Flash Pulp 032 – Lucy, Part 1 of 1
Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Thirty-Two.
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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight we present another Chiller tale; a meditation on the lines between truth and suspicion, trust and necessity.
Flash Pulp 032 – Lucy, Part 1 of 1
Billy Mutters was standing in the rain, living up to his name.
He had made a full circuit of the dark perimeter of his lawn, lingering especially at the thickly forested ravine that lay at the rear of the house. It had been a major reason behind his enthusiasm, when he and Ella had bought the place. Its edges were too steep to climb without effort, and the gash, which ran straight out for two miles before opening onto the lake east of town, made an effective moat against neighbours.
Lucy hadn’t been next door getting in the trash, she hadn’t been across the street making time with Milly Tremore’s Jack Russell.
He eyed the gash again, cocking an ear.
The wind and water were all he could hear.
“You pregnant idjit,” he said to the ravine.
He turned and made his way back to the house’s sliding patio door.
* * *
Ella had spent the following morning fussing with her dusty computer, and, after luring Billy into the kitchen with a ham and pickle sandwich, she presented him with a stack of flyers to staple to telephone poles.
“You may be retired, but I’m fairly sure I can squeeze some useful work out of you yet.”
“She’s probably just gone to have her puppies,” he replied. “I’m sure she’ll return when business is done. What use is a pregnant hunting dog anyhow?”
She pushed the flyers at him, her face no longer smiling.
“Don’t give me that, I’ve seen you up on your comfy chair with that mutt. You get your bones moving and find that girl.”
He carried off the second-half of the ham and pickle, as he left to rummage for his staple gun.
* * *
After a week, the flyers hadn’t worked. Neither had driving the neighbourhood yelling her name, knocking on people’s doors, or wishful thinking.
Ella mourned daily, printing out pictures of the dog at various stages of her life, often commenting on the spaniel’s beautiful flopping ears or soulful eyes.
So, after a week of it, and already feeling the ache in his hip, Billy pulled on his boots and worn hunting jacket, preparing to descend the muddy side of the gash.
He’d once given the self-contained forest a brief exploration, a decade previous when they’d first purchased the house. He’d found the prickly thicket that grew wild amongst the scratching pines to be too much – after a quick survey he’d headed home, with no interest in a return trip.
This time, as he followed the trickle of a creek that lay on the floor of the small valley, he’d nearly pushed through all the way to the lake. At the point where the ravine was wildest, and the forest thickest, he was brought to a stop by the sound of whining.
Pushing through the brush, he found her.
Her leg was ensnared in a pincer of three jagged rocks, and the awkward position made him think she’d likely fallen from the largest while drinking from the feeble stream.
He approached quickly and she lifted her head in greeting, licking at his face and hands.
It was then that he noticed her maw was bloody, and that she had been gnawing at the entrapped leg. Through the smear of fur, he could see she’d broken the skin. It was quite a mess, but nothing that was likely to be serious.
Lifting her free of her stone shackle, he carried her home.
* * *
The vet was optimistic.
“She’s chewed it up pretty good, and she’s a bit malnourished, but otherwise she’s fine. Keep applying the cream till the tube is out and try to keep her from licking it off. The hair won’t grow back entirely for a while, but pretty soon it’ll just look like a little rough patch, and after a few months you won’t be able to tell the difference.”
Ella smiled at the news, her hands rubbing either side of Lucy’s face to force the dog’s lips into different positions: surprised face, fat face, wind-storm face.
“What about her pups?” Bill asked.
He’d pushed himself too hard coming out of the ravine, and was now leaning heavily on the wicker cane from the front closet – maintained there by Ella, in case of such acts of selfless stupidity on his part.
The vet’s eyes flickered from his paper work to Billy, then back again.
“Hard to say. She’s not pregnant now though.”
* * *
He spoke his mind over the following evening’s ravioli.
“I think she ate them. I think she was starving down there for a week, and she just…”
Ella dropped her fork, staring at him.
Without speaking, she stood. Lifting her plate from the table, she dumped the untouched pasta into Lucy’s nearby dish.
After a moment the sound of Alex Trebek welcoming that night’s competitors drifted into the dining room.
He picked at his meal, eying the dog as it ate greedily.
* * *
It was a month later, and Lucy was seated on the passenger seat of his truck, her head lolling out the window. The last four weeks had been tough on Billy. He’d been quick to anger when the dog entered the room, and his skin crawled every time the beast would take a loving lick at Ella’s face.
Then opening day of turkey season had come.
Following their yearly ritual, he’d loaded up the truck with supplies for a full day’s expedition, leaving at the first hint of dawn.
The highways had turned into back roads, the back roads had turned into dirt paths.
Bouncing along a fire access route, he brought the Ford to a stop and killed the engine. The silence of the trees settled in on all sides.
Realizing where she was, the cab became filled with the dog’s excited panting.
He opened her door for her, letting her take in the wild air.
Stepping down from the driver’s side, he reached into the bed of the truck, and snapped open the large plastic case that housed his shotgun.
As the dog ran delighted circles around the truck, he loaded the weapon.
With Lucy close behind, he put the gun over his shoulder, and hefted a shovel to the other.
He marched into the woods.
“Accidents happen. I’m sorry. You did what you had to do, but I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do, too.”
“I can’t have no baby killer in my house.”
He’d been explaining his position since they’d started the journey.
Finally, he threw down the shovel.
She was too close.
“All right, git you.” He couldn’t bring himself to put authority into his voice. The best he could manage was to get her to sit.
Sighting down his barrel, he shuffled a few steps backwards.
Still too close, he took another quick step back.
As he fell backwards, the shotgun fired into the air.
The same moss covered stone that had tripped him, now caught his hip bone at a sharp angle.
At the sound of snapping, Lucy ran to her master.
* * *
He awoke and it was dark. The pain was ferocious.
His mouth was dry.
As he groaned, the dog came to his face, licking him. The pain of swatting the dog away ripped down his left side.
He passed out again.
* * *
He thought he’d been awake for quite a while, although he couldn’t really remember if it was a dream or not. The pain in his hip was everything now, although some moments were clearer than others.
He seemed to recall the dog occasionally disappearing into the tall grass, although she sat watching him now.
He often thought of Ella, and sometimes he was convinced she was looking for him, that a search would be there soon. Sometimes the dog just sat there staring and panting.
He became aware of another pain as the world grew dark, and then light again. Before noon had returned, hunger and thirst were his primary preoccupation.
A moment of clarity came, and, at his call, so did Lucy.
With the left side of his body screaming in protest, he ratcheted the gun.
Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.