I was going through some old short stories I wrote and found this one. It was a (rejected) entry in a past round of NPR’s Three Minute Fiction contest. I like it and would love to know what you think.
She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door.
What was the goddamned dog barking about anyway?
She had slammed the door so hard that it opened with some difficulty. The frame was cracked and a bolt was missing from one of the hinges so it didn’t work right anyway, like so many things in her house now, but her thunderous escape into the spare bedroom had wedged it tight.
She stormed down the hall, as much as anyone can storm in fuzzy white slippers.
Why won’t that dog just shut up? Just a couple of minutes, that’s all I want. One minute. Anything.
Already she had forgotten what book it even was. It really didn’t matter. She had only managed to read a couple of pages before the barking started.
She had tried to ignore it. He was probably just barking at a squirrel or a crow or nothing. But he just kept barking, every couple of seconds and in rhythm, with this strained almost-whine at the end of each bark. And she couldn’t ignore it.
Her slippers dragged across the tile floor. The padded strips that stretched over the tops of her feet were tired and worn and barely hung on. Each step scraped like she was limping on both legs. They weren’t even really fuzzy anymore. Most of the fuzz had been rubbed away or mashed down into what looked like a dirty bath mat. But she wasn’t ready to give them up. They were a gift from her husband and she had loved them then. They were so warm. Now they were just old and sad and the easiest thing to put on when she woke up on the couch to Jacob’s crying.
She couldn’t believe what she had said to her son. And the way she had said it. With each step her shoulders dropped and that ache in her stomach came back, the same one she feels every time she yells at him like that.
But I’m so tired. I just wanted him to stop. I just needed a minute.
She looked through the divided panes of the door out to the small backyard and the dirt and the fences. He was too young to be out there by himself. She knew that. She would go get him and tell him that Mommy is just tired. Mommy is sorry. He’ll be all right.
The backyard was filled with that awful bark and the sound of the cars on the street behind the neighbor’s house. The sun was low and traffic was heavy. People coming home from work. Husbands and wives talking about their days. Sons racing to meet their daddies at the door. Those other houses and those other daddies. No cars are coming here. Her face scrunched up from the glare and the reminder and she walked into the backyard.
The sand box and the toy trucks in the corner were quiet. She called to Jacob. She turned toward the sound of the barking and tripped on a ball or a tractor or something and her left slipper fell off. She called his name. Around the side of the house, to the barking and the back gate. He must be. She called his name. The gate was closed and the dog just kept barking and barking and staring at the gate and barking and she called his name and again and again. Into the sun and the sound she called his name and her breath left and she stood alone in an empty yard in one fuzzy white slipper.