She put the car in drive. Again I felt what I now knew was not a speed bump under the tire. A second later the howl returned, a haunting swan song that, to this day, continues to ring in my ears on sleepless nights.
Mrs. Rogers babbled without taking a breath for the rest of the four-block ride, a distance I silently chastised myself for not opting to walk. "You know, it probably didn't feel any pain, or at least not much pain. I mean, I don't even think it was breathing at one point. And, oh, the poor owner, but those dogs weren't kept in a yard, and they weren't on leashes, and it was so dark, and they appeared out of nowhere! So fast, so fast." At the time, I thought she was trying to make me feel better. It was only later that I considered I wasn't the only one who heard the howling.
I remained stone-faced all the way home. "Are you sure you're okay?" Mrs. Rogers asked after I opened the door to leave.
"Yeah. The lights are on, so my parents should be home. Let me know if you, uh, hear anything. About the dog, you know." My jaw was tense with the strain of containing my emotions. Stiff upper lip, don't be a baby.
"I will," said Mrs. Rogers. "I promise. Oh, I'm so sorry, Barb. That was awful, just awful. But, it's okay. I think the dog is at peace now. I'll let you know if I find anything out." I was tempted to check the front of the van for blood stains, but I suppressed my curiosity and headed for my house.
Once inside, I yelled, "Mom?! Dad?!" No response. I called out again, desperately, " MOM?! DAD?! " In a house where the TV was always blasting and people were forever talking over one another, the silence was as jarring as a cell phone ringing during a sermon. My parents weren't yet home from couple's Bunco night. I was alone. And I'd just been an accomplice in the slow, torturous murder of an anonymous neighborhood dog.
I turned on the TV and blasted the volume. I fought to stave off the flashing images of dogs frozen in headlights and rocked my body back and forth, hoping to quiet the howls echoing in my head. Over the din of the laugh track on a rerun of I Love Lucy , I could hear my sobs and the embarrassing words I was unable to stop forming through spit and snot: "Mommy...Daddy..."