I stood up when the doctor stepped into the room. “It’s nice to see you again,” he said. His hand was cold. He glanced at the gray clipboard. “When is your child due again?” I asked. He looked up. “Two months,” he said. I smiled. “So soon? I’d like to buy her a gift,” I said. “To thank you for all that you’ve done for me.” His hands sank. He looked past me. “That’s not necessary,” he said. “And it won’t be possible.”
It’s been two days since Rex disappeared. It was Friday night and it’s Sunday now. Two weird things have happened since then.
I’m not sure whether I should count Friday night as a ‘third weird thing.’ Shana and I were both unable to sleep. It might have been that Rex wasn’t there or that our back door was broken or that Shana or just the whole crazy week, but I think it was something else. It felt to me as if the air was electrically charged. And it probably was my imagination, but in some moments I heard an extra breath, one that wasn’t ours.
I blocked the bedroom door with our dresser. I know that sounds crazy but even Shana didn’t object – usually she calls me out on my stupidities. Afterwards she cuddled up, placed her head on my shoulder and I think she fell asleep.
For me that wasn’t possible. I tried to sleep, but with every passing hour I got not just more tired but also more nervous, nearly agitated. I felt my legs shivering, but not from cold.
I saw the first sunrays through the window. From one moment to the next my nervousness fell away and I fell asleep.
My body was shaking.
“Wake up,” she said. “Please wake up.”
Shana’s face was right above mine. There was sweat on her forehead, like a warning sign.
Then the first weird thing happened.
“Sorry;” she said. “I didn’t want to wake you, but I have to ask. Did you eat all the meat? Did you?”
I said No.
Shana’s cheeks lost their color.
“Oh,” she said. Like an additinoal word one drop of sweat fell on my face.
Shana had gotten up a few hours before me. She had asked Travis for help, the older bachelor living next door with his cat. He always had woodwork projects and Shana had rightly assumed that he would have a slab of wood to block our back door until the replacement on Tuesday.
Travis had decided that it was easier to walk around the back of the house rather than carry the heavy plate through both of our houses. He had left his garden and Shana had entered our gate for him.
“Lot’s of trash here,” he had said.
Travis went inside with his slab of wood. Shana went outside to look for the trash.
It was in the bushes right behind Travis’ house, just out of sight from our usual way into the forest. Stained wax paper. Cling film. Empty plastic bags. Soft white plastic trays for meat.
Shana recognized most of them. She even recognized her handwriting on the bags that should have been in our freezer.
Saturday was a long day. I won’t go into the details but there was screaming and accusations that I was lying. Then Shana called her father and I listened to her crying and screaming while I sat in the living room with a bowl of cereal.
In the end her father convinced Shana that it was all not such a big deal. Shana’s father said it was likely just a homeless person or a drifter hungry for a good meal and that the guy probably also stole other stuff and we just didn’t notice it. He also suggested that Rex was maybe on his tracks and that that was the reason why he ran off.
Then, after Shana had repeated all of that calmly to me, there were more accusations that she wanted an alarm when we moved in and that I was the one to reject it because it was too costly. I reminded her that it wasn’t possible to install an alarm because the back door would have to have been replaced.
At some point the police came and wrote all these things down and a bit later an alarm company came and made us an offer that Shana signed while I was out of the room. Then there was more fighting.
And in all these fights there was one thing I didn’t want to bring up. One thing that I thought Shana would at some point realize or that the police would possible bring up:
There were no signs of a fireplace. Either the thief had used our stove – and I like to believe we or at least Rex would have noticed that – or he had eaten the meat raw.
Let’s just say Saturday night I didn’t sleep much either. We blocked the back door with Travis’ slab of wood and brought all valuables into our bedroom – nothing seemed to be missing except for my camera but I often misplace it and didn’t think much of it. I blocked our bedroom door again, this time with a wedge, a shelf, a stack of books under the door handle and a small bell tied to the handle as an improvised alarm.
An hour later I took the bell off because it kept ringing. There was no other noise and I couldn’t see the door handle move, so it was certainly just the draft.
I don’t know when I fell asleep. It must have been pretty late, probably around 2 or 3am. I kept imagining breathing sounds and every creak in the old house seemed like footsteps or something crawling along the walls or pressing against the door. A few times I nearly dozed off but a sudden noise made me rip my eyes wide open to stare at the window.
A second night without sleep. A second weird thing.
There never was anything that sounded real. There were no loud noises, no sliding or pulling noises. Certainly I didn’t hear the back door being opened.
And yet, when we woke up, it was opened.
Sunday morning Shanah woke me up. She couldn’t move the big shelf on her own but needed to use the bathroom.
When I pushed the door handle down there was a sudden push from outside and the door opened. Rex’s body rolled partially inside the room. Rex jumped up with his tail wagging, the tongue hanging out of his mouth and his eyes full of excitement.
I just stared. My mind was still too sleepy to decide whether to stroke his head or whether to recoil. Shana’s gasp freed me from my dilemma.
Rex’ whole head and front legs were soaked in dry blood. Dark red stains even covered his back and neck. Rex didn’t seem to mind. He just tried to push his nose and the side of his head against my arm the way he always did when he wanted me to caress him.
Shana volunteered me to wash him. While I pushed Rex towards the bathroom Shana went downstairs. Rex left red stains on my pajama pants and the white wall.
Before we even made it to the bathroom Shana screamed.
She stood at the front door with shaking shoulders and her hand on the key. The other arm pointed towards the kitchen. The key turned. Shana went outside.
Then I saw why she screamed.
There was a dead deer in front of the kitchen counter. The body was torn open; intestine and organs were spread all over the kitchen floor. The deer’s neck was ripped apart and the mutilated head barely anymore attached to the body.
Rex followed me down the stairs. While I stared at the carcass in our kitchen Rex rubbed against my leg. Without thinking about it I caressed his head. When I pulled my hand away I realized that, from the look of it, Rex’s whole head must have been inside the dead deer.
I washed Rex first. During that time Shana came back inside, got dressed and left without a word.
With Rex locked inside the bathroom I went downstairs to get rid of the carcass. When I tried to pull the deer corpse into a black bin bag the head completely ripped off and blood splattered all over my clothes. The head went in a bag together with a severed leg. With some squeezing and through breaking the second hind leg the rest of the body fit inside another bag.
It took me around three hours just to clear the blood away. I didn’t even have the energy to deal with the stains that Rex left on the stairs and the walls upstairs.
Shana later texted me that she went to a friend’s place. She told me she wouldn’t come back while ‘my dog’ was still in the house. After a lengthy debate she agreed to come as long as he was locked inside the living room and I made sure to bring him to the pound on Monday.
Rex was peacefully sleeping in the wet bathtub. I dried him roughly with a hair dryer – he seemed to enjoy that – and locked him in the living room.
Only then, with Rex locked away and Shana on her way home, I realized the one thing that should have jumped straight in my face:
In the morning Rex was inside. The carcass was inside. But the Travis’ slab on back door was still in place. And the back door was still locked.
I went outside to check. The garden gate too is still locked.
There were no open windows. No open doors. No nothing. I don’t know how Rex could have gotten inside.
He is still in the living room. I hear him whining right now. He is scratching against the door. I locked the door but I can see how he is pulling the door handle down to try and open it.
It’s been more than three since we found him on the street. I know he is a smart dog. But in all these years, not a single time has he tried to pull the handle.
I was six when I met Santa’s little helper.
I woke up in the middle of the night. I remember the November winds howling past the window – of course back then I didn’t understand that those were November winds, but I knew that they were a sign of Christmas.
My mom always said that Santa and his helpers needed the wind. The reindeers, she said, ate too many sweets during the summer months and so they needed the wind to get off the ground.
Mom also said that Santa liked the snow. He always brought prisons during winter because the snow made him feel less guilty for his weight. And, of course, Santa only brought gifts because he knew that he would get mom’s homemade cookies in return. Continue reading