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All God's Children

Nature is a funny thing. Not ha-ha funny, but the other kind.

The look away for a second and end up under six feet of water or with somebody's incisors in your neck funny.

All God's Children by F.J. Gallagher

"History may be written by the winners,
but all God’s children got a story to tell."

For as long as he could remember, Rex had been chained to the rusting ’72 El Camino up on blocks out behind the doublewide.

The passenger-side door was gone, and so was most of the engine. Rex slept on the front seat, curled up behind the steering wheel. He slept a lot, but over time the scraggly grass around the old car had been worried down to hard, packed dirt.

Rex’s days ran together in a relentless stream of low-grade misery, fuzzy and dark around the edges, spattered by bursts of crimson rage. More often than not, the source of that rage was Mittens.

Every day, just before sundown, Mittens came into Rex’s yard, and made his way over, stopping at the line where the grass gave way to the dirt.

And every day, just beyond Rex’s reach, Mittens would carefully groom himself, preening while Rex quivered with rage, his anger building until it exploded and he lunged, growling and snapping, only to be jerked back when he reached the end of his chain.

And every day, as Rex coughed and gasped for air, Mittens would slowly stand, stretch and wander off, leaving Rex alone with his shame and ebbing fury.

One day, late in the afternoon, a squirrel came into the yard while Rex dozed behind the wheel of the El Camino. He opened his eyes and watched, but did not move.

The squirrel came closer, pawing at the edge of the dirt near Rex’s water bowl, and still Rex did not move. The squirrel began to dig. Concentrating on the tiny hole he was making, he never saw Rex coming, flying from the El Camino, until it was almost too late.

Rex’s jaws snapped shut, but the squirrel was already running as fast as he could toward the safety of the fence. Rex strained against his chain, aching to chase, and as the squirrel climbed higher, Rex pulled harder.

With a tiny popping sound, the chain gave way.

Rex stumbled forward. He caught his balance and ran to the fence where the squirrel had been. He sniffed around, but the squirrel was gone. Rex lifted his leg, pissed, and sniffed again.

Near his water bowl, where the squirrel had been digging, the scent was strong. Rex felt the fur on his back begin to rise, and as he lowered his head to drink, Mittens appeared at the top of the fence.

Rex laid down, covering the broken end of the chain that had held him, and Mittens ambled over, just like he always did.

Rex growled low, but this was nothing new; Rex always growled when he saw Mittens. Mittens kept coming and stopped at the edge of the grass, where he always stopped, and Rex’s growling grew louder.

When Mittens leaned forward to lick that special spot between his legs, Rex struck, quickly, violently and without warning. Mittens tried to jump back, but Rex’s teeth were already at his throat, tearing at the tender flesh.

Mittens screamed, but out behind the double wide, there was no one to hear and nobody cared. The people who lived here heard worse every day. Rex squeezed harder, crushing Mittens’ windpipe, and the screaming stopped. He tasted blood.

Rex shook  his head viciously from side to side, whipping Mittens back and forth until his neck broke with a satisfying snap. He dropped Mittens’ battered and bleeding body in the grass and watched him struggle to breathe, nudging him every now and then to make sure Mittens was still awake.

With the grass stained red around him, Mittens’ legs spasmed, as if he were still trying to get away somehow. Gently, Rex took Mittens’ back legs in his mouth and bit down hard, crushing the delicate bones at the knee like they were pretzel sticks.

Mittens gurgled and was still. Rex nudged him again, but he didn’t move.

Rex stood up, sniffed, and pissed on Mittens’ body. He sniffed again and trotted back to his water bowl. He drank, and the water in the bowl turned pink as the blood washed away. 

His face dripping, he ran around the doublewide to the front yard and took off down the street. There were still a few hours of daylight left.

F. J. Gallagher is a former reporter, columnist and editor whose work has appeared over the years in a variety of local and national outlets. He writes under the name F. J. Gallagher because have you seen what comes up when you Google the name Frank Gallagher, which is what the initial stands for? Fuck that shit.