Boomerangs and Puppy Dogs

by Dan Sanders

The house is yellow in the middle of the desert. It’s one of the survivors of a collapsed development that was originally called Kactus Flats. Luckily no one calls it that since some of the neighbors got together to knock over the sign when the developers went bankrupt. Molly took the letters “LUCK” from the sign and hung it up in her dining room.  It’s ugly, but makes her feel clever for seeing it and saving it. She thought it might help her stay focused. The rest of the sign got crumpled up in a pile of metal and glass. Ted took it all to the recycling center in his pick up. Ted is older, but handsome and too friendly. She keeps away from him.

Her house is yellow and bright with the desert and she smokes out back, hoping her neighbors don’t see. The house blocks the wind and she taps ash into an old tin ashtray she pocketed in Vegas years ago when she did things like that. She sits and smokes and looks for Max, and thinks about what it would be like to come back.

There are a lot of neighbors. It’s turned out to be a nice community after, and maybe in spite of, the bankruptcy and the empty half-finished house at the end of the road that leans to one side. They’ve all talked about finishing it, maybe turning it into a library or community center. Or knocking it over for being an eyesore, and having Ted haul it piece by piece to the recycling center. He volunteered to do it, said it would be fun. Ted has a ponytail and is too nice and she gets nervous when he’s around. The neighbors only got so far as to tear the plastic off the windows that would flap and slap against the shingles in the wind. It’s still there, at the end of the road, doing nothing but casting a shadow like a sundial.

She misses the sound of the plastic snapping in the wind. It’s so quiet. Nothing for miles. She sleeps with the TV on and has nowhere to go when she wakes up.

She’d needed to get away from the city. She owns her home and has enough left over from the divorce to get by for a few more years but doesn’t know how she’ll get along after. She thinks about going back to work the casino, but she’d get sucked back in, she’d lose again. Again again.

She moved in a hurry after the divorce and took a box of odds and ends and Max (short for Maxine) a small mutt he’d brought home one day. A stray loose in the city, dehydrated and sick. They fixed him up and loved him but he took care of Max. It was his dog. Another rescue. He was always on the lookout for strays, it turned out. After the papers were all signed and splayed out on the kitchen table, she grabbed the dog and left before he got home from work. Grabbed Max by the scruff of her neck and left with the car.

The desert house came furnished. It was easier. All set up and ready to live in. Like she’d been there already but forgot all about this other life in the middle of nowhere, a thing she just got to come back to, waking from another bad dream to find herself home again. She only had the one box and some clothes to unpack and there she was. Like she’d never left the place she’d never been.

Max ran away right away. She let her go. She ran out the back door, ran straight out into the desert and she watched her go bounding over the scrub brush. She’d just started smoking again, on the way from there to here, and she sat down on her back stair with her cigarette and her ashtray and watched her run and run and run.

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Next Week’s Prompt: Safe-Keep Storage

Update: Starting next Sunday, new short stories shall be posted at 6pm since Short Sunday at Six is significantly more satisfying to say than Short Sunday at Five. Seems like something I should have noticed before today. 

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