City of Dogs
by Nick Pipitone
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
Cindy closed the door of the dispatcher’s office. The sound of barking from the cages was so loud she had to. Marcus played Words with Friends on his phone in between bites of his sandwich. The last call from the two-way had been thirty minutes ago.
Usually, they didn’t respond to complaints right away. It was pointless. Instead, Marcus and the other dispatchers marked down the area of each complaint on a map. After there were a cluster of complaints, they’d finally send an officer to investigate.
Everyone at the office knew their efforts were like trying to plug a hole in a dam with a piece of gum. The latest figures showed there were more than seven thousand strays concentrated in Dallas neighborhoods. It would take new legislation from city hall to solve this problem. Not the efforts of a few dogcatchers.
“Have you heard from him yet?” Marcus asked, not looking up from his phone.
“No. I haven’t.” Cindy stared off through the windows at the dogs. Many of them were malnourished; some were dying. She thought of Daryl’s sunken face, glassy eyes and malnourished body.
“He’ll be back. They always come back. He’ll need money. Or he’ll need a warm bed to sleep in. It won’t be long.”
“It’s already been a week. He never stays away this long.” She chewed on her pink nails as she spoke.
“You probably pissed him off real good. Maybe that’s what—”
The sound of the two-way cut Marcus off. They listened apathetically; it was just another call. But the voice this time sounded urgent.
“Got an attack near the Hidden Creek Apartments,” the voice said. “This one’s pretty bad. Better send someone out, and quick.”
“Hidden Creek?” Cindy said. “That’s where Tammy’s parents live. Ask him—”
Marcus held a finger to his lips and grabbed the two-way. “What’s going on, Mac? How bad they hurt?”
“Marcus. Ask him who the victims are, goddammit.”
“Yeah, it’s bad,” the voice said. “Two kids, about 18 to 24, I’d say. Ambulance is on the way. Just send someone quick.”
Cindy grabbed the two-way out of Marcus’ hands. Her hands were shaking again. “What are their names?”
“Calm down, Cin.” Marcus put a hand on her shoulder. Cindy slapped the hand away.
“We don’t have an ID yet. It’s a male and female. Just hurry and come down.”
Cindy slammed the two-way on the desk and grabbed her keys like the building was on fire.
“Don’t get paranoid,” Marcus said. “It could be anybody. And don’t drive like a—”
Cindy was already out the door, running to the parking lot. She was out of breath by the time she got to her work truck. The tires squealed as she pulled out and headed toward Hidden Creek.
“Stupid, stupid!” she said aloud. The one time I lay my foot down and kick him out, and he gets killed in a week.
Her heart raced as she sped through stop sign after stop sign. She finally hit a red light, and she banged the steering wheel as she waited. The car in front of her slowly moved as the light turned green, and she slammed on the horn. Finally, she sped around the driver.
What kind of mother are you? What kind of mother raises a drug addict? And then kicks him out and signs his death warrant?
The mid-day traffic was light, and she zoomed to the apartments in under twenty minutes. As she pulled up, she saw the crowd gathered near the ambulance. Jimmy, another Animal Control officer, argued with someone as she rushed past.
“Hey!” Jimmy yelled. “Cindy!”
She zipped past him to the ambulance. The back doors were closed and they were ready to pull out. She walked to the driver’s side and banged on the window.
“What are their names?” she blurted out.
“What?” the driver asked, pulling the window down.
“I said, what are their damn names?”
The driver’s face tensed up. “We have to get out of here, lady. They’re in critical condition.”
“Open it up back there.”
“I said open it. I need to see them.”
Jimmy rushed over. “What the hell is going on?” The crowd watched, wondering what Cindy was doing.
“Get out of my way,” Cindy said.
The driver relented and got out of the ambulance. “We didn’t ID them yet. They weren’t carrying any ID. Make this damn quick.”
The short walk from the driver’s side to the back of the ambulance felt like an eternity. She felt like her heart was about to explode.
The driver swung open the back doors, and Cindy pushed him out of the way. The two EMTs looked amazed as she climbed in. “What the hell?” an EMT said.
She grabbed onto the light-skinned boy on the gurney. Bandages were wrapped around his arms and legs, and his eyes were half-open. He had puffy black hair and a thin, delicate face.
It wasn’t Daryl.
“That’s enough.” The driver grabbed Cindy by the arm and pulled her out of the ambulance. She felt weak as she fell to one knee.
“Will you please tell me what’s going on?” Jimmy said.
Cindy threw up her breakfast as the ambulance sped off. The ground spun and she saw tiny stars doing semi-circles on the blacktop.
“Jesus Christ.” Jimmy stepped back as she vomited again. The crowd gathered around and watched her, broken Cindy, like she was a sideshow act.
“I need to get away from these people,” she said, softly.
Jimmy helped her up and they walked to her truck. She wiped the bits of vomit from her mouth and rubbed it on her pants.
“What about us?” a middle-aged man asked. “What about these goddamned dogs?”
“We’ll be with you in just a minute, folks,” Jimmy said.
Cindy sat in the driver’s seat and took a deep breath. In the street ahead, two pit bulls sauntered down the block with their tongues out. She had enough of the dogs and the job. She wanted to go home.
“I thought it was my son,” she said. “I thought my son got attacked.”
“That explains it.” Jimmy paused and looked at the ground. “Why don’t you call off the rest of the day? You’re in bad shape.”
She watched the pit bulls playing with each other. They swatted at each other’s faces with their paws up. Then they snapped. They barked at something across the street and hunched down into mean poses. She could see a big Husky scampering along.
The pit bulls kept barking as the Husky walked out of sight. A teenage boy then appeared on the other side of the street. The boy froze and watched the pit bulls.
“Cindy? Earth to Cindy...”
She turned and looked at him. “Yeah. I think I’ll go home. I need to get some rest.” She took the keys out of her pocket. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Jimmy.”
Cindy turned her phone off and put it in the dashboard. She wouldn’t wait for Daryl’s calls anymore. Her baby was sinking, and she didn’t want to drown with him.
She looked at the boy across the street again. He was smart. He walked backwards slowly while keeping his eyes on the dogs. Then he turned around and quickly walked away. He was used to this routine by now. He was used to living in the city of dogs.
Copyright © 2016 by Nick Pipitone