Johnny America


At Home


There was no doubt the dog was dead. Two cars — one parked, the oth­er in mo­tion — made sure of that fact. As­sign­ing blame, how­ev­er, was not as ex­act. As he closed the door af­ter re­ceiv­ing the news, Ja­son un­der­stood the un­cer­tain­ty as well as anyone.

The back­pack in the liv­ing room was open. Half the con­tents, in­clud­ing the sneak­ers Ja­son would swap for the flip-flops he had been wear­ing all week, spilled across the floor. He had thrown on a pair of bag­gy shorts be­fore an­swer­ing the door. It was at least two days since chang­ing his t‑shirt.

As soon as the in­ning of the ball­game on tele­vi­sion came to a close, he went to the kitchen to find a garbage bag. If Ja­son was sure of any­thing, it would be that there was an am­ple sup­ply of garbage bags along with every oth­er imag­in­able clean­ing prod­uct un­der the sink. Ter­ry could­n’t live any oth­er way. The demise of his tiny pet while he was away at a con­fer­ence would al­so in­ter­fere with his or­ga­nized ex­is­tence. With the bag and a pair of rub­ber clean­ing gloves (un­der sink), Ja­son ex­it­ed the con­do to re­trieve the car­cass from the street.

Af­ter the game, Ja­son flipped through the chan­nels un­til he found a movie he knew he would en­joy. He’d seen it two or eight times be­fore. It was a big bud­get sci-fi with an em­pha­sis on kick-ass bat­tles for su­prema­cy of the plan­et. On the gi­ant plas­ma flat screen Ja­son felt like he was in the cock­pit of his own ship, fight­ing along­side the over­matched and out­gunned he­roes de­fend­ing our fu­ture Amer­i­ca’s way of life. Time was run­ning out for the good guys — alien ships with weapon­ry ca­pa­ble of lev­el­ing en­tire cities were po­si­tion­ing over what was left of the earth­’s pop­u­lace. Ter­ry need­ed to be picked up from the air­port in two days.

The movie end­ed in vic­to­ry and cel­e­bra­tion. Mil­lions had been va­por­ized in the ini­tial at­tack, cities lay in ru­in, but man would sur­vive, re­build, and thrive again. Ja­son won­dered if the he­roes had not yet found time to grieve over the loss of loved ones or if they un­der­stood that amid so much death, the on­ly thing to do was re­joice in the com­pa­ny of the living.

When Fri­day ar­rived and Ter­ry was due in, Ja­son fig­ured maybe they could go straight from the air­port to a bar or club down­town. He still had some cash from his fi­nal stu­dent loan if Ter­ry was re­luc­tant to go out. Show­ing a few dol­lars be­fore­hand might be enough of a ges­ture to set the wheels in mo­tion. It had worked all through their col­lege years, when they shared an apart­ment just off cam­pus. They could dis­cuss, lament, for­get, and lament again the fate of Ter­ry’s dog through the course of the night. Ja­son would apol­o­gize for leav­ing the front door open and feel hor­ri­ble un­til Ter­ry could take no more of his friend’s sad­ness. Maybe he would stay on at the con­do for a few more days, even a week or two, at Ter­ry’s insistence.

The late news fol­lowed the movie. Ja­son found the ca­ble chan­nel guide chan­nel, then found a an­oth­er movie and a best-of or top-twen­ty mo­ments show and al­ter­nat­ed be­tween the two un­til he caught enough of nei­ther to re­tain his in­ter­est. He turned off the tele­vi­sion and went to the kitchen to get a drink. The ab­sence of spe­cial ef­fects boom­ing from the sur­round sound left the con­do ab­solute­ly silent. The dog, in the cor­ner in­side the tied off bag, re­mained the same.

Filed under Fiction on September 6th, 2007

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