I am not a good dog person. I do not command authority. My earliest memory is the orange glow of my mother’s cardigan as she walked away from me. The rest is all darkness. Thomas saw her back disappear into the plush cloud of the Cadillac’s seat, and he heard the heavy door slam. He threw a rock through the window, and maybe Mama bled, but still she drove away. Blood is not always thicker than water.
Sometimes I help Grandma pick the berries for Sunday pies. It takes 100 berries to make one pie. I steal some out of the bucket. The juice runs down my chin, and drips on the ground like the blood that ran down my legs last week after Thomas jumped out from behind a tree, and dragged me into the woods. His hands smelled like sawdust and I could taste the metal of his ring as he pressed it against my teeth. He said, “If you tell anyone, I will kill you.” And then he laughed.
Thomas used to take his dog for walks, a rope biting into its neck. It would whine and pant when he tied it to the stop sign and spent all of his quarters playing Skee-Ball in the arcade. He built a doghouse for it from a kit, but let the dog sleep on his bed when it rained or snowed. Sometimes he fed it hamburger meat that he’d thawed in the microwave, and sometimes he didn’t feed it at all. Occasionally, he would fall asleep crying into its fur.
It was sleeping in the doghouse last Friday night. I wonder if it dreamed of feather pillows. I imagine that the cold metal felt hard against its skull. I remember the blood. I do not think that I am sorry.
But Friday has come and gone, and today is Monday. Thomas is no longer laughing. Grandma chooses to believe that the dog has run away. She stocks up on Ivory soap and black licorice at the market. Later tonight, when she thinks we are asleep, she will sit in the tub and cry, and she will forget to turn off the water, and the tub will overflow. But now, she chops up cucumbers and puts them in vinegar. She adds pepper, dill, and garlic, and lets them sit. She mixes yeast and water. She says, “Give the dough a chance to breathe before you punch it. Feel the heartbeat against the palm of your hand.”