We were back in the city. That was the which-a-way of it, in the old neighborhood, the three of us staying short-term in a partially furnished apartment in the old house. The old house was grand, so large that it had two halves and therefore two numbers on its façade, 43 on the right and 45 on the left.
On the Friday morning of our first week back in town, the dog decided he might try to fly___ out a second story window on the 43 side. Why? Because he’s sensitive, especially to beeps, squeaks and honks he does not recall from his younger days there.
Earlier that morning, we, myself and the dog, a nine year old Australian shepherd named Hap, walked in the park and tried to rekindle his youth. Not that he’s tired or slowing down in any way. Throw a stick, he’s off like a gazelle loping across an arid plain. A sight to behold, a wondrous thing, especially when he becomes airborne, lifting off through a kind of hyphenated leap. Maybe his talent for this gave him ideas. But I don’t think so. It was the chirping of a dying battery in a discarded smoke alarm, the result of updating the place, putting in a defense budget priced smoke and alarm system.
But I was talking about the park and our walking through it as we did in the old days. But it wasn’t like the old days, since the park looked unkempt and raw now. The dry summer had turned the grass to straw which crackled under my shoes. There were clusters of homeless men camped under trees. Some sleeping bags rolled out. Trash and broken glass.
I was dressed for work, wearing khakis, a white linen shirt and a beige sport coat. Near a little fenced in area, the park within the park (for dogs), there was a group of maybe three or four guys standing and talking. Some drank spirits from brown paper bags. Others smoked. A low breeze stirred dust from their pants and their t-shirts were spotted with sweat.
We were moving along pretty swiftly, my mind calculating how much time I had left with Hap before I’d have to leave him for the morning. I found a stick and took him off his leash. I aired it out and the thing moved end over end like a tomahawk. Hap took off. The action caught the attention of one of the men, who looked me over and said, “Good morning judge.”
The others laughed and returned to their desultory morning, the time of having nowhere to go and nothing to do.
I was not in their club. My hair was white at the temples. I was the judge on the hunt for miscreants and ne’er-do-wells. My dog was sleek and black and ran with the wind.
When I returned from the college in the early afternoon, a busted out window was the first sign of trouble, something amiss in the grand old house. There was a violent hole in the screen that faced the driveway on the 45 side, where we had a parking space. I thought of him immediately. Hap had taken out several screens in the cottage on the island before we got wise to the small miracle of a doggie door. No such egress was available from the second floor of 43-45.
I envisioned the worst and raced up the stairs. Fumbling with keys all the way, I called for Hap. Inside, every corner of the apartment was empty of dog. Then I heard it, a squeak, like the rubber soles of sneakers scraping across linoleum. It came at unnerving intervals and I should have hunted the thing down and killed it, but I had to let that go because I noticed another breach. A much larger window screen, bent and punctured, hanging over the kitchen floor.
Hap, having nowhere to go once he landed on the portico roof on the 45 side, had jumped back into the apartment. Once inside, he’d heard it again and perhaps again__ the uninvited chirp, the invading squeak. Since he couldn’t rid the space of the noise, he would rid himself of the space. Like the mythic man and boy trapped in the tower, seeing no other option, he tried to fly.
Had he landed hard on the driveway below and hobbled away? Was there a single witness? Had some caring soul called for help or put him in the backyard? I ran down the staircase and taking to the street again, I nearly crashed into a young woman walking a crooked line past me.
She looked me over. “Do you have a dollar, sir?” she asked.
In my confusion, I thought she said, “Do you have a dog, sir?”
“Yes I do. Have you seen him? Where is he?”
“What?” She said. “Dollar, I said. You got a dollar I could have?”
“No, look, have you seen a dog, maybe injured?”
She shook her head. “Just a dollar?”
I told her I was busy and couldn’t stand around talking to her.
She inspected me again and said, “Don’t judge me, motherfucker.” Then her eyes wandered past me.
I hadn’t been aware of Lisa, from the first floor apartment, standing there behind us, cell phone in hand. I wondered how long she’d been watching the vaudeville.
“I saw you drive in,” she said. “Hap is with Margaret at the animal hospital. She said your phone was probably dead. She’s been trying to reach you.”
“Is it terrible? Is he really hurt?”
She offered her phone, “You should call your wife.”
“Yeah, call your wife,” the other one said and headed off.
“Thanks,” I told Lisa and dialed up Margaret.
The next night after a very warm day, we lay in bed with all the windows open, Margaret, myself and Hap. Hap had eight stitches on his lower lip and his right front leg was splinted from toe to elbow. No breaks. No fractures, but the x-rays indicated some serious tissue trauma in his right foot.
We talked about giving up the two house experiment and returning to the island. We talked about the miraculous flying dog and how lucky the three of us were. We kissed him on the head and made soothing promises to him, trying to keep him quiet and calm under the barrage of party noise coming from a block away.
A chasm, a sudden pocket canyon filling with Latin beats and crowd noises, occasionally rising and swelling in deafening tribal chants, like soccer fans singing rally songs, opened between our cozy bedroom, which in some way represented our understanding of the grand old house, and the streets of the old neighborhood. It was awful.
“We’ll give them until 11:30, then I’m calling the police,” said Margaret.
Closer to midnight, Margaret made the call and a surly dispatcher told her she needed an address, not just a street name, but a number.
“Just follow the racket on Wendell,” Margaret said and hung up the phone.
At 12:30, I decided to drive over there and get the exact address. When I lifted myself from the bed, Hap stood up.
His face said, Let me show ‘em, boss.
Margaret said, “Lay down, buddy,” and he did.
A light rain had started falling and I drove up the otherwise sleepy street. The driver’s side window was open and mist spilled in.
The house was easy enough to find. A chorus of voices filtering through vibrating bass lines swelled to a kind of orgasmic sigh, and then for a moment there was silence.
I parked the car in front of the house, amazed to find a spot, amazed that cars didn’t line both sides of the street, but since it was a populous and close knit part of the neighborhood, it occurred to me that many of the revelers may have walked there.
Then I decided to move. I wasn’t going to call the police again. I thought I could handle it as well or better.
The house was a multi-family, vinyl sided and in fairly good shape. A woman with dark circles under her eyes stood under a front porch light. She held a boy in her arms. The boy waved at me as I pointed up the driveway, indicating that I was heading toward the back.
The woman nodded and the music began to boom again.
At the end of the gravel driveway, a gate partially opened to a completely darkened back yard. No light shone through the crack.
Where were the tiki torches? Where were the swaying party lights?
You’ve seen the scary movie where a character is faced with this situation: standing in the light and glaring into the darkness. One or two things usually happen. Either they are sucked kicking and screaming into the nothing, or something monstrous springs out of it and removes their head.
I called hello and pushed the gate open. I saw next to nobody, no girls in tank tops and cut offs, no boys in muscle shirts and cargo shorts drooping past their knees. No silhouettes flickering in fire pit light as partygoers capered about.
There was just a single young man seated at a glass topped table. He was surrounded by turntables and a receiver from which cords ran in every direction, trailing off into the darkness like trunk roots, most likely to speakers.
The man was thin, bearded. He wore googles and had a miner’s light strapped to his forehead. His t-shirt featured a guy wearing a crown. The guy had an eye patch too. Below the image, the words said, La Di Da Di.
Roaches littered an ashtray. Scattered about, there was a liter of Coke a Cola, a bottle of rum and a bucket of ice. He sipped from a tall glass with his eyes shut.
I marched up to the table and scanned the receiver. I noticed the pulsing green button right away and pushed it down. Green went to red and everything became still. Looking for his eyes in the darkness, I said, “Enough.”
He blinked and looked me over. “You got it, judge,” he said, and let out a chirping kind of laugh.
“What did you say?”
Still chirping, he gave me a wave. The movement of his hand and fingers similar to the boy’s from the front porch.
“Adios now,” he said.
Back in the car, the time on the dashboard clock read 1:15, and I didn’t think that was too late or too early to organize an evacuation.
About the Author: Wayne Cresser lives on an island in Narragansett bay with his wife and doggie. Most recently his fiction has been published in the print anthologies Motif 1-3 (Motes Books) and 10, Carlow University’s MFA Anthology, online at The Written Wardrobe (@ModCloth), The Oklahoma Review, The Journal of Microliterature, the Blue Lake review, and Shark Reef Literary Magazine among others, and in such print journals as The Ocean State Review and SLAB.