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by Kyle SUNDBY

There was no doubt the dog was dead. Two cars - one parked, the other in motion—made sure of that fact. Assigning blame, however, was not as exact. As he closed the door after receiving the news, Jason understood the uncertainty as well as anyone.

The backpack in the living room was open. Half the contents, including the sneakers Jason would swap for the flip-flops he had been wearing all week, spilled across the floor. He had thrown on a pair of baggy shorts before answering the door. It was at least two days since changing his t-shirt.

As soon as the inning of the ballgame on television came to a close, he went to the kitchen to find a garbage bag. If Jason was sure of anything, it would be that there was an ample supply of garbage bags along with every other imaginable cleaning product under the sink. Terry couldn’t live any other way. The demise of his tiny pet while he was away at a conference would also interfere with his organized existence. With the bag and a pair of rubber cleaning gloves (under sink), Jason exited the condo to retrieve the carcass from the street.

After the game, Jason flipped through the channels until he found a movie he knew he would enjoy. He’d seen it two or eight times before. It was a big budget sci-fi with an emphasis on kick-ass battles for supremacy of the planet. On the giant plasma flat screen Jason felt like he was in the cockpit of his own ship, fighting alongside the overmatched and outgunned heroes defending our future America’s way of life. Time was running out for the good guys—alien ships with weaponry capable of leveling entire cities were positioning over what was left of the earth’s populace. Terry needed to be picked up from the airport in two days.

The movie ended in victory and celebration. Millions had been vaporized in the initial attack, cities lay in ruin, but man would survive, rebuild, and thrive again. Jason wondered if the heroes had not yet found time to grieve over the loss of loved ones or if they understood that amid so much death, the only thing to do was rejoice in the company of the living.

When Friday arrived and Terry was due in, Jason figured maybe they could go straight from the airport to a bar or club downtown. He still had some cash from his final student loan if Terry was reluctant to go out. Showing a few dollars beforehand might be enough of a gesture to set the wheels in motion. It had worked all through their college years, when they shared an apartment just off campus. They could discuss, lament, forget, and lament again the fate of Terry’s dog through the course of the night. Jason would apologize for leaving the front door open and feel horrible until Terry could take no more of his friend’s sadness. Maybe he would stay on at the condo for a few more days, even a week or two, at Terry’s insistence.

The late news followed the movie. Jason found the cable channel guide channel, then found a another movie and a best-of or top-twenty moments show and alternated between the two until he caught enough of neither to retain his interest. He turned off the television and went to the kitchen to get a drink. The absence of special effects booming from the surround sound left the condo absolutely silent. The dog, in the corner inside the tied off bag, remained the same.

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