By C.L. Cross
“There she is,” Senior said to Ma’am Livie, who was curled on the couch reading a book.
“Who, dear?” she asked, clearly only half-interested.
“Who do you think?” Senior spat, letting the blinds snap closed. “That woman.”
“Lord in heaven, dear, are you on about Cybil again?”
“She’s going to do it again, I just know it.”
“Dear, sweetie, excuse me, but…”
“I don’t care.” Ma’am Livie smiled, held up her book, in toast, and continued reading.
Senior spread the blinds and peeked out at the lush green of late spring. “Well, someone has to care, Ma’am Livie. This town used to be God’s own personal vale and now look at it—nothing but hoodlums and, and, and…”
“And busybodies staring at people out their window.”
Senior scoffed. “The nerve of her putting these bags in all of our garbage cans. First the Browns, then the Simmonses, the Pauleys, the Pipers, and the Franks. The Hangers and the Joneses…”
“Well, that leaves only our garbage can,” Ma’am Livie said, with mock concern.
“Exactly! You see my point!”
“I see nothing. Just let it go. The garbage will be emptied in the morning, and there won’t be anything to worry about. See how easy that was?”
“Let it go? Let it go? Are you crazy? We’re talking about dog droppings in our garbage can! That smell doesn’t just come out.”
“They’re in a little bag, dear. At least she picks up after the dog, bless its heart.”
“If she takes the dog home, then she can take the bag home, too. She is practically defecating on our property.”
“It will be gone in the morning.”
“This is a neighborhood, not a kennel. I have half a mind…”
“You’re giving yourself too much credit.”
“Ma’am Livie, I have half a mind to march right up to her…”
“You will do no such thing! That poor woman has been through enough trauma. Now, get away from that window, you’re like some kind of cat in heat!”
“Ma’am Livie, he skipped town. It’s not as if he’s dead.”
“Being abandoned by the person you love is traumatic.”
“Did you know he smacked her around? People are saying he went on the lamb because the law was after him.”
“That’s the rumor, yes.”
“It wouldn’t be a rumor if it wasn’t true.”
“And what point are you trying to make?”
“Shh! Here she comes! The mutt’s with her, and she’s got a bag, too, and, and, and…right in our garbage can! You see, I told you this would happen! The nerve of that foul, god-forsaken, dirty woman…”
“It’s a garbage can, what do you expect?”
“I expect some measure of decency left in this country. I expect to open my garbage can without it smelling of dog droppings. I expect justice!”
“If you expect justice, then maybe the world isn’t for you. Justice would be Cybil getting to walk her dog in peace. That kind of justice doesn’t concern itself with you, Senior. Now come, sit down, before you have a heart attack.”
Senior sighed, straightened his vest, and said, “Fine, Ma’am Livie, I accept your will.”
“Good, now leave me alone.” She shook her head and tried to find her place in the book that had found itself pages down on the couch cushion.
“But you will have to catch me first!” Senior made a swift motion for the front door, went out on to the porch, and slammed it behind him.
Cybil had already walked over the hill to his left and was hidden from sight by a line of cypress trees and Daphne. Senior limped to the garbage can, opened the lid, and retrieved the blue plastic bag by the ear. Feeling the weight of it, it probably contained two, maybe three ample turds.
He turned to his right and ambled along the shoulder of the road when he began to notice he had probably torn some cartilage while making his move out the door. His knee was on fire. Cartilage, however, could wait, as he had a job to do.
Five minutes later, he came to Cybil’s house, which was three houses down from his own. A yellow coach, sprigged with ivy, Japanese rose, and azalea, it made for beautiful living quarters if only someone else lived there. Senior grunted as he stepped up the stone stairs to the front door. He untied the baggy and dumped the contents on her Welcome mat; they hit with a patter.
It was at this point that Senior knew he had made a mistake. Not by disobeying Ma’am Livie or injuring his knee. Those things would heal in time. He thought he might actually have a heart attack. At his feet were not three loaves of dog droppings but rather three pale and bloodless human fingers, severed behind the big knuckle.
Cybil’s husband hadn’t skipped town after all. He was going away, however, one bag at a time.