Everyone knows that revenge is a dish best served cold,
it's just not usually done in a dog's dinner bowl.
it's just not usually done in a dog's dinner bowl.
Dogged by Matt Nestor
You murdered my dog. I know you did it. Oh, maybe my evidence wouldn’t hold up in court, but it’s not going to come to that, is it? I think not.
It occurs to me you may be tempted to invent some cockeyed tall tale “proving” your innocence. Nothing would be more distasteful to me than such an interview. Let us obviate it:
On the fourth of this month, Jessie, a sweet and loving dog and a friend to all, was brutally drowned in our hot tub. It was Michelle—Michelle, Frank, only 12 years old—who peeled back the cover and found him. His eyes were still open so she did what any child would: she reached forward and jogged his cold, dead shoulder. I spent most of the night in her room, Frank, and the rest burying Jessie.
I swear, Frank, even then you didn’t have a chance, because as I dug that shallow grave I knew I’d find the man responsible. It would have to be me: police were out of the question. They’d make a few inquiries and then, likely as not, call it an accident. Jessie was a boisterous creature, and we loved him for it, but he did occasionally bark rather late. Hence those gutless anonymous letters. Why is it, Frank, that some people are so unwilling to take responsibility for their actions? I had kept the letters.
I would find who wrote them.
One was typed, but the other was in pen. Four nights running, I stole up to my neighbor’s mailboxes, snuck out their letters and steamed them open. The fifth night I got my match: Lt. William J. Mackie. Bill. Adrenaline surged through me as I saw the same rough D’s and distorted L’s under the hard kitchen light. I had suspected him from the start. He’s a rough man, an arrogant man, an army man—and, damningly, the only person on the block strong enough to hold a full-grown spaniel completely underwater for two brutal minutes. If my Jessie had been able to get her snout above water just once, I would have been out there in a flash.
Now came the difficult part. How to gather evidence? After a little research, I opened the mower and unwound the “vertical drive belt.” Then I put it back together and wheeled it over to the Mackies. Bill answered the bell in his undershirt. I swallowed hard.
“Sorry to bother you, but I’m having some trouble with the mower. Do you think you could take a peek inside?”
His look dripped suspicion, but he took the machine and trundled off to the garage. Tanya invited me in.
“Can I get you something to drink?” she said, affecting a falsetto of welcome. “We were so sorry to hear the news about your dog.”
I thanked her and said yes, a drink would be nice. The moment she stepped out I started snooping. Chintz on the sofa, chintz on the chairs, a mammoth TV and little heart-shaped photo frames: the only evidence I found was of a total absence of taste.
“Looking for something?” I swerved to find Tanya staring me down hard from the doorway. These two are made for each other, I thought. She’d be no easier to cow than her husband. But I wasn’t leaving empty-handed.
“Actually, yes.” My fists were clenched, ready even for the worst. “I need to know…”
And then I saw it, right there, nailed to the wall behind her.
“Where on Earth did you get that wonderful calendar?”
“Oh, this?” She turned and examined it. That month’s picture was an infant Jesus, glowing like he had just polished off a bowl of uranium. “We got it through our church. I’m sure there are more, if you want one.”
A full week was covered in X’s: the week that Jessie was killed.
“Did you enjoy your vacation in” – I squinted – “Milwaukee?”
“Actually, Bill’s father passed away...”
“I’m so sorry to hear that.”
I checked, Frank, I checked—though I looked a goddamn fool doing it. Bill’s dad was dead all right, and I was back to square one. Another of the neighbors? Or maybe…
Once more I scanned the photos from that day. What was odd about them? The water. It was high, right up to the edge. The ground at the base was sopping. I had imagined that in the struggle with the dog, water had spilled over. But so much was unlikely. I would’ve heard the fight that produced such a mess. It was more probable the tub had simply overflowed.
I sat down, suddenly feeling faint. The whole horrid scene had come to me at once: The dog lured in (hence the lack of barking), the water left to run, the tub’s cover closed like the lid of a coffin; and Jessie, still inside, bumping up against hard darkness, yelping sadly into plastic, then finally engulfed and forgotten.
I saw it all—and yet I saw nothing. Part of me still believed in you, Frank, believed you incapable of such an act. Well, I did some drowning, too, Frank. I drowned that part of me. It’s dead now. And it only took three martinis. Finishing the third, I picked up my pen and wrote:
Dog only goes in tub w/ family members:
If you’ve made it this far, Frank, congratulations. You’re stronger than I thought. But the words begin to swim, don’t they, Frank? And this paper—could you drop it even if you tried? That’ll be the paralysis setting in. Oh, I concede that drowning would have been more appropriate, but I’m afraid you must settle for tetrodotoxin—liver oil of pufferfish. Did your whiskey taste a trifle bitter this evening, Frank? Now you know why. Where you’re going, no dog will ever keep you up again.
And one more thing: don’t worry about Michelle, Frank. I told her we got a divorce.