A Dog to Put DownBrian S. Wheeler / Fantasy
A Dog to Put Down
Brian S. Wheeler
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Copyright © 2017 by Brian S. Wheeler
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Chapter 1 – Feral Danger…
Chapter 2 – Remembering All Slights…
Chapter 3 – Strangers Come to Town…
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About the Writer
Other Stories at Flatland Fiction
A Dog to Put Down
Chapter 1 – Feral Danger…
“Hush! Everyone just hush!”
Harmon Fowler winced as his bloody hand pulled open the drawer in which rested his old revolver. His fingers trembled as he removed the .32 caliber bullet from the box of ammunition. He held his breath and squinted to drop that lone round into the cylinder. He would leave the remaining chambers empty, for he vowed he would finish his business swiftly, with no more than a single explosion of fury and fire. He swore he would deliver no pain. Harmon was familiar with that gun, and he knew well the kind of hurt its barrel delivered, for that gun had protected him often on the street, from men who brought their own straight-blades and hand cannons to the fight. Harmon Fowler knew what it meant to level that gun at a man and to squeeze that trigger, and yet Harmon Fowler trembled when he thought of what must be done.
Harmon Fowler felt it was much easier to shoot a man that it was to shoot a dog.
“Hush! All the barking isn’t going to save anyone!”
The dogs housed in Harmon’s kennel sensed the tension, and they howled within their crates. Thanks to all his years training and breeding dogs, Harmon would read much in the sound of a canine’s howl. He heard fear barking in his kennel. He heard sorrow. Harmon thought he even heard protest. He knew those dogs realized why he loaded his revolver. Most people assumed dogs couldn’t recognize the purpose for any of a man’s inventions. But Harmon’s years with his dogs taught him how well his canines could look into a person’s heart, and that those dogs recognized if the sentiments they sensed within that pumping organ aligned best with hate or with love.
Harmon wondered toward what extreme his heart currently drifted, and he wished his dogs possessed the language and tongue to tell him.
“Where did I go wrong by you, Tonka? Why did your mind snap, and why did you turn so wild that I’ve got to drop another bullet into this gun?”
The large, ebony dog Harmon addressed bore his teeth and snarled before slamming his body against his confining crate. The dog’s eyes burned, and his hair bristled upon his spine. The revolver snapped as Harmon positioned the cylinder, and the dog threw its weight against the hinge to the crate’s gate.
Harmon Fowler winced. Another bolt of pain shot up his forearm, and he saw that his blood was seeping through another towel wrapped around his arm. The medication Harmon took for his aging heart thinned his blood and made it difficult for Harmon to staunch his bleeding. He hated dripping blood all over the kennel. He worked so hard to keep the kennel clean. And that dripping blood didn’t afford him the opportunity to waste much time. He needed to conduct the killing before he got light-headed, though he wished he had a little while longer to just stare at his Tonka and remember the successes they had shared – the trophies Tonka won for scent tracking, the courage Tonka displayed when bolting down the field during the long-bite trial, the distance Tonka covered at the side of Harmon’s bicycle. Only wishes had never amounted to much in his experience, and so Harmon grunted and galvanized his determination to complete the execution before his arm dripped too much blood upon the kennel’s concrete floor.
Harmon wondered what family heirloom the closing of his forearm would cost him. He always took pride in counting himself a self-employed man, always saw himself as an entrepreneur. Harmon always judged himself too talented at the hustle, with a brain crowded with too many ideas, to be a common laborer working for some dimwitted supervisor and some paltry wage. He had owned luxurious cars, and he had claimed glamorous women in posh beds. He once owned a chain of coffee shops and oil-change garages, and he once laundered so much of the street-boss’s cash through those registers that he never struggled to pay the cost to any thrill he then craved. As a young man, Harmon counted himself among the street princes, and he never worried about covering any medical bill incurred after the fights that solidified his turf.
Yet those years were well behind Harmon. Street princes rarely turned old, and a new street boss long ago paid Harmon a last honor by giving him a chance to flee the city where he had once thrived, with a warning to Harmon not to return. Harmon fought to establish a new life, in a rural and empty country the street bosses and princes behind him would never find, should those hard men ever feel the urge to track Harmon down. Harmon planted a new dream, and he fought to keep a different goal. He could never rely on an employer’s insurance policy, and Harmon nearly lost the home and his business when he fought the cancer in his colon. Despite his sickness, he had hustled like never before, and he had saved his hope to achieve the ultimate breed of dog. He came through, but the debt collectors still orbited his block, forcing him to pawn family heirlooms for untraceable cash each time injury or sickness dragged him to the doctor.
“What went wrong, Tonka? What went wrong?”
What impulse ruined his prized dog’s mind, so that the animal bore his teeth upon his master and thrashed against the crate? Tonka might’ve been a champion. Tonka seemed to Harmon to be that canine which would prove the merit of Harmon Fowler’s new breed of dog. Yet madness took hold of the dog, just as Tonka neared the peak of his training. The wild overcame Tonka, and that wild gave Harmon no choice but to drop a bullet into the cylinder of his old revolver.
“Hush, Tonka. Hush. You break my heart as it is. Be quiet and don’t make this any harder than it already is.”
Harmon swore he wouldn’t let emotion overcome him as he faced that dog’s crate. He had been through too much, had survived too many enemies. A dog should not have been enough to crack his conviction, but making promises to one’s self, and then fulfilling those vows, was much easier said than done. Though the wild clouded the animal’s mind, Tonka remained a splendid dog. The dog’s back rose to Hermon’s thigh, and the dog’s teeth were capable of clenching together into an unbreakable vice beneath the slender muzzle. Tonka’s face was wolfish, for Harmon strove to summon in his line the characteristics of breeds most closely related to the ancient, wolf origin of every dog. Harmon strove to check the wolf’s feral nature be carefully breeding to select Alsatian lines, working through generations of litters to realize the perfect blend of instinct, discipline, speed and power. He strove to breed intelligent dogs capable of showing independence within parameters commanded by their masters. He stretched for loyal dogs who would quiver before no threat, yet had the wisdom to recognize friend from enemy better than most men Harmon knew. Harmon desired dogs that could take down any assailant and gently shepherd a wayward toddler. He desired dogs that could be distracted from duty by no sound or surprise. And after the last three decades contained in the latter half of his life, after years of careful breeding and more careful training, Harmon Fowler had believed that he had finally achieved the dog he sought in Tonka, a canine who would take all prizes and prove to the world that no man knew more about the craft of dogs than Harmon Fowler.
But some instinct ruined Tonka. Some drive Harmon failed to recognize subverted all of that master’s effort. Harmon bled because of it. It was a miracle Tonka let go of Harmon’s arm at all.
Harmon drew a breath. Why was he hesitating? He couldn’t ignore the ragged wound Tonka inflicted upon him and act as if nothing happened. The dog would never again see him as master.
“Dammit, Tonka. You’ve got a taste of the blood now. I’ve got to do this”
Harmon lifted the gun’s barrel, and it felt like a grenade tore open his hand when he squeezed the trigger. The shot echoed off of the kennel’s concrete floor and filled his hearing with a ringing that clenched his teeth together. Harmon closed his eyes when the smell of the powder scraped his nostrils. The remaining pack turned silent and slumped upon the floor of their crates. Harmon opened his eyes and sighed. His aim proved true enough. The bullet mixed a little mercy with all of its powder. Tonka’s corpse lay in a bundle of fur in the center of the dog’s crate. The body didn’t twitch or gasp. Tonka didn’t suffer.
“Dammit, Tonka. What went wrong?”
None of the other dogs made a sound as they watched Harmon set his old revolver upon the counter before turning to leave them to another night in the kennel. Then, as Tonka’s body bled within its crate, the ebony dogs of that pack whimpered and cried.
* * * * *