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July 27, 2015 Fiction


Stephen Tuttle

Souvenir photo

Most nights he wakes to use the bathroom and in so doing wakes the dog, which in turn figures it might as well do the same. And so, wishing he could be back in bed, the man wanders downstairs, lets the dog out, and waits there in the doorway while the dog finishes. But tonight, the dog doesn’t casually sniff and then pee, but takes off running, straight out the door and straight into the night. The man stands there for five or ten or fifteen minutes, losing track of time and knowing only that he won’t make this mistake again, determined to let the dog suffer through a too-full bladder next time if this is the way it’s going to act. He waits those long minutes, wishing he could just lock up and get back to sleep, but knowing that to do so is no good. So he waits and waits until finally he hears that small metallic pattern of identification tags on a loose collar. But the dog, when it finally materializes in the shadows, and comes loping up the front walk, has something in its jaw. It’s a branch at first or some other piece of lumber, and then it’s something much different: a man’s arm, the left one, wristwatch included, severed just below the elbow. The man, having grabbed the arm when he still thought it was a piece of wood, throws it down and yells out some imprecise thing. He jumps a little, as though the arm were alive and likely to strike. But when he allows himself to get closer, and after he’s reached for the porch light, he sees that there is no life in this thing. He also sees that it’s covered in dirt and mud. So his dog has gone exploring and in the process turned up a buried arm. He can only imagine that where an arm is buried, other things are also likely buried, and something illegal has almost certainly gone on. He does the only logical thing; he calls the police. They come, take the arm, ask a few questions, say they’ll be back to ask more questions. But they don’t come back. They never come, and the man never calls to say that the wristwatch the severed arm had been wearing is in his house, in a drawer there, because it fell off or because he removed it, he can’t remember which. 

image: Pete Witte