The darkening sky and the fat raindrops coming down a little harder were just enough to deepen the sulk I'd sunk into. I missed the steady beat of my life as I used to know it. The dreaded yet imminent strike of extreme bad luck had come my way at last. It had been long in coming but it had snowballed all the way to my doorstep. It began very simply, first with discovering that my fiancé had been cheating. And it went down hill from there – all the way to the late nights with the bottle of Grey Goose and his gun in my hand.
Over the course of a full year, I've become a functioning alcoholic. I go to work, I do my job, and I come home. Except every so often when the world needed to be a little less and I needed to be a little more – I snuck a drink. Not enough to get drunk, or even tipsy, but just enough to give me my control back.
Walking up my front steps, my clothes soaked and my skin chilled I heard a cat yowl in the night. I found myself hurrying to shut the door and lock it as my skin crawled with the sound. I'd hated cats since I was a teenager, and I especially hated ones that constantly made that noise. Setting my bag down and stood in my living room with my clothes slicked across my skin, dripping water on the carpet in the silence, and just inhaled the scent of home that made me feel safer than the locks on my door. I tilted my head to one side when I caught the slight scent that disrupted my homey smell.
In the middle of crossing my living room, I realized where I was headed: into my kitchen to slamming the door to the basement shut. My hand still on the knob of the closed door, I turned and forced my eyes shut, reminding myself to breathe. Now, where did I put that vodka?
My gaze landed on my fridge then switched to my collection of tumblers and then slowly back at the basement door. Sucking in a breath, I crossed the big kitchen, wrenched open the fridge, and slid the open bottle of vodka off the shelf like so many times before.
Pressing my hands to my face, I wished the headache away. I jerked in the chair in front of the television when the scratching started. Rubbing my hands over my arms, as I was suddenly chilled, immediately thinking of the basement. I cursed at myself when the whining started and I nearly knocked over my 11:30 dose of vodka. But I avoided the glass carefully as I got out of the chair. Glancing in irrational fear at my kitchen and through it to the basement door that still remained closed. The noises continued.
I turned and followed the sound of scratching and whining to my front door. I flipped on the porch light and found a large mutt of some kind, of indistinguishable color at my front door. He sat down when he saw me, the bugs beginning to circle the light. His tail wagged happily, as if he had just come home. I was nowhere near drunk enough to be this delusional.
I just looked at him, stupefied as the rain pelted down and he stared at me serenely. There's a dog on my porch, in the pouring rain. Why would there be a dog on my porch? Witty comebacks, that's me.
I opened the door to shoo him away but he walked in right past me – like he owned the place. What the heck was this, a zoo in the making? The ark maybe? I shut the door after him, trying to keep out both the rain and the rapidly accumulating flying insects. I looked at the big mutt with confusion going across my mind in waves. As the thunder rolled close by and nearly shook the house I felt my eyes grow large as the dog looked back at me calmly and then shook his coat dry in my living room.
Which of my neighbors did this? This was ridiculous; I just let some stray dog that –with my luck – has rabies or something probably worse into my home. In which, he would promptly pee on the new cream colored carpet, tear up anything he could get his paws anywhere near, and would shed all over the place. I lived in the country, why would a stray just come up to my door like that? And why on earth would he just walk in? Better question
I looked at the dog again and frowned. He turned out to be a muted shade of charcoal and over two foot tall.
"And what do you think you're doing?" I asked the dog. I let out a half laugh as I flipped off the porch light and locked the door. I really was getting bad if I was talking to a dog.
I walked back through to my kitchen, the mutt following me all the while and filled a bowl with water and set it on the floor for him. While he noisily drank his water like it was going out of style, I rifled through my fridge for leftovers. When the phone rang out like a gong in the dead silence, making me jerk. Paranoid? Who, me?
I walked to the phone and cautiously answered it as though waiting for it to bite me.
"Hello?" After a moment, the phone went to dial tone.
I finally woke up at four, tired, bleary, and in need of a drink. That big, dumb dog had crawled into the chair with me and rested all of its considerable weight on my legs. And then he began kicking me in his sleep, and after I woke up and knocked him off, I dozed off and we repeated the process. All in all, not very refreshing a sleep. I looked down at the long, slender canine head on my chest and the big mahogany eyes that looked back at me. Scowling back at him, I groaned in the dim light.
"I was wrong. You're not a dog, you're a cow." I muttered, pushing him off my lap. I was smirking to myself when he followed me to the kitchen. I nearly laughed when I realized I refilled his bowl and then got myself some water. I glanced again at my watch; I still had hours before I needed to be doing anything. I grabbed a pad of paper from its random placement by the coffee maker and glanced around for a pen.
What idiot leaves a pad of paper but no pen? I rummaged around on the kitchen table until I found a pen. After a moment of a motionless pen poised above the yellow tablet, I snickered to myself. Would number one thing to do, move the body, sound incriminating? Didn't think so.
Instead I went back into the living room and rooted around for a good ten minutes, finally finding the yellow pages. I began writing down veterinarian offices in the area that had Saturday hours on my yellow tablet. After I went through the yellow pages' veterinarian section, I went toward the phone. I stopped short when I thought to look at my watch.
Still too early.
I looked around for the big gray mutt that I was going to all this effort for. He was missing. Maybe I'd imagined the whole thing. I retrieved the now-warm bottle of Grey Goose and poured myself a celebratory drink.
I lurched out of the chair by the table and sloshed vodka all over my carpet as the phone trilled from its cradle. I walked over toward it, picked it up.
"Maggie?" My fiancé's sister's voice was stained saying my name.
"Tell me you didn't call to talk."
"No…I'm just worried about Travis."
"Rae, we've been over this about a hundred times. He's a big boy." I told her, sipping my drink. Just because she called to whine about that two-timing, no good, piece of crap brother of hers, didn't mean good vodka had to go to waste. Besides, I had a right to be happy. I was officially dog-free.
"But, he's never been gone this long," Rae said.
"Maybe, he likes wherever he is," I said with a sneer. Maybe it was the subject matter or maybe it was the time of day but I poured myself another drink without a second thought.
"Maggie, he's been gone for seven months. Maybe we should call the police." Rae said, her voice falling into a soggy whimper. I downed the rest of my glass and reached for the bottle blindly.
"Calm down, Rae, its only seven months. Maybe he got into a relationship." I offered, eager to steer conversation from finding him. I frowned when I heard a familiar soft thumping sound. I shook my head while simultaneously pouring another drink when it stopped. I heard the soft click of nails and then a soft sliding sound across the floor.
I stared in horror while my mind refused to take it in as the big gray dog pulled Travis Leone's bloodied corpse into my living room. I dully heard the phone hit the floor as the beast sat, his tongue lolling, his tail wagging as I gaped at the scene before me.
A harsh knock came to my front door. I gasped as the bottle of Grey Goose fell from my hand, spilling all over the floor.