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Good Little Hero

For some, a good night's rest doesn't come easy.

In The Gutter, a couple of bullets might help.

Good Little Hero by Kurt Reichenbaugh




His name was Bowzer. One of those mutt hounds that doesn’t actually bark but howls.

To Conrad, it was a bore that drilled through his walls and into his bedroom each night. A phone that wouldn’t stop ringing. A toothache that wouldn’t stop throbbing. 

Woowoowoo…Woowoowoo…Wooo.

Conrad did the neighborly thing. He approached the Greenfields directly. The Greenfields were a retired couple who collected UPS deliveries and let their overgrown yard smell like sun-baked dog shit. Conrad informed them that Bowzer barked at night, keeping him awake. Could they maybe bring him inside after dark?

“We can’t hear him bark,” Mrs. Greenfield told him. Bowzer sat at her feet and barked at Conrad though the screened door.

“Well, all I can tell you is your dog barks and it’s a nuisance for anyone trying to sleep.”

“No one else has said anything.” 

Mr. Greenfield hobbled to the door to stand next to his wife.

“I’m saying it now," Conrad said. "Can you do something about it?”

“Dogs bark!” Mrs. Greenfield said and then shut the door in his face.

That night, Bowzer continued baying.

Conrad thought about poisoned meatballs, but those were too slow. He pulled the 9mm handgun from the top shelf of his closet. The Greenfields—two deaf, old bats—wouldn’t even hear the shot. One dog plus one bullet equaled silence.

He waited until one in the morning before crossing the alley to the Greenfield’s back fence. He approached the chain-linked fence, gun in hand, and tried coaxing the dog to approach him. 

Instead, it sat somewhere in the shadows of the Greenfield’s overgrown back yard. Wooo…wooo…wooo…

“Over here you fucking mutt!” he said. Bowzer wasn’t that far away. If he could only see him, Conrad could peg him.

Woowoowoo…Woowoowoo…Wooo…

Conrad jumped the fence. He pointed the gun at the shadows on the back porch, toward the sound of the baying.

Woowoowoo…Woowoowoo…Wooo…

He fired at the sound. The shot was loud. His nerves jangled as the barking increased in intensity. The back porch light snapped on, blinding Conrad in yellow light.

Bowzer charged and clamped his teeth around Conrad’s left ankle. 

Conrad aimed to kick but slipped on a coil of dog shit.

Mr. Greenfield shouted at him from the back door.

Conrad misfired as he fell. The bullet went through Greenfield’s throat, hitting the brick wall behind him.

Mrs. Greenfield screamed inside the house while her husband flopped on the ground, flannel pajama-clad legs drumming the grass.

Conrad kicked at Bowzer and fired another round, shattering the back glass-door.

Screams continued from within the house.

Conrad crawled through the grass with teeth locked on his ankle, dragging Bowzer behind him. He felt the cool slick of dog shit on his elbows and knees.

“Help! Murder!” Mrs. Greenfield screamed from the house.

Conrad scrambled toward the back fence, firing a fourth time at Bowzer, and missing. It was like the fucking dog was somehow charmed. He hit the fence and managed to jump over, falling into the alley, feeling the hot stream of blood filling his shoe, the remnants of pain from Bowzer’s teeth tearing into the soft flesh of his ankle. Several porch lights lit up, lighting his way back home.

Conrad was unable to sleep at all that night, looking through his bedroom window at the police lights and news vans in front of the Greenfields’s house. A police chopper was sent up, casting a spotlight from the sky throughout the neighborhood. Someone knocked at his door, but he didn’t answer it. The knocking persisted for what seemed like hours. Not even the rest of his cheap bottle of gin would silence it. 

The next evening, Channel Ten had the report on TV. The suspects were described by Mrs. Greenfield as two Hispanic males in gray hoodies.

The county sheriff won his bid for re-election by promising to rid the state of the “illegals” that invaded his county. He promised to go after them all with every fiber in his being.

Thereafter, Bowzer was known throughout the neighborhood as the best little watchdog.



Kurt Reichenbaugh is the author or the novels SIRENS and LAST DANCE IN PHOENIX, published by PMMP. He’s also had stories appear in Phoenix Noir (the Noir series by Akashic Books), Hungur Magazine, Sounds of the Night, and the upcoming collection Stories from the Quill. He grew up in Florida and he currently lives in Phoenix, where he does time as an Accountant analyzing spreadsheets for a utility company.