The dog skittered down the weathered barn-wood steps after the tennis ball. Dwayne turned, rifle raised. He didn’t recognize the dog. He believed in animal rights, but if that mutt made an aggressive move he’d drill its skull straight through, no regrets. The ball bounced past Dwayne and lodged in the crumpled tarp beneath his gun-cleaning table. The dog stopped short and stared at Dwayne, the sound of its panting dominated the close space of the bunker. Dwayne stared back at the animal with one eye closed, the other lining his sights down the long black barrel. Then the dog wagged its tail.
Dwayne lowered his gun and peeked out the open hatch toward the south end of his freshly plowed cornfield. There was nowhere for a body to hide but he saw no one. His nape tingled where the nerves would have raised hackles in his ancient ancestors. Tennis balls don’t fall from the sky. Someone threw it down here. Someone who had no business on his property. The dog slipped behind him to retrieve the ball. He saw it was a bitch. She dropped her ball at Dwayne’s feet. He looked back through the hatch. Why was no one calling for the dog? He knew his gun was loaded but he double-checked the round in the chamber out of habit. The clack of the bolt sounded like a lightning crack in the small concrete box his great-grandfather built as a shelter from the A-bomb. Dwayne remembered the old man ranting about the Commie Pinko bastards. Dwayne hadn’t understood then, but he did now. Only now it wasn’t the Commonists, it was the Guvment.
Dwayne grabbed his broken mirrored compact. When he’d found it at the dump, he’d seen a word on the tortoiseshell case and he’d sounded it out. Foun-da-tion. What they poured before raising a barn. But he knew this was no powdered cement. He assumed this foundation’s intended use had nothing to do with construction and everything to do with women, who had always been a mystery to him. He had used baling wire to bind the compact to an old shovel handle. He raised it now, like a periscope, and slowly turned with it in his hand, to survey the whole of his cornfield in the mirror. The field was empty.
He looked down at the dog. She sat expectantly, tongue lolling, tail wagging, eyes daring him to pick up the ball. He stooped to reach for the ball but she grabbed it away, quick as a toad’s tongue.
“You’re fast. You trained to sniff out guns, girl?”
The dog cocked her head, brow furrowed as if trying to understand. Dwayne gave her a gentle pat. It wasn’t her fault. Leading with his rifle, he climbed the steps and scanned the woods that surrounded the field. Something moved. Dwayne tracked it and fired. He saw a body drop. Small, like a child.
Guvment’ll use anybody, he thought. All they cares about is takin’ my guns.
Author-screenwriter Craig Faustus Buck is an L.A. native. His short stories have won a Macavity Award and been nominated for two Anthonys and a Derringer. His novel, Go Down Hard, a noir romp, was published by Brash Books. The sequel, Go Down Screaming, is coming out whenever he writes his way out of the second act.
Copyright © 2017 Craig Faustus Buck. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited.