by Dawn Hurley
Martin’s driving fast and reckless. A bottle in his hand. His teeth clenched in an angry snarl. It started this morning. Late for work at the telemarketing company where his sales are down. His boss came in and fired him. He’d been coming in drunk, making customers angry and losing business. Martin stormed out shouting he didn’t need this job or the pig-headed boss. He went to a bar, didn’t get home until after midnight. His wife was waiting for him. This was not the first time he’d come home late and drunk. She’d had enough. She was leaving with their daughter. He began yelling and throwing things. His wife started to call the police. He knocked the phone from her hand and left the house. He didn’t need her or the kid.
He’s been driving all night on a deserted stretch of highway. He rolls into a neighborhood around dawn. A paper boy on his bicycle, with his dog beside him, appears from a driveway. Martin doesn’t see him. He’s going too fast when he notices the boy. Fear flashes on the boy’s face. A horrible thud. Martin stands on the brakes, heart racing. The boy is laying motionless on the pavement, the dog licking his face. Martin hears the slamming of cell doors in his mind and knows he has to get out of here. Fast. Speeding off, he takes one last look in the rear-view mirror. The dog still stands by the boy, staring solemnly after Martin.
He drives another hour before checking into a motel to get some sleep. He dreams dogs are attacking him. He awakes to find his leg bleeding from what looks like a bite. He leaves the motel and walks across the street. He sees the boy’s dog. It’s staring past him. Martin, following the dog’s gaze, sees his car with he himself behind the wheel coming straight at him. He leaps out of the way of the imagined car into the path of a real automobile. Laying crushed on the pavement, he sees the dog approaching. It lunges at him, and everything goes black.
He awakens in a hospital, arm and leg in casts. An officer comes in to take a statement. Instead of describing his own accident, Martin finds himself telling him about the boy. As though someone else is speaking, he’s helpless to stop. After admitting to the hit and run, Martin learns that the boy was injured severely but not dead. Nor did he have a dog. No one at the scene of Martin’s accident had seen a dog. He pulls the sheet back from his unbroken leg to show the bites, but they’re gone. He’s read his rights. When he’s released from the hospital he’ll spend a long time in jail. Unable to bear that thought, he tries to get up. He almost makes it to the door when he hears growling behind him. The dog leaps on him. In the instant before death, he sees his own eyes in the face of the dog.
Hearing noises, the two guards stationed by his door rush in to find Martin on the floor. The doctor says he died of a heart attack.