Unclaimed Animals

January 13, 2011

(This story was originally published in the July 2010 issue of Midnight Screaming Magazine.)

I remember how my mom cried over the dogs.

I remember, waiting here near the shelf where a box of what used to be me collects dust. I’m not the only one on the shelf. There are a couple dozen boxes here. We used to have names. I don’t know where the others went with their thoughts and memories. I’m alone with the boxes.

Buster dug out from under the fence once and ran away. I ran away, too, but it was years later and I went out the front door. It took us three days to find Buster. He was at the pound. My mom took my hand and we walked between two rows of kennels. There were a lot of dogs and their barks rattled off the block building like the gunshots you hear on TV. I didn’t know what real guns sounded like then. My mom squeezed my hand so tight it hurt and her face was pinched like she had a toothache.

She paid to get Buster out with sixty one-dollar bills, her tip money for the week. I got in the car and she handed him to me, then went around to the driver’s door. That’s when I saw her cry.

I asked her why she was crying. We had Buster back and he was fine. She said it was the other animals. They broke her heart, she said. The sunlight was pouring in through the dirty windshield and I saw lines on her face. That was the first time she looked old to me.

They never found my head. It’s in a wash near Palm Springs and I used to go look at it before two Hispanic guys covered it up. Even though they didn’t speak English I could tell they were afraid. I think they were scared someone would blame them, so they covered my head with rocks and no one – not even me – could see it.

The other dogs broke my mom’s heart, the ones left behind. They were homeless, she said. They didn’t have anyone to love them. They were unclaimed.

It’s strange how I can remember Buster’s name. My mom’s name started with a “B”, too, I think – Brenda, Brianne, Belinda. I’m 08-0116, written in black marker on the outside of a box.

I wonder if my mom looks for me. I told her I was never coming back. She said I wouldn’t last a day on my own. Sometimes it was cold even out in L.A. and sometimes I was hungry, but I lasted longer than she thought I would.

I almost called her once. There was a payphone outside a store and I stared at it for a long time. The guy I was with yelled at me to come on. I didn’t like him much after the first week. I went over to the phone booth but there was no receiver. There was just a broken metal cord and a square hole where the coins used to drop. So I went with the guy and found out that real guns don’t sound anything like guns on TV.

I remember how my mom cried over the dogs.

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3 Responses to “Unclaimed Animals”

  1. Angie Says:

    Congratulations on the publication! and yes, unsettling it is. :( but a very good write. I felt it.


  2. Coming from an author of your quality, that is precious praise indeed, my friend!

  3. Mickey Mills Says:

    I love this little story! :-)

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