“I can’t stand it anymore, I mean really,” Sasha said to Veronika and pulled back in her chair.
“And it happens every day?” Veronika asked.
“Almost always,” Sasha replied.
They both sighed. The two sat in Veronika’s backyard, staring at Jay-Jay, Sasha’s two-year-old black-and-white pointer, playing with Veronika’s five-year old daughter, Emilia. For some reason Emilia enjoyed grabbing Jay-Jay by the tail, and Jay-Jay, in turn, would escape her grip and run around the yard until the two would fall to the ground, lying down on the welcoming grass.
“You are such a mama-bear,” Veronika laughed.
“Well, you are too. You have your kid. Jay-Jay is my baby.” As she heard her name, Jay-Jay ran toward Sasha. “Such a good girl! Playing so nicely!” Emilia then ran into Sasha’s arms as well. “Both of you! Such good girls!” Sasha exclaimed.
“I have to do something, I have to protect her.” Sasha turned to Veronika.
“What can you do?” Veronika scratched her head. “Report them?”
“There’s an idea,” Sasha said.
“You should talk to Bobby.” Veronika stood up.
“Bobby?!” Sasha seemed puzzled.
“Bobby Hader, from high school.” Veronika went inside the house and came back with a couple of water bottles. “He works at city hall now, maybe he can help.”
“Bobby Hader,” Sasha repeated.
“You don’t remember him? I think he had a little crush on you back then,” Veronika continued. “From what I hear he’s not married.” She winked at Sasha.
“Vee, please,” Sasha smirked. “I have enough on my plate right now.”
“Hang on.” Veronika pulled her phone from her jacket pocket. “There’s a barbeque tomorrow afternoon at the mayor’s house, you know, to celebrate the recent elections.” She scrolled on her phone. “You should go, I’m sure Bobby will be there. Just sent you the email.”
Sasha pulled up the email on her phone. “I’ll think about it, thanks.”
“I mean, what else can you do? Even reporting them might not do much…and it’s just bad for the dog in general, to be out there by itself day in, day out. I feel bad for it,” Veronika said.
“True. But I am more worried about my girl,” Sasha said, “and myself… When they go at it, I get really scared.” Sasha shivered.
“There you go then, that’s a valid argument, public hazard,” Veronika replied.
“Sometimes I don’t know what I would do, what lengths I’ll go to. All I want is to keep us both safe, you know?” Sasha had tears in her eyes. “She is my world.” She looked into Jay-Jay’s eyes.
“You won’t go too far though, will you?” Veronika questioned.
“Whatever it takes,” Sasha said decidedly. “Too much has been taken away from me already.”
Sasha then rose and walked into the house.
“I’m sorry, what is it exactly that you want me to do?” Bobby asked Sasha as they both headed over to the picnic table with their freshly made burgers.
It was a rare warm November afternoon, and the sun was shining brightly. Many local officials had gathered at the mayor’s house for a celebratory barbeque. Sasha wore a green, flowy midi dress that, according to Veronika, matched her eyes perfectly. Bobby dressed in jeans and a light-blue, button-down shirt that he had tucked in, perhaps to seem more professional. This was only his second year working at city hall, and these were the first elections he had participated in publicly. Despite being well-trained and experienced in his field, Bobby often still felt like a newcomer.
“I want to report my next-door neighbors for animal abuse.” Sasha put down her plate and sat down next to Bobby. “See, they have this dog. They keep it in the yard all day long, it barks at every bystander. I can’t take my dog out because they are just so vicious to each other, and—”
“Let me stop you right there,” Bobby said and cracked open a can of soda. “You need to speak to animal control. This is not exactly my area of expertise.” Bobby took a sip from his soda can.
Sasha sighed, disappointed.
“Look.” Bobby put down his soda can. “I can try to put in a good word, but I can’t guarantee anything.” He looked at Sasha.
“Okay,” Sasha smiled, “that’s a start. Hopefully something will come out of it, otherwise…”
“Otherwise what?” Bobby took a bite of his hamburger.
“Otherwise…I don’t know what I’d do.” Sasha swallowed heavily. “I have these thoughts,” she came closer to him, almost whispering in his ear, “about doing something, something bad,” she continued slowly.
As Bobby listened to Sasha, a memory from their high school days came to mind. He remembered the tragic loss of Sasha’s brother, Jacob, to a terrible illness, and how their teacher had asked the whole class to be kind to Sasha during that difficult time. Veronika had taken on the role of Sasha’s protector, always making sure she wasn’t alone and supporting her through the grieving process. At the time Bobby found Sasha to be vulnerable and fragile, but as he watched her now, he saw a strong and confident woman who just wanted to protect her dog.
“How the heck are ya, Hader?” A man slapped Bobby’s backside all of a sudden, and the gesture made him turn around quickly.
“Phil!” Bobby called out and reached his hand for a handshake. “Good to see you! This is my…friend Sasha,” he mumbled.
“Good to meet you, Sasha,” Phil said. “Hey, have you heard about the construction that’s going to start next week? There’s something a bit off with the plans, I’d love to—”
“Forgive me, gentlemen.” Sasha stood up and Bobby stood up as well. “I’ll leave you to it.”
“We’ll continue this another time, then?” Bobby asked. Sasha nodded and began to walk away.
As he continued speaking to Phil, Bobby couldn’t help but keep an eye on Sasha as she walked farther and farther away. She seemed to float on air, her movements graceful and mysterious.
Bobby couldn’t shake the feeling that she was up to something, and his thoughts raced as he tried to anticipate what she might have said next.
Bobby found himself lost in a sea of speculation and anticipation. What was Sasha planning? Should he get involved?
DAY 3—The Neighbors
“Leaving the dog out like this,” Sasha pointed at the neighbor’s dog from her side of the fence, “all afternoon long,” she continued, “I mean, it’s not very good for it, and frankly it is very disruptive.” She crossed her arms.
The neighbors looked at each other and then at their dog, who was sitting quietly by their side.
“Doesn’t look very disruptive now,” the man said jokingly.
“Of course not, because you are both there. But what I’m saying is when the dog is out here alone,” Sasha sighed, “I can’t take my dog out because they fight. Now I don’t want either of them to get hurt, so all I’m asking is for a little consideration.”
“Look, we are allowed to use our yard in any way we see fit,” the man continued.
“We understand your concern, though,” the woman interrupted him and grabbed his arm. “We will do our best to minimize the disruption.” She smiled at Sasha.
“It might help if we can come up with some sort of schedule,” Sasha suggested.
“What do you mean?” the woman asked.
Sasha pulled out her phone and opened her calendar app. “For example, I usually come home from work, say, around three p.m.” She scrolled up and down her screen. “It would be helpful to have the yard free for an hour so I can let Jay-Jay out to play.”
The man took off his baseball cap and scratched his head.
“I think we can make that work.” The woman nodded in approval at the man.
“Good.” Sasha placed her phone back in her jacket pocket. “I appreciate it. I’ll be letting her out in a few minutes then.”
“Aha,” the woman said and smiled again.
After her talk with the neighbors, Sasha went upstairs to her apartment, ready to give Jay-Jay some dinner. But just as Jay-Jay was finishing up her meal, Sasha heard the neighbor’s dog barking outside again.
Furious, Sasha stormed to the window and looked down at the neighbor’s yard. It seemed as though they had completely ignored their earlier conversation and were allowing their dog to roam around freely once again. Sasha couldn’t believe it.
“Those motherfuckers,” she muttered to herself.
Turning to Jay-Jay, who was staring at her with a confused tilt of her head, Sasha sighed.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” she said, determined to find a way to solve this problem once and for all. She just wasn’t sure what that solution might be.
“There is just no reasoning with them, you know?” Sasha said to her neighbor John, whom she bumped into while on a walk with Jay-Jay the next morning.
“I talked to them, I asked nicely,” she sighed, desperate. “I just don’t know what else to do.” She looked at Jay-Jay, who was sniffing around John.
“I’m this close to reporting them to the city,” she whispered, “but I don’t really want to do that. I just wish…” she continued, “I just wish they both got along, you know?”
“I know exactly what you mean.” John nodded. “I’ve had dogs my whole life. It’s tough.”
John lived a few houses down from Sasha’s apartment building. He was a retired police officer and lived with his sister, Sheila, who was a retired nurse and a few years older than he. They also had a well-behaved brown Labrador named Bruno.
“You know, Bruno gets really anxious when he hears fireworks,” John said.
“Jay-Jay is afraid of loud noises too. School buses and trucks especially freak her out.” Sasha petted Jay-Jay’s head as she sat down on the curb next to her.
“Can I give her a treat?” John pulled out a small dog treat from his pants pocket. Sasha nodded and he gave the treat to Jay-Jay. “I always have some for Bruno,” he laughed.
“You know, when he gets really anxious, my sister gives him something,” John continued. “I think it’s like pot for dogs.” He smiled. “It calms him very quickly.”
“Interesting,” Sasha commented.
“She puts a little bit in my tea sometimes when I can’t sleep,” John chuckled. “Makes me fall asleep very quickly, no bad dreams.” He looked at the ground, focused.
“Sometimes I think…” she hesitated, “it’s really bad, but I just want that dog to be gone from our neighborhood, you know?” She looked down, embarrassed.
“I get it.” John shrugged his shoulders. They were both silent for a moment.
“I’m having surgery tomorrow,” John suddenly said. “It’s my liver, it’s not so good.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that,” Sasha said. “I hope everything works out for the best. We’ll come see you when you get back.” She pointed at Jay-Jay and herself.
“I would love that.” He smiled and gave Jay-Jay another treat.
“Maybe I can help you two,” he kept talking. “I have a friend, an ex-cop, who might be able to…solve your problem.”
Sasha raised her eyebrows. “Oh?”
“Let me see what I can do,” John said and turned on the leaf blower he was holding. “I’m gonna do the whole street if I have the energy,” he yelled as Sasha and Jay-Jay stepped back.
“Don’t work too hard,” Sasha yelled back. “Take care! And good luck!”
Sasha began to walk away with Jay-Jay as the noise from the leaf blower grew louder.
It was the first morning in a while that Sasha didn’t wake up to the barking sound of her neighbor’s dog. As she got out of bed and rubbed the sleep from her eyes, she glanced out the window at the back of the house. The neighbor’s dog was nowhere to be seen.
That’s strange, Sasha thought, she is always out there in the morning.
A feeling of dread washed over her. Did John take her words too literally? Did he do something to the dog? Sasha’s heart began to race as she tried to shake off the cobwebs of sleep and the memories of the previous night. She picked up the phone and called Bobby.
“What happened last night?” Her voice was shaking.
“Good morning to you too,” Bobby said with a yawn.
“Ha-ha. Seriously, what happened?” Sasha paced back and forth in her kitchen. “Where is it?”
“Where is what?” Bobby yawned again.
“The dog! The neighbor’s dog! Where is it?” She was nearly shouting now.
“Not in the yard, I gather.” Bobby sat up in his bed.
“What did we see last night? Did we see anything?” Sasha’s head was spinning.
“Calm down. We didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, I don’t think…” Bobby scratched his head and put on his eyeglasses.
“We went out to dinner to talk about the problem with your neighbors,” he recalled. “We had a few drinks so I walked you home, and then we ran into your neighbor John.”
“Yes, I remember that.” Sasha bit her nail.
“You introduced me,” Bobby kept talking. “He was carrying a shovel in the middle of the night, which I thought was strange; when he noticed we were staring at it, he said something like, it’s for all the leaves. I guess he had been shoveling all day and needed it for something.”
“Yes, I remember I told him to take it easy because of his health, but he said that he likes the work, it makes him forget, or something…?” Sasha sat on a chair by her small dining table.
“And then…” Bobby continued.
“And then what?” Sasha’s eyes widened.
“I was just about to kiss you good night…” He smiled to himself.
“Oh, you were?” Sasha smiled to herself on the other side of the line.
“I was…but then we heard a loud thump, like something fell over, or…?” he wondered.
“Like something got hit?” Sasha was shaking again.
“Don’t jump to any conclusions. We didn’t see anything, it was so dark,” Bobby said.
“What a politician you are,” Sasha said sarcastically. “But the last thing you remember is John walking away with a shovel and a loud thump?” She got up and began pacing again.
“I cannot confirm or deny,” he laughed.
“This isn’t funny. What if he…? I don’t even want to think about it.” She shivered.
“Relax.” Bobby spoke softly. “Why don’t I come over and we can think about what—”
“I got it.” Sasha cut him off and started opening her kitchen cabinets frantically. “I’ll make him a pie!” she exclaimed and hung up the call with Bobby abruptly.
Later that day Sasha walked up to John’s house, her steps measured and determined. She had been thinking about this visit all morning, and she was determined to get some answers. As she approached the door, she could hear the sound of barking from inside.
Sheila opened the door with a friendly smile on her face. “Sasha, how nice to see you!”
“How is John doing? He told me about his surgery,” Sasha asked, trying to sound casual.
“He is still in the hospital. The surgery went fine. I just popped back to get a few things for him,” Sheila explained.
“I made him a pie.” Sasha held up her homemade pumpkin pie, a broken smile on her face.
“Well, that was very thoughtful of you,” Sheila said, taking the pie from her hands. “I’m sure he will love it. Thank you.”
“I just…” Sasha began to speak but couldn’t find the words.
“What is it, sweetie?” Sheila asked.
Sasha took a deep breath and tried to steady her nerves. “I just wanted to talk to you about something,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper. “It’s important.”
As Sheila moved out of the way to let Sasha enter the house, she noticed that Sasha had started sobbing.
“I’m afraid…” she hesitated, “I’m afraid John did something, something bad, because of me…”
Sheila led Sasha to the kitchen, and they both sat down by the round kitchen table.
“See, I had told him about—” Sasha started.
“The problems you’ve been having with the neighbors,” Sheila finished her thought.
“That’s right, how did you know?” Sasha stared at her.
“He told me,” Sheila answered.
“Okay. So you might also know that he offered to help,” Sasha continued.
“Yes,” Sheila nodded.
“Well, last night we saw him walking around with a shovel, and then we heard a loud sound, and I don’t know,” Sasha was frantic, “I don’t know what to think!” She got up from her seat, her heart racing.
“Okay.” Sheila did not seem disturbed by this information. “And what do you imagine happened?” she asked.
“I hate to think about it, but maybe he did something to the dog?” Sasha wondered.
“No,” Sheila said without hesitation. “John would never do anything like that.”
At that exact moment Bruno showed up from inside the house and came to sit by Sheila’s feet. Sheila petted him softly and he looked up at her adoringly. As she watched this scene, something clicked in Sasha’s brain. It was as though the answer had been right in front of her eyes the entire time.
“John wouldn’t,” Sasha repeated, “but you would?!” she questioned.
Sheila turned slowly and looked at Sasha. “To help you.”
“To help me?” Sasha’s eyes widened.
“You’ve been so kind to John ever since you moved to our neighborhood.” Sheila stood up. “He told me how every time he sees you walking Jay-Jay, you always ask him how he’s doing.” She began to move closer to Sasha, who had started moving away.
Sasha and Sheila were now standing on opposite sides of the kitchen island.
“You even made him a pie.” Sheila pointed to the covered pie that stood between them on top of the kitchen island. “I mean, what a sweet gesture. You are just a sweet kid, and I wanted to help you. I know about your brother,” Sheila continued.
“How did you…?” Sasha shook her head.
“Your last name was familiar to me the first time I heard it. I then remembered it from my time at pediatrics.” Sheila came closer to Sasha. “I am so sorry for your loss.” She attempted to embrace Sasha but she pulled away.
Sasha began to tear up. “So this is the solution? Killing the neighbor’s dog?” Sasha asked.
“Don’t concern yourself with that,” Sheila said. “It’s done and that’s that. Sit down now.” Sheila directed Sasha back to the chair. “I’ll make you a warm cup of tea, it will help you relax.”
Sheila walked over to the stove and filled up the kettle. She turned on the gas and placed the kettle on the burner, ready to bring the water to a boil. Sasha watched her intently, still standing in the same spot. As the minutes ticked by, Sasha was at a loss as to what she should do or say next.
The kettle shrieked.
“Milk and sugar?” Sheila turned around to face Sasha, but, to her surprise, she was speaking to an empty room.
Sasha had disappeared. The front door of the house was wide open.
Orit Yeret is a writer, artist and teacher. Born and raised in Israel, she currently lives in the U.S. She enjoys photography, painting, and writing short prose and poetry in both English and Hebrew. Her work recently appeared or is forthcoming in American Writers Review, The Borfski Press, Drunk Monkeys, Euphony Journal, Ink Pantry, Crack the Spine, Blue Lake Review, Steam Ticket, Avalon Literary, Evening Street Review, (mac)ro(mic), The Magnolia Review, October Hill Magazine, Think Journal, Voices de la Luna, Whistling Shade and Isele Magazine. Read and view more of her work at http://www.orityeret.com.
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