700 word short by Kimberly A. Bettes
As I drove the shovel into the dark, damp earth, I heard her yell, “Stop!”
I looked up and watched as she ran across the yard, skirt swishing around her legs. She ran over to where I stood, shovel in hand.
Her hair was wild, her eyes red and puffy.
“What is it, Charlotte?” I asked, not hiding my annoyance at being interrupted.
“I want to say goodbye to him.” Her voice cracked as she spoke.
I opened my mouth to protest, but she cut me off.
“I didn’t get to say it before and if you don’t let me, I’ll tell Mom.”
Her soul might’ve been in mourning, after all, she’d lost five dogs so far this year and it was only May, but her spirit remained unbroken.
Seeing that she was serious and determined, I took a few steps away from her to give her a moment. Chester was her dog. If she wanted a moment with him before I buried him that was fine. But only a moment. I had other things to do.
I watched as she rubbed the dog’s belly, scratched behind his ears, and patted his head for the final time. She was doing all his favorite things for him, though he didn’t know it. I watched the tears fall from her eyes and land on his fur with a plop, and I wished she’d hurry. I had to bury this dog and finish my chores.
She sobbed now. I wondered why anyone would cry over the death of a dog. I’d had dogs that died. I’d buried them myself without as much as a sniffle.
“Hurry, Charlotte,” I urged.
“Shut up, Robert!” she yelled through tears. She quickly glared at me, but it was long enough that I could see the snot sliding from her nose toward her upper lip.
I rolled my eyes and waited.
The hole wasn’t deep enough yet for Chester. If I didn’t get this finished now, I wouldn’t be able to get all my chores done before dark.
“Charlotte,” I snapped.
Without a word, she stood up and took off running to the house. I watched her for second, certain she was mad at me.
I finished digging the hole, put Chester in it, and filled it again with dirt. I returned the shovel to the shed and went about finishing my chores.
When we were called to dinner, I noticed that Charlotte was already seated at the table, eyes still puffy.
I looked from her to my mother.
“What?” I asked.
My father entered the room, belt in hand.
“What?” I repeated.
My mother said, “Charlotte told us you wouldn’t let her have a moment with Chester.”
“She had a moment. She was keeping me from getting my chores done.”
“Turn around,” my father said gruffly.
I did as I was told. I faced away from my father, toward Charlotte, who sat on the opposite side of the table. I held onto the back of a chair while my father struck me again and again with his belt. Each lash hurt like the dickens, but I didn’t let it show. I could cry later, when I was alone. But for now, I just stared at Charlotte, who wouldn’t look at me.
When my father was finished, he told me to leave the table without supper. I walked outside, to the shed, and grabbed the shovel. The same shovel I’d used to dig Chester’s hole, and the holes of the other dogs. It was the same shovel I’d used to kill Chester.
I walked over to the fresh grave of Charlotte’s beloved dog and began to dig a hole beside it. This hole would have to be much bigger though because Charlotte was much bigger than the dogs had been.
Kimberly A. Bettes was born in Missouri in 1977. Kimberly is the author of five novels and many short stories. She lives with her husband and son in the beautiful Ozark Mountains of southeast Missouri, where she terrorizes residents of a small town with her twisted tales. It’s there she likes to study serial killers and knit.
You can find her on Facebook.