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Hot Tin Roof: Soft Spot



It was late May and school was out. Em was on the porch steps watching her dog. She had been watching the dog for some time. The dog had stopped moving as much as usual, and now stopped altogether. Tufts of fur had been falling away from its body. This had gone on for weeks. One morning Em went to look at the dog lying by the clothesline pole where the grass and flowers were starting to turn green and bloom all around it. The bare patches on its hide were covered with maggots, and Em jumped back at the sight of them. After that she just sat on the porch steps and watched from a distance.

Her father came out of the house. He sat on the steps beside Em and put his work boots on, lacing them up one at a time.

“Em, we’re going to bury Heidi today.”

Em looked over at the heap of black and white. “Ok,” she said.

Her father got up and walked slowly into the garage. Em stood up from the steps and moved forward, but not too far. She heard a racket from her father clamoring around. He reappeared with a wheelbarrow and a shovel. Em took a step back.

He rolled the wheelbarrow over to the dog. Bending down he enclosed the dog in his arms. It wobbled around, and he adjusted his grip to handle the limp body. The dog’s head flopped over at his elbow, and its tongue hung loose from its mouth. Em’s father laid it inside the wheelbarrow so its head was propped up on the sloped end of the bucket. He walked around and took hold of the handles, lifted it, and set off rolling the dog. Em followed a few paces behind.

First they walked across the driveway. The sharp gravel was uneven and bounced the procession along. They headed down the driveway to where Em waited for the bus in the mornings. It was peaceful and bright, sprigs of everything forcing up through the earth all at once.

They took a sharp left at the garden, halfway down the driveway, and began to go up a small incline. Em’s father had just tilled the soil under, making it soft and warm. It receded from their feet with each step, and from the weight on the tire in front of them. Her father struggled with the load as he hit soft spots and ruts on the way.

They reached the end of the garden and walked further until they came to a thick grove of trees. The wheelbarrow stopped and was parked just outside the barbed wire fence. The fence was tired and sagging, and did not take much to climb over. Em’s father took the shovel and went over the fence. Em moved closer to see. He walked into the trees where it was dark and quiet. She heard the shovel hit the dirt, over and over, until the sound came to a halt. Then she saw her dad come back.

Em backed up as her father stepped over the fence. He took the dog out of the wheelbarrow and returned to the grove. She watched him for a few seconds, and climbed over herself. Her eyes grew wide as she followed him to the hole.

“Heidi was a good dog.”

Em nodded, transfixed on the shallow grave at the edge of her feet. Her father bent down and unloaded the animal. He moved it slightly so it would fit better. Then he took the shovel and started to fill in the dirt.

Em’s eyes were on Heidi’s face as the dirt hit her body and spread into her fur. Em stared harder and harder until she thought she saw a twitch in the dog’s face. She grabbed her father’s arm.

“She moved, Dad. I saw her move.”

Em’s dad didn’t stop. He was halfway done.

“Dad, did you hear me?”

“Go back to the house.”

“But I saw her move.”

“Em, go to the house right now.”

“But Dad…”

Em took one last glance as the dirt began to cover Heidi’s face. She hopped the fence and ran back—falling in the depressions they had left in the garden. She hit the gravel and kept going, across the front yard to the clothesline pole where the grass and flowers were starting to turn green and bloom all around it.


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