By Dina Greenberg
Last foreclosure on his list to inspect, the Crowley woman’s shack lunges a crazy angle through the pines. Dewitt’s headlights strip it naked. Porch railings slouch gap-toothed in the rain. A yellow dog thrashes against its chain. The mud. Dewitt licks Big Mac grease from his fingers. Crumples the box and tosses it with the rest. Third night in a row he’ll miss his old mama’s supper. The night sky heaves again, and a low, angry growl as Dewitt edges toward the shack. The dead weight of it all prodding him to get on with his task. His fist nearly mute on mildewed, rotting wood.
Through the filthy pane: old woman in a housedress. She raises a stringy arm. Flesh loose where the housedress slips away. Cracks the door a slit to cooking grease and mothballs. Death smell. Or dying. Dewitt feels her eyes on him. Then on the dog—yelping, snapping, desperate, thrashing. Her voice a scabbed-over sore: Shut it, damned animal! Dewitt still toeing the mud-slick porch. The dog weeps and cowers as the woman sidles past Dewitt. That morning, his own hounds curled at the foot of his bed.
He hated the old woman a little more then. Hated her more than the rest. More than the shit they’d smear on walls, empty spaces where sinks had been. Splintered wood. Pipes ripped out bare-handed. The rotting, dying smell. And now the Crowley woman eying him like it was his fault. His doing? He let himself imagine, then, the thinness of the Crowley woman’s bones. Heard the dull thud of his work boot against her small skull. Punishing. Spilling hate, warm and spoiled like vomit. Kicking. Again. Again.
Thunder rumbling in the dead-night sky, and sweet-thick smell of honeysuckle. Yellow dog whimpers at Dewitt’s feet. Grateful. Supplicant. Dewitt crouching in the mud, the yellow dog freed from her chain. Races jubilant circles around him, then lolls beneath his palm. The yellow dog lapping rain from his whiskered cheeks and Dewitt laughing.
Dina Greenberg is a second-year student in the MFA program at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where she serves as managing editor for the literary journal Chautauqua. Her stories and poems have appeared in publications such as Bellevue Literary Review, Chronogram, Gemini Magazine, The Warwick Review, Amarillo Bay, and in the anthology, Lalitamba.