Author’s Note: I’ll be off watching the eclipse Monday, so enjoy this way early! —-jeff
Hark, Hark, the Dogs Do Bark
By Jeff Baker
He heard the dogs again, yelping, barking, whining. When Raymond Nash was younger, he might have worried about burglars in the neighborhood. Now, he reassured himself he had set security before he went to bed and rolled over in the covers and blankets, imagining wolves cavorting in the snow.
By daylight, the neighborhood looked like a set for a ‘50’s T.V. show. 1228 Elmwood Drive looked exactly like 1231 just across the street. Well-kept houses, fresh-mowed grass, middle-aged men already mowing their weekend lawns. Nash wondered about the dogs he’d heard-did they run through neighborhoods in packs? Were they even local? He doubted it. He hadn’t noticed any dogs, not even any being walked in the evening. Nonetheless, he drove slowly down the street, turning on to 25th street and then the highway. Dogs were forgotten.
He stayed up late that night as he was off-work the next day. He was crawling into bed when he heard the dogs again. He checked the alarm clock; 11:35.
“Somebody needs to call Animal Control,” he grumbled as his head hit the pillow.
Nash was standing in his backyard, surveying his mangy lawn with its patches of dirt when he saw one of his neighbors glancing over the hedge.
“Coming with us tonight?” the man asked.
“Uh, don’t think so,” Nash replied. None of anybody’s damn business what he did, even if he did nothing. Watched T.V. and ate after work, maybe had a beer. No social life. He went back inside.
Dogs invaded his dreams.
Monday after work Nash was standing on his porch in the dusk sipping a beer when the neighbor wandered over and started chatting.
“Love to have you,” the neighbor said. “You really should join up.”
“Join up to what?” Nash said. This guy was too old to be in a gang.
“Basically a neighborhood society,” the neighbor said. “We patrol the neighborhood at night. We make sure that all is well.”
“Like a neighborhood watch,” Nash said. “You aren’t burning crosses are you?”
The neighbor laughed. “Heavens no! We don’t even knock anything over. Tell you what; you look around and see if you find anything different. If you do you may be ready to join.”
Then the man walked off.
Lying in bed, listening to the dogs, Nash wasn’t sure what the man had meant. The next evening, he walked down the sidewalk in the cool of dusk. Nondescript neighborhood he thought. Lawns, flowers, cars, kids, backyard fences, swing sets. Wait. He walked back along the sidewalk, looking carefully. There were no backyard fences. And no sign of dogs, no tell-tale holes in yards, no “presents.” He looked up at the sky.
That night, Nash woke up to the sound of barking. He hadn’t remembered getting in bed. He did remember making sure the back door to the porch was open and that the porch screen was unlatched. The barking grew louder. He hopped off the bed, a long way down suddenly and ran across the floor towards the open doors, panting with excitement, furniture towering over him in the darkened house. He bounded out the door onto the porch and out the screen door announcing his arrival with a series of barks and howls. He heard the barking in welcome response and wagged his tail. He stared into the night, hearing night birds and other animals and smelling them as well.
For tonight, at least, he was running with the pack.