Three girls

We were 14 and it was summer, in the evening.  We walked down the steep hill talking, 3 girls.

A dog appeared from nowhere, from the trees, and followed us to the train station. Go back, said K. Shoo, she said.

The dog was an elderly golden retriever. It wagged its tail slowly, it looked at us with its milky kind eyes. We stopped and spoke to it, stroked its mild head.

We continued down the hill and the dog followed. Shoo, we said, Shoo. Then a car, a silver one, made a sudden forked turn and we watched as its tires ran over the dog, as if shouldering past a soft mountain. We watched as a boy came out of the car, his hands to his head and a girl in a rock tshirt screaming, her hands at her sides.

We watched and stood and and listened to the screaming I think I was holding my friends arm. We were quiet.

That’s when I saw K kneel down by the dog. She held it as it shuddered. Why is it doing that, I said.

It’s dying, someone said. Why is it shaking, someone said.Whose dog is it, someone said. What do we do, someone said. The dog became still.

We went back to K’shouse, the one that looked like a Victorian dollhouse. We tried not to think of it. 3 days later, K’s father lit up in flames.

We were in 6th period and K left the classroom, her face white and pinched.

He was fixing the car, there was oil or gasoline and perhaps a cigarette and his wife saw him on the second floor window, the one with the beautiful cream cupolas, and she came wailing out of the house, and he turned to her, his head on fire like a saint.

When the police arrived, he was still alive. He told them to shoot him, he was in too much pain. And they shook their heads and looked at the ground and the sky and waited for the white ambulance.

I called K for days, then weeks. You can talk to me– I’m your friend, I said, do you need help, I said. She never called back. But I kept trying, and I didn’t know why. I didn’t know it was me that needed comforting. I knew that noone was exempt from violence, from swinging swords and fires, the kind of violence that changes everything in a minute, or a day or the course of a week. Remember that dog? I said to my friend. Remember how it followed us?

And that’s what I think of now after the building around the corner from us burned and filled the apartment with the smell of sweet cedar and rubber– filled the night air with smoke and sirens and fumes. I think of Kerry and how she knelt by the dog, saying, It’s allright now, It’s ok, it’s ok.

I think of how she treated that moment just so, just so– lightly stroking its brow. And how it must be the only way to be, lest the moment break us.

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