothes, walking somewhere, I don't even know where, and after a while I saw the bridge.

Veronica

Her name was Abigail. Abigail Rose. I sent her family letters. They didn't respond.

Charlie

After a while Dennis' friend pulled him off me. My nose was broken and Dennis wouldn't stop crying. I don't know why he was crying, I was the one who had a reason to cry. Dennis' friend told me where Booboo was, but he said not to go there. He just said to go home. That was it, he said, Go home, and he picked up their skateboards and took Dennis' knife and the two of them walked away. I didn't listen. They didn't say it but I knew, I just knew Booboo was still alive. I knew she must be scared, she didn't want to be alone, sometimes when we left her home alone for too long she'd get scared and chew up the pillows, so I went and found her. My leg hurt bad but I ran anyway. I ran up the block and around the corner to the one place I hadn't looked. Didn't see any cars. No people walking, either. Didn't see anyone but myself in the reflections of cars parked on the curb, but I couldn't even see that too good because I was crying. I got there too late. Booboo was just lying there in the middle of the road. Lots of blood. I've never seen so much blood. I sat down and started petting her, scratching behind under her collar. That was her favorite when I did that, I think it got itchy back there. That's where they found me. Pops picked me up and covered my eyes.

Steve

I did it without thinking, just on instinct, you know? Like a cigarette butt, because that's what you do, when you cross the bridge you throw your smoke over the edge, right into traffic, even if you just lit up, but a bottle's a lot different from a smoke, and right when I threw it I knew I'd done something bad, something real fucking bad, and I heard it hit something hard, but it didn't shatter, it was more of a crunch, so right away I knew it hadn't hit the street, it must've hit something else, and then when I heard the screeching tires and the fucking crash I knew it was bad. I stopped and turned and looked off the edge, and it was two cars, a sedan and a minivan. The minivan had spun out, I guess, and it was smoking like crazy, and as I watched the driver side door flew open, and this big old lady fell out onto the concrete, it was a sad sound, almost as bad as the dog howling, just plop, right onto the street, and she got up, all shaky and stumbling, and the first thing she did was open the back door of her minivan, and then she just lost it, she started shrieking and running around in circles, pulling at her hair, and then this other chick came over, the driver of the other car, holding her arm, and she was like, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, are you okay? and the big old lady starting hitting her, saying, You killed her, you killed her, you bitch, it was you. It wasn't her. It was me. I threw the bottle. It was all my fault. I stood there like a fucking stone. I didn't say a thing. I just stood there. I couldn't look away.


BIO: Jackson Burgess studies at the University of Southern California, where he is a Greenberg Fellow for Poetry and Editor in Chief of Fractal Literary Magazine. Jackson has placed work in Tin House Flash Fridays, The Adroit Journal, The Monarch Review, and elsewhere, and leads a poetry workshop on Skid Row. (jacksonburgess.com)