Welcome to Free-for-All month on Flash Fiction Fridays. It's all about a little of this and a little of that. Today, we have a wonderful piece of microfiction by Eileen Granfors. Next week? Who knows? You will have to check back and see. That's the fun of a free-for-all.
In the Shape of Shep
By Eileen Granfors
Orville opens the door, and Shep bounds out to dig a hole by the evergreens, mossy dirt flying behind him. Muriel steps outside like a sleepwalker, holding herself together by crossing her arms against her bosom. The dog’s frantic digging claws deeper wounds in her heart.
Muriel looks at her good shoes, the sod from the graveyard stuck here and there, the grassy, swampy smell overwhelming to her. She frowns, and her eyes fill.
“Every time I smell that dog, I’ll think of Buddy.” She pushes back hair straying from its bun. “I don’t want him here.”
“He’s a good dog.”
Shep’s ears cock as a car crunches on the graveled road to the house.
Shep barks, a joyous, welcoming bark. Orville doesn’t move. Muriel retreats to watch from the kitchen window.
Orville waits for his oldest son, Vern, to get out of Buddy’s banged-up Pontiac. Vern’s five kids press their faces against the back window and wave as Shep bounds over to the car, cavorting and twirling.The kids laugh until their mama tells them to hush. She puts the car into gear and drives away. Shep whines.
“Take the dog, Vern. I’ve got my hands full,” says Orville.
Vern follows the car’s trail down the road, gravel flying up, his skinny, sullen wife driving too fast. “Can’t. We’d have to find him a home.” Vern yanks his tie loose at the neck. “You keep him, Dad. He’ll be good for Mom. Let me talk to her.” His boots knock loudly on the stoop as he pushes into the house.
“Don’t count on it,” Orville says to the trees and sky and Shep.
Still perking his ears, Shep nuzzles Orville’s chin. Orville pushes his hands into Shep’s deep, silky fur. “C’mon, Shep.” The dog trots after him to the barn where Orville fingers the shotgun’s barrel, cold against the empty stall.
“The readiness is all,” Orville murmurs,“The readiness is all. If it be not now, yet it will come.”
He looks into Shep’s golden eyes and leans down to rest his head on Shep’s gold-and-white shoulders. Shep smells of dog shampoo and of wild thyme from the garden. Only his feet bear the muddy, earthy smell.
Orville walks Shep behind the barn.
There, he rinses all four paws with the barn hose, drying each paw with a rough rag.
Orville’s heart releases like fingers stretching open from a closed fist.
“A dog’s good for filling a grief-dug hole,” he says, his soft voice lifting. Shep wags his tail and races out the barn door. Orville follows him into the warm house.
Eileen Granfors lives in Santa Clarita, California. A former army brat who was born in New Orleans and lived in Germany, she and her family settled in Imperial Beach, California, where her mother’s love of body surfing turned her into an avid surfer girl. Eileen is a proud UCLA alumna. In July, she published her second novel, set in Imperial Beach, Stairs of Sand.
Her first novel, Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead, is a coming-of-age multicultural look at the Hispanic tradition of the Day of the Dead. She is working on its sequel, So You, Solimar, and a volume of historical fiction, a prequel to Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. She also is the author of a flash fiction anthology, Flash Warden and Other Stories.