Presented for your reading pleasure, some new fiction from Joe Giordano.
by Joseph Giordano
We talked late into the night under a quiet moon parked atop a lovers’ lane knoll. Ashley was visiting a cousin in Brooklyn. She smiled shyly and told me that her mother warned her about New York wolves like me. So we just talked, and her southern lilt wrapped around my heart. I wrote to her when she returned to Atlanta. Paper letters. Imagine that. When her sister called to say Ashley died in a car accident, I didn’t leave my apartment for two days.
I drove upstate to farm country. The sky was filled with blue-gray clouds tumbling over pine green hillsides studded with trees. The fields were daubed with yellow-yoked, white daisies, violet and orange wildflowers. Down the valley a white domed, red silo sat aside a nineteenth century farmhouse. I stopped my blue GTO near a natural pond. I stepped from the car, strapped on my backpack, and a beaver slapped his tail on the water. It was hot, and the humidity stuck to glass. The air smelled heavy. I started down a dirt path, and my boots crushed stones as I walked. A flock of black-headed geese honked down at me. I’d walked a bit when a gangly, shaggy, brown dog stepped gingerly from the woods. The dog had no tags. He trotted behind, and then grazed my leg as he went past. A stream meandered on my right, and I heard the gurgling of water rolling over rocks. The dog found a muddy hole, and ground himself into the dampness until he was coated black. He looked at me like, don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. I was breaking a sweat, but I passed on his silent offer. I continued to walk. He lifted his head, seemed a bit torn, and then popped out of his hole looking like a tar baby and loped behind me. The dog had a head outsized for his body. There were tufts of brown fur over his yellow-brown eyes that gave his muzzle a terrier look.
I said, “You have a name, boy?” He stopped and his head hung. “Never mind. You look Scottish to me. How about I call you Wallace, for William Wallace? Great hero. Okay Wallace?” The dog’s mouth widened into a smile. “Good boy. Let’s go.”
My dog, Max, died when I was twelve. My father put him to sleep, and I barricaded myself inside my bedroom. I suppose that was me. Retreat and lick my wounds. I shook my head.
I told Wallace about Ashley and how it’s really special when you meet someone, and emotions just click. But when she’s gone, there’s an emptiness of what could have been. Wallace was a good listener. I wiped a tear, and Wallace’s eyes softened. I strategized how I could get that gooey filth off him, so I could take him back home with me. We came along to the farm with the red silo. A large “Private Property, No Trespassing” notice had a smaller sign hung underneath: “Beware of Owner” with the picture of a hand holding a revolver. I’d gone about twenty yards before I realized Wallace stopped trailing behind. I turned to see that he was pacing along the curve in the road with his head hung low. I called out to him, but he didn’t come. So I walked back. I had some raw carrots in my pack and gave Wallace a handful. I scratched behind his ears, and his happy face returned. I said, “C’mon,” and he tagged along. About fifty yards later, he disappeared into the brush. Must have spotted a stray rabbit, I thought. Five minutes later he popped back onto the road with a silvery-laced chicken in his mouth. The bird looked like a limp rag, alive, and as wide-eyed as a chicken gets.
I said, “No, Wallace. Drop it.”
Wallace sat on his haunches and released the chicken at his paws. The bird squatted like it had taken cover in an air raid.
I said, “C’mon, Wallace. Leave it,” and gestured he should come to me.
A man emerged from the thorny bush. He wore a tattered, green, CAT baseball cap, and stubble of black beard. He carried a double-barreled shotgun.
Wallace rose and squared himself to the man. He let out a low rumble of a growl.
The man shouldered the weapon and fired both barrels.
Wallace’s head disappeared in a blur of red. The dog’s body flopped into the air, danced on its hind legs for a moment, hit the ground, twitched and was still.
My hands went to my head, and my mouth opened.
The man cracked the shotgun, and two spent shells ejected. He blew away gun smoke, reloaded and snapped the breach locked.
I said, “You killed my dog.”
He bent and picked up the spent casings.
“Why did you kill my dog?”
He didn’t look at me. “Can’t have dogs stealing chickens.”
He turned on his heel and slid into the bush.
I walked up to Wallace’s body. Headless, he was skin and bones. I caught a sob in my throat. The images of his death throes were imprinted on my brain. My forehead had a slippery coat of sweat that smelled of stress. I looked over the scene of the crime. The chicken had been hit with pellets and was dead. Next to Wallace’s body was a jagged rock splattered with his blood. I picked it up. It had heft. My face and neck got hot. I gripped the rock tightly with a sweated palm, turned and strode into the brier.
Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. He and his wife, Jane, lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and Netherlands. They now live in Texas with their little Shih Tzu, Sophia.
Joe’s stories appeared in Alliterati Magazine, Ascent Aspirations Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Black Heart Magazine, Blue Lake Review, Bong is Bard, Crack the Spine, Forge, Infective Ink, Johnny America, Marco Polo Arts Magazine, Milk Sugar, The Newer York. Orion Headless, River Lit Magazine, River Poets Journal, The Shine Journal, The Stone Hobo, The Summerset Review, The Waterhouse Review, Writers Abroad, and The Zodiac Review.