Bessie

by Brian

The man could not stand the barking anymore.

The little dog’s hysterical ky-yiying smashed his thoughts into a million pieces and scattered them to the wind.

It was possible that he was autistic. He’d known an autistic child who screeched like a banshee when the crosswalk machine beeped, or the microwave.

The beep was all, the yipping was all, all-consuming, all-encompassing.

He could not take it anymore.

He would go see the neighbor.

The man knocked on the door lightly, hoping that no one would answer. But someone did answer, nearly right away.

She was older, attractive, although a closer look revealed her wear. She’d had work done, and had a bit of the clownish look plastic surgery gives older women.

“Hi, I’m your neighbor, behind you,” he said, pointing clumsily.

“Oh are you the one who took that place? I’m Pamela.”

“Chris. Chris Patton. So, Pamela, what I wanted to speak to you about was the dog. I find its bark…distressing. I’m sorry, it’s the nature of the work I do. I’m easily distracted.”

“What do you do?”

“I’m a writer.”

Pamela reacted as though Chris said “telekinesis” or “acrobatics” instead of “writer.”

“A writer? Oh how interesting! What do you write?”

“Independent journalism. Freelance.”

“We could use a journalist down at the meeting tonight. We’re experiencing a youth suicide epidemic in this town. I’m not sure if you knew that, I know you’re new in town. Anyway, maybe you could help. Shine a light, you know?”

“Sure. Maybe I can check it out.”

“Come in for a moment, let me get your number.”

Chris followed Pamela inside the house.

“This is Bessie. She’s the one making all that awful noise. She gets distressed when she can’t see her family…me and my husband. And the grandkids and my daughter, when they’re around. Bessie’s a rescue dog. The poor thing was horribly abused when we got her. Now, what’s your number?”

“841-719-6427.”

“I just love volunteering in the community. My husband works in Farmingdale, that’s about 2.5 hours south of here. It’s too far to commute every day so he keeps a place close to work and comes home weekends.”

Bessie ran out the dog door and started in barking at something. Another dog barked, then another, and another, and soon the entire neighborhood was going.

Chris scrunched up his face at the noise.

“I’ll send you a message about the meeting time. It’s just awful, all these young people killing themselves—I don’t know if it’s the social media, the cyber bullying, or what.”

“They seem to have it all, yet they’re so unhappy. Everyone seems so unhappy.”

Pamela’s surgically enhanced eyes cringed when Chris said this. Chris thought it looked like she was about to cry.

The dog was quieter after that. Chris didn’t talk to Pamela again, although he sometimes watched her out his bedroom window walking Bessie, who sniffed at the grass and wiggled happily.

Pamela always wore a long visor to protect her face from the sun. Chris thought it made her look like a widow in mourning.