By one-thirty it had already been a long afternoon. Missus Eunice toed the faded porch floorboards, pushing the glider to a few more gentle rocks. At least there was a breeze and mosquitoes were not much of a problem, it having been a poor year for most bugs. She slid the shotgun further down her lap and reached in her apron pocket for a Halls Honey Lemon cough drop. She didn’t have a cough, but she liked the way it made her breath swoosh through her nose.
“Missus Eunice, I’d sure like to come up to your porch and sit a bit with you. We need to talk.”
“We’re talking now, William Bark, and I don’t much feel like talking further, let alone with you here on my porch.” William Bark leaned against her left gatepost and tugged at his broad, police issue belt. His dark blue police issue jacket lie draped over the other gatepost. Four people stood several feet behind him, across the sidewalk, in the shade of the one remaining elm trees on Elm Street.
The glider made a low, rusty moan with every backswing. Missus Eunice considered how empty the birdbath was and how she’d have to refill it later in the evening, after the sun was down a bit.
The big, fawn colored hound dog lay on its belly in the middle of the small yard. It might have been dozing or it might have been considering the several flies buzzing and orbiting and landing on his back. But it wasn’t doing any of those things because it was dead, a sizable hole blasted through its side.
Missus Eunice had rather expected the dog to go home to die and was distressed that it hadn’t. She had seen Mrs. Fletcher solve cases on television and was quite sure the dead dog would constitute evidence, or at least a significant clue, as to how it died and who had killed it. The shotgun was now heavy on her knees and she pulled it back a few inches, but still leaving her apron pocket accessible.
“Missus Eunice, now you know we have a kind of a situation here. I’m a patient man and all, but some time pretty soon you’ve got to let me come on up on your porch so we can talk about this.”
“If you were any kind of a patient gentleman you’d just leave and come back when you were properly invited. I know your daddy, you know. Had him in fourth grade. That boy couldn’t spell to save his own life. Can you spell, William Bark? Your daddy was Robert Bark and he couldn’t spell. I believe he became a plumber and took up with Evelyn Reed.”
“Yes ma’am. That’s my mother. She asks after you often. Please, can’t I just come up and talk?”
“What do you know about hollyhocks, William Bark? Do you know that hollyhocks generally grow to a height of four or five feet? Tall as a person. And do you know about my hollyhocks? Nine feet. That’s how tall my hollyhocks grow, unless there’s a windstorm. Or a hound dog.” Remnants of dug up, fallen hollyhock lay at right angles to the corner of the house. “I’ve got a fence for a reason, William Bark, and it surely isn’t to keep my hollyhocks from running away. It’s to keep such as that animal out of my yard. And people, too, unless they are properly invited.”
“Missus Eunice, I’m just real concerned about that shotgun. If it was to slip and fall or something, it might just go off and then somebody might get hurt or something.”
“I am quite offended, William Bark, that you’d think that I’d be such a silly woman who’d just let a shotgun slip and fall. And if all these people weren’t around, then there’d be nobody to get hurt.”
Now there were six people under the elm tree. “But it could be an accident, Missus Eunice. Things happen that are just accidents. Why don’t you just put the shotgun up, just in case?” One of the people under the elm tree, a Mister Kyle LaFournier, owner of the hound, took a few steps forward and spoke to Officer Bark. Bark nodded and motioned him back.
“I have thought about this,” said Missus Eunice, “and I believe this shotgun has become heavy, and I will lean it here on my porch railing. But you are still not invited to come and visit and I wish you and your friends would go away.” Maybe, she thought, this son of Robert Bark and his wife, Evelyn, is not too bright. Maybe he thinks this dog came to be dead by an accident. She lifted the gun and leaned it against her porch railing. Then she settled back, reached in her apron pocket and found she had no more Halls Honey Lemon cough drops, only a few stray Good and Plenty licorice candies which she withdrew and began to chew.
“Missus Eunice?” called a loud raspy voice from under the elm tree. “My name is Kyle LaFournier and that there was my dog you killed.” Officer William Bark turned his head quickly and said something sharp to Kyle LaFournier.
He knows, thought Missus Eunice. “I don’t know any LaFourniers, and you are not invited to my house and I believe I will choose not to speak with you. You are not even wearing a proper shirt.”
“Missus Eunice, that was my dog, and I’m going to take him out of your yard and I’m going to take him to the vet and if he’s dead, then I’m going to take him home.”
He brushed past Officer William Bark and past the gateposts and into the yard where he crouched over his big brown dead dog.
Missus Eunice reached into her apron pocket and withdrew a small thirty-two caliber pistol which she aimed and fired, causing Kyle LaFournier to crumple, first to his knees and then to the ground, his right arm falling straight across the full brown belly of his dog.
The recoil caused the glider to rock, leaving a rusty, metallic moan hanging in the air.