5. Good Boy

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Follow @dariodibattista on Instagram.

(Note: This flash fiction is inspired by @coffeeizmana. She gave me the subject: "Gotta have story with a new puppy." Thanks, Jennifer.)

#52StoriesFor2019

Dario DiBattista

5. Good Boy

The new puppy is broke. Yeah, that's the word for it. Broke, and off maybe? Something isn't right.

Bourbon, the large mixed breed, doesn't jump for treats or wag his tail. He eats his food immediately, functionally, and then he sits and stares. He doesn't come close to Jesse with thankfulness. He doesn't want more.

When Jesse comes home from work, Bourbon is nowhere. He has to be found. One time he stared from the top of the stairs. He looked at Jesse looking at him, and then he walked away.

One time he was up against a far corner, standing. Not resting or sitting or kneeling. Standing on all fours. Staring. He flashed teeth when Jesse tried to come close. His eyes seemed darker.

Whether Jesse cooks dinner, watches the news, or reads a book, Bourbon stays nowhere. He's upstairs or downstairs, Jacob's laddering Jesse's movements. Sometimes he's at the top of the stairs near the rooftop deck. It's the coldest spot in the house. Bourbon's head follows Jesse when he ascends to check on him, dark eyes getting blacker.

"It will take him a while to adjust," Jesse thinks, trying to ignore the hairs on his neck. "What did the rescue center say Bourbon's story was again?"

Tonight, late-night, Jesse props himself up against pillows in his darkened room, the TV flashing blue and white beyond his bed. Jesse is in half-sleep, the state of a mind numbed and drained. Fading.

Downstairs—ta-tump ta-tump ta-tump ta-tump—the rush of heavy feet on hardwood. Jesse hears a sustained low growl. Like a faraway freight train getting closer. The rumble of distant storm coming in. Bourbon never makes a sound. Bourbon rarely moves.

Jesse gets onto his feet and all the power goes out. He hears hissing from the HVAC deflating. The click of the ceiling fan losing motion. It slows. And slows. Darkness. Quiet. 

Jesse goes downstairs, slowly. He presses his bare feet firmly on each step. Down. Down. When he touches the rail, the metal vibrates loudly. It echoes quickly then dies. Below, he can hear Bourbon panting. 

The power turns on suddenly, and the light Jesse left on in the kitchen illuminates the room. Bourbon holds a bloody, shredded snake in his mouth. He's smiling, eyes-bright staring, tongue lolling out. 

"Bourbon?!"

Bourbon drops the dead black snake and, happily, rushes over and rubs himself against Jesse.

Surprised, Jesse instinctively tries to pet Bourbon, but the blood on the fur on his face is cold. Jesse recoils. Bourbon stares, smiling, loose tongue dangling. Jesse stays frozen.

When Jesse finally un-dazes to look at the blood on his hands, Bourbon walks past him, up the stairs and into his room. He climbs onto Jesse's bed, waiting for him, and wanting to sleep.