The dog has been digging. He tracked in the evidence last night, mud and grass caked under his claws. It was too dark to see anything, though, even with the back lights turned on, so I waited. No excuse now. The sun is high, the light is bright, and if this fathead gets out and gets hit by a car, on top of everything else, I swear to God–I tell myself this as I pick my jacket up off the carpet and shake it out, just in case–I swear to God, I will crawl into a storm drain and die.
It’s recess at the elementary school down the road. At first, it bothered my dog, hearing those kids every day, but he’s gotten used to it. Less used to the kids diagonal from us, but they’re nice girls who are always laughing and singing, and I think he just wants to go meet them. Or maybe he wants to eat their yappy dog, who charges the corner fence and roars like it thinks it’s a lion.
I’d help him there. There’s no call for that kind of aggression. All my dog wants to do is poop.
We walk the perimeter fence, ignoring the yappy dog diagonal from us. I put words in his mouth, as I often do, living with just me and him. I use a funny voice that’s just for him, and he smiles up at me the way pitbulls do, wagging his curled tail hard enough to bruise.
I can’t seem to find the hole, but that’s nothing odd. Probably the grass grew over it, or I’m just missing it. It wouldn’t be the first time. While I’m out, I test the fence for weak spots. My dog is a strong boy, he could accidentally break through one of these slats and then it’d all be over with.
The kids at the elementary school are screaming and playing, filling the air with noise. There’s no cars out this time of day, everyone is at work or school. For once, no airplanes are passing over. So it’s just me, talking to my dog, the yappy corner dog, and the kids.
My dog stops, stock still, and the yappy dog falls silent. I look down at my boy, and he’s staring in the direction of the school.
“Not again,” I scold. “Let them live!”
Steadily, the screaming gets louder. It gets an edge, sharp as a blade, even shriller than before. Louder and louder. Louder and louder until it seems like the school is getting closer, all the kids wailing at the top of their lungs. I can’t make out any words, or maybe there aren’t any at all.
It’s hot under my jacket and the sun, but my limbs are cold, the rest of me getting that way fast. I stare, just like my dog, quailing under the weight of the screams.
Then it’s gone.
Silence takes the place of noise, the whiplash as loud as a shot. If I thought the noise was heavy… it had nothing on this quiet. Even the yappy dog doesn’t start back up. My dog’s tail is tucked between his back legs, and he hunkers down, ears back, hackles raised, edging backwards toward the open door of our house.
I let him back in, and he jumps onto our bed, burrowing under the quilts and pillows, tail still firmly in place. I get my cell phone and give myself a second or two to collect myself, then put on my walking shoes and leave my house.
The school isn’t that far. I can see the corner of the field from my front door. But I walk to the fence nonetheless, because I have to be sure, and because what I see from a distance doesn’t seem real.
Not so much as a soul breathes on the schoolyard. Where there should be hoards of suburban children, there’s nothing but trampled grass and forlorn playground equipment.
I hook my fingers in the chainlink, and wait. Thirty minutes pass, and there’s no movement. Not even the swings rock. There’s no one. The next recess should have come out by now, but there’s nothing.
Another thirty minutes, and I figure I ought to leave. Do something. I try to call the police but my hands are shaking so badly. I keep dropping my phone. I make it all the way back to my house before my knees give out, and I have to crawl back through the front door.
I lock every door, pull the blinds on every window. I huddle up close to my dog, and he lays his big head on my shoulder. We wait for the roommates to get back.
The shadows outside get long. The sun dims. Me and my dog wait. We wait all night. There’s nothing but us, and the shadows, and the silence.
I was out with my dog this morning, as a matter of fact. As a matter of fact, there is a school down the road, and the kids are always loud and rambunctious. It gives the neighborhood a happy atmosphere, I think.
I was listening to them play, and thought ‘wow, wouldn’t it be, like, totally fucked if that noise suddenly just went away?’ It would be.