As the late summer sun neared setting, Jool was working on their winter garden. Curtis came back up from town, two rolls of chicken wire in the little bed of their three-wheeler. He paused just shy of their house, an A-frame cabin they’d finished at last in just under two years. Paused because, in town, he’d heard news he didn’t want to tell her.
She was weeding, her face profiled in the golden light that shadowed the honey-colored slant of her cheekbones. He could see the low swelling of her belly, like the curve of a crescent moon. Four months along. Their baby would be a beautiful blend—his black with her buckskin hues; his frame solid, hers slender.
“Guess what.” she called. “We’ve got a visitor.” Though she said it smiling, there was something sad in her eyes.
“Someone I know?”
“I think so. In a way.” And here the visitor came, loping down the path behind her: a rangy dog, vaguely Lab-shaped with longish blond fur. A big, affable fellow, all tongue and enthusiasm.
And the moment Curtis saw it, he understood what he’d seen in Jool’s face. In a heartbeat he was projected back to that morning in L.A., sitting with thousands of other extras-to-be in the bleachers outside Panoply Studio’s great wall, watching a demo of the monsters they would be facing on the set inside that wall. They’d watched a dog that looked very much like this one come to a gruesome end.
“Damn,” he said.
Faces and memories. Their thoughts went inward to fugues of nightmare and adrenalized turmoil they would never forget. It came naturally, then, for Curtis to tell her what he had just learned in town.
She stroked his face and sighed. The sun was just set. Below them Sunrise, in its tree line, had its streetlights on. “I’ll tell Momma and your Auntie Drew,” she said. The house they had built for those two ladies was just in the next vale over from their own. “You go up and tell Chops and Gillian. We’ll meet you for the meeting down in the hall. And this guy? We’ll keep him, right?”
She smiled. “You sure now? He’s a big eater—already finished the rest of last night’s roast.”
He smiled back. “What do you want to call him?”
“Well, he was lucky to find us,” she said. “Let’s call him Chance.”
Copyright © 2013 by Michael Shea