She told me that she was once bit by a rabid dog. The dog was her uncle’s hunting dog. She was just a young girl. She and her family were on vacation visiting her mom’s little brother in some mountain town in Arkansas. It was just like in the movies she said. Her uncle lived in an old busted trailer with a woman and their three kids, all boys. Broken down cars, cloths line, chickens running loose and a torn up couch in the yard. They got there early that morning and her uncle had been calling for his dog all day and into the night. That’s when it happened.
Everyone was out in the yard, sitting around a fire. They ate fish caught by her young cousins. The grown-ups ate squirrel. She wouldn’t try it because seeing it with its paws, black and curled by the fire’s flame scared her. Her uncle said that he and the dog were hunting a few days before. The dog had a bloodied nick on its nose when they came back. He’d seen that sort of thing happen to the dog before. Sometimes while hunting the dog would run off chasing down some random scent. Usually raccoon. Raccoon get mean, her uncle said. If they’re big enough, they’ll fight a dog. No problem. But the last day or two the dog started acting weird. He’d suddenly disappeared that morning and not been home all day.
Just as her uncle was finishing his story, they all heard a growl from under the trailer. The uncle instinctively stood and pulled a big and heavy stick he’d been poking at the fire with. The dog tore out. Dust and gravel scattered from its paws. Her mom shrilled and she remembered the hair on her arms and the back of her neck stand up. The uncle went for the dog and struck it hard with the smoldering stick, but the dog was unfazed.
One of the boys ran inside to get a rifle. The uncle snatched the gun and tossed down the stick to the boy. He tried to take aim as the dog ran through the yard and chased them all, running and screaming. The dog suddenly slid to a stop, falling over its hind legs. For a split second it locked eyes with the little girl before it bound full speed for her. She said she felt its bite sink hot into her arm as she raised her hands to shield herself. Then she heard the loud crack and echo of her uncle’s gun and the dog was down and dead. Also, just like in the movies, it lay in the dirt with its eyes open, teeth still in a snarl and foamy drool seeping out.
That was her, “I was once bit by a rabid dog.” story. I lay there in her bed and listened. We were naked after a half-decent drunken romp. She was twenty years younger than I. Her red hair was thinning were she wore the part down the middle of her scalp. It felt good to have a young, naked girl snuggle into my side in the dark. She was only stranger and as she kissed my neck with soft little suckling kisses, I couldn’t remember her name.
Until that moment, I hadn’t felt so homesick since I was a boy. In an instant she was asleep. And I wondered how her uncle felt about killing his dog, if he still had that same woman, or if he still had that same gun.