Trail

Then she heard the dog bark. Strange since there had been no car on the road, no sound of steps. Of course the snow was freshly fallen, soft and plush, to muffle any sound. He barked again. Was it a stray cat? Or coon? Deer most likely.

She stepped out onto the porch. The air felt crisp, chill. “Tigre, what do you hear? What do you smell? Hmm?” and scratched him behind the ear. His tail wagged for her, but he kept his eye on the road, ears back, and barked again. She tried to see what he did—what scent was he picking up on? Or sound? The breeze was light, and the moon slipped behind clouds then reappeared—or rather, it must be the clouds that moved. Tigre was in the driveway now barking frantically.

“Qué pasa? Qué pasa Tigre, eh?” As if he’d be able to answer her better if she spoke in Spanish. She walked to the end of the driveway—not a long walk at all—50 feet? She was no good at judging distances—still in sight of the house, the road. She felt cold now, not having stopped to put on a jacket before venturing outside. She hugged herself as she walked, trying to retain warmth.

There was nothing to find. Nor did she notice any footsteps in the snow other than Tigre’s and her own, the tire tracks of her Forester.

“C’mon, Tigre, let’s go—” and he came reluctantly behind her, his magnetic sense of smell clearly still pulling him elsewhere.

The house was locked. She must not have undid the bolt, it must have locked behind her. And she did not have keys. There was of course the other door. She walked to the back to try it, but no—it was locked also.

She tried to think clearly: the car, her Forester? But the keys were in the house—. Her cell? No—she’d brought it inside to recharge it. The neighbors—she’d have to walk to the neighbors.

It was hard not to stop the voice of blame: Idiot! Idiota! Walking out, what were you thinking?  Not even grabbing a sweater! She’d felt so warm and cozy inside…no she wouldn’t blame Tigre, it was not his fault she could not think ahead—

The Kramers, a half mile down the road, were not home. She knocked, looked in windows—nothing. She didn’t know them well; they hadn’t been overly friendly when she’d moved in, but surely they’d begun to warm up a little—Hilda, her husband Jonathan—through socializing? SHIT, she cried, stamping her feet in the snow, SHIT SHIT SHIT. Her eyes smarted, she was so angry. Tigre wagged his tail as if he knew, licked her ungloved hand. He seemed to be trying to cheer her. “What do we do now?” she asked. She calculated. They should try the other direction, the Van Burens—perhaps they’d be home. They were closer than the house past the Kramers—besides she wanted to walk past her house again. There must be something else to do, a window to try? Or break? Some other way to get inside what seemed like nirvana now.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, it’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine… REM’s song ran through her head, an endless loop (was she trying to convince herself?). In reality, her teeth were chattering.

What had made her think she could live alone? With no one but a dog for company? Was she crazy? Such a fuck up. Such a goddamn fuck up.

An hour later, inside (the locksmith gone now), she had calculated her losses: her laptop computer, the CD player, her jewelry, her wallet even.

Gone. The police were on their way. Would there be fingerprinting? No. Whoever it was—much too canny for that. No trail but her own.

She leaned back into the couch and closed her eyes. She felt Tigre beside her, curling into her, nosing the hand she rested on her kneecap.

“Gone,” she said aloud, “Stolen…” And saying the words aloud, she suddenly knew who it was who’d taken them. Her ex. It was him, she knew. Her heart raced. What to do? The police were coming, she reminded herself. Why did she feel he was there in the house? Watching and waiting? From where was she getting this X-ray vision? This keen sense of sound? Of smell?

“Tigre,” she said, “Tigre…” he nudged his nose into her, not noticing anything it seemed but the comfort of her smell.

Contributor

Jessica Treat

Treat's stories, essays, poems, and translations have been published in many anthologies.

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