He stopped screaming into the phone as he felt the sickening crunch beneath his tires. He slammed on the breaks of his sports car, leaving dark skid marks on the asphalt behind him. Bill’s heart clenched tight. Fright and adrenaline triggering his angina. Cold sweat broke out on his forehead. He could vaguely hear his assistant’s voice stammering out explanation as he lowered the phone from his ear. He’d been drinking earlier, but thought he was ok to drive. His clenched his eyes shut, afraid to look up. He had too many infractions on his license already.
“Please don’t let it be a kid. Please don’t let it be a kid,” he repeated, praying selfishly to a god he only believed in when he needed a favor. Finally he opened his eyes a crack. He tilted his head to the rearview mirror. Relief flooded him like a soothing wave. Instead of a child, a shaggy brown lump lay between his tire marks. A long tail wagged pathetically.
"Thank God, it’s just a dog…” Bill muttered, wiping sweat off of his forehead. He threw his car into reverse and carefully backed up the street. Distantly he could hear his assistant’s disembodied voice calling, “Mr. Davidson? Mr. Davidson?”
Bill used the automatic switch to lower his driver’s window as the car rolled up next to the animal. Lying in a pool of blood was a medium sized brown Mutt. Its right forepaw was obviously broken. It tried to rise and fell back to its belly. The dog looked up at him, whimpering. It wagged its tail feebly. There was a small bell tied to its collar. It tinkled slightly as the dog struggled.
Bill looked away from the dog and back into his car. It took a moment before he found what he was looking for. His cell phone, lying in his passenger floorboard. Flicking the smoldering butt of his cigarette over the struggling animal, he picked the phone up and held it to his ear. He resumed berating his assistant as though there had been no interruption. Putting his call into drive, Bill Davidson drove away, leaving the animal to wallow in its misery. He made it home in time for his dinner: a huge rare steak, a baked potato drenched in butter and two fingers of bourbon. The next day, on Bill’s way to work, there was a large patch of dried blood, but no dog in site.
Weeks went by and Bill didn’t think about the dog again. His wife bullied him into visiting the doctor about his heart, and the doctor refilled his prescription, but not before the usual speech about cutting out red meat, getting more exercise, giving up smoking and reducing his stress.
“Yeah, Yeah, Yeah,” he placated the doctor. He continued to do as he damn well pleased. Bill’s wife, however, for reasons unknown, genuinely loved him, and made it her duty to force him to live more healthily, which is how two weeks later, Bill found himself standing on his front porch at 6:30 in the morning wearing a jogging suit. Bill had agreed to some light jogging to ”Shut the nagging bitch up”. He still smoked like a chimney and ate as much as he wanted of whatever he liked.
Bill shuffled off the front porch and down his driveway to the sidewalk. The morning was foggy and a little bit chilly. He power walked until he was out of site of the house pulled out his cell phone and dialed his assistant’s number. He slowed his walking to a pace that barely qualified as exercise and waited for his assistant to pick up the line.
“Yes, Mr. Davidson?” His assistant’s groggy voice answered the call. Bill hoped he had woken the man up. Bill launched into a tirade of things that had gone wrong in the office and how they were the assistant’s fault. His assistant just meekly accepted the criticisms. This just spurred Bill on. He came up with more and more insults he could heave at the meek little man. He knew he was getting into the zone as the veins in his head began to throb.
“And those reports had better be on my desk by 7:00 a.m. sharp if you expect to have your job on–“ Bill cut off. He dropped the phone. It clattered off the sidewalk and into the street, its face shattered. He clutched his chest, which had suddenly gone tight. Bill gasped for breath as he fell to his knees. His brain raced. Had he taken his medicine this morning? He couldn’t remember, but this hurt more than normal. The feeling in his left side fled. From far away he could hear the voice of his assistant.
“Mr. Davidson? Mr. Davidson?”
Bill began praying to a god he only believed in when he needed a favor. Suddenly, above the noise of his cell phone he heard a soft labored padding coming up the sidewalk behind him.
“Oh thank God, it’s a dog.” Visions of Lassie saving Timmy from the well danced through Bill’s brain. The padding got louder for a moment and then stopped. Bill heard a faint tinkling on the wind.
“Here boy. Here…boy…go get…help,” Bill managed to wheeze. The padding started again. The animal came into view. It was a medium sized shaggy brown mutt. It limped on three legs and held a mangled forepaw off the ground. Its brown coat was matted thick with dried blood. From its collar hung a dented bell.
“Go on boy…get…help…” Bill pleaded. The dog took another labored step closer. What little air Bill could breathe in brought the smell of infection and decay from the dog’s wounds. When it reached him, it leaned down and licked his dying face.
"Get…help…plea--” Bill’s voice trailed off. As his vision dimmed and went dark, the last thing he saw was the dog's tail beginning to wag.