Big Dog by Dan Crawley
Denise entered the extended stay hotel room, tugging off her damp windbreaker over her pharmacy scrubs. She called, “Hello, my darling girl.” A small collie jumped toward Denise. The switch by the door turned on a lamp across the room. Its dull bulb and dingy shade reminded Denise of a faraway porch light in fog. She put a teapot on the tiny stove in the corner and picked up the dog resting against her ankle, sat down and placed the dog on her lap. “Too tired out to change.” Denise slowly brushed the dog’s fur with her fingers. The collie’s blue eyes glowed. “Busy today. Like a hive split wide open. Everyone’s scared to death. Finally rushing in.” She told the dog about a man who got his second shot that morning, how he’d said the first jab made his arm sore. Hurt like a big dog, was how the man put it. Denise had heard the pharmacist tell the man a sore arm would probably happen again. The pharmacist instructed him to rub the painful spot until the pain dissipated. “The man says it’s like a knuckle punch. Holds up his fist for me…like I don’t know.” Denise held her clenched hand in front of the dog’s stare. Her middle knuckle jutted out, a severe cornice on a narrow wall. “I know, darling girl.” She shook her hand like she touched dry ice and shivered. “Oh, Christ…merciful God.” The teapot shrieked. The small collie stood and nuzzled her head against Denise’s stomach. Along her forearms. Around her side to her back.
Dan Crawley is the author of Straight Down the Road (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2019), The Wind, It Swirls (Cowboy Jamboree Press, 2021) and Blur (Cowboy Jamboree Press, 2023). His writing appears in Jellyfish Review, Lost Balloon, JMWW, Milk Candy Review, Atticus Review, and elsewhere. Find him at https://twitter.com/danbillyc.