Jenny packed her smokes against the heel of her hand. The old bitch was down there again, her Pomeranian on its leash and taking a shit by the brick wall that was probably painted once upon a time a bright peach color but now looked like the color the Pennsylvania crayon company once called ‘flesh’.
Eric, her companion du jour, asked her, “What the fuck do you care about the old lady’s dog?”
Didn’t the asshole get it? God, why she let him stay there was beyond her. Even the fucking wasn’t good any more. How could it not bother him? Or anyone at River Terrace Complex? She did the same fucking thing every day. Took her dog, which she really wasn’t supposed to have, out to the brick wall that separated the apartments from the drug store. So what if she carried a plastic bag to pick the shit up with? Didn’t the old bitch have anything better to do with her life than watch a dog shit?
Jenny lit a cigarette. She blew the smoke against the glass and it bounced back at her.
“She does the same fucking thing every day,” Jenny said. “Right on schedule.”
“So do you,” Eric said. “Right on schedule.”
“If it bothers you that much, go down and say something to her?”
“What am I supposed to tell her? Ask her dog not to shit?”
“I don’t know what you’re supposed to tell her. Why does she bother you so much? She remind you of your mother or something? Your mom have a dog she loved more than you?”
Jenny took a long drag on her cigarette. She felt her jaw tighten. “I’m going out.”
“Where you going?”
“Don’t you listen? Out. I’m going out.” Jenny scooped up her keys and went to the door. She slammed it before he could finish his sentence, but she still heard it.
“Get some beer.”
‘Fuck him,’ Jenny thought. She stomped down the steps. What did he know about her mom? What did she know? It would have been different if her mom had stuck around but she hadn’t. Jenny, then ten, left to look over her brother in an empty apartment with no lights, no working appliances, nothing. They lived on dry cereal and water from the toilet tank for two days and she only knew about that from seeing a show on cable about how to survive a natural disaster.
All of that was ten years ago and she hadn’t seen her mom since the night she went out with Uncle Larry and she hadn’t seen her brother since they were dumped into foster care, where plenty of pets got more and attention then she did.
‘Oh, fuck that,’ Jenny thought. Whatever. The foster parents never gave a shit for her and she sure as hell didn’t feel any love for them.
She was stepping out the common door of the quad when the lady and the dog stepped up onto the concrete stoop.
“Oh!” the woman said.
“Sorry,” Jenny said. She stepped passed the woman and the dog. Now wasn’t the time to say anything to her. She had too much other shit on her mind, mainly how much her life had sucked and—
“Excuse me. Miss?”
Jenny stopped and turned around. The old woman smiled patiently at her.
“Me?” Jenny hooked a thumb at herself with her cigarette hand.
“I’ve been meaning to speak to you.”
Speak? That was old fuck talk for wanting to bitch her out for something. Every adult figure in her life had said that to her. ‘Jenny, I need to speak to you.’ ‘I need to speak to you now, young lady.’ ‘What you need is a good speaking to.’
“I’m in a hurry. I have to get to the drug store.” Jenny said.
“I won’t take much of your time, and I think this really needs to be discussed.”
‘Fine,’ Jenny thought. The bitch wanted to discuss shit, Jenny had a lot to discuss with her. “All right,” Jenny said. She put on an insincere smile.
The woman picked up the Pomeranian. “This is Darling,” she said. “The stairs are too much for his little old legs.”
“I thought we were going to talk.”
“Yes. Down in the storage room. I want to show you something.”
Jenny felt a change inside her. Getting into a bitch-slap argument on the stoop was one thing but following the woman down into the dark basement, full of cobwebs, dripping water, and shit like that didn’t interest her.
“I really should be going,” Jenny said.
The woman turned and smiled at Jenny over her shoulder. It was looking into the face of a rabid, jagged tooth opossum. “Relax, dear, there are no bogeymen down there.”
Jenny smirked and blew the last of the smoke from her cigarette. She flicked the butt to the grass, noticing the frown in the woman’s eyes, and followed her into the quad. A cigarette butt. Really? Her dog shits all over the grounds and she’s frowning at a cigarette butt?
Down in the basement, the woman put Darling on the ground. Its paws clicked across the concrete floor. It ran up to one door in particular that had a padlock on it. Darling whimpered and scratched at before turning to the woman and barking
The complex owner had divided the basements of the three buildings into eight storage rooms, four to a side, with a common hall. Jenny followed the woman to a door with an extra padlock on it. The woman pulled a key out of her pocket and undid the lock. She opened the door. Inside there were shelves stocked with canned goods, boxed goods, and toiletries. Against the wall was a small meat freezer with yet another padlock on it.
“My son bought me this,” she said. She put a palm on the lid of the freezer. “He said it was getting to be too much having to take me shopping once a week. He lives twenty or so miles north of here so he hoped it would mean he’d only have to take me once a month. That’s the son I raised.”
Darling barked. It was irritatingly high and nasally. Jenny wanted to stomp down on the dog’s neck.
The woman opened the freezer. She slid the keys back into her pockets. It was pretty deep, Jenny realized. On the bottom there was a slab of vacuum packed ribs, a couple of chunks of meats wrapped in brown paper. “There’s not much in there now, but Andrew has way too much delivered each month. A lot of it goes to waste.”
“So call him and order half as much,” Jenny said. Duh!
The woman smiled patiently. “He’s paying for it, dear. Out of guilt, I imagine.”
Jenny shook her head. What did the old bitch want?
“I can’t eat all of this on my own. Darling gets some of it.”
Darling. The dog. It was eating better than Jenny and Eric were. They were lucky if they had fast food leftovers. They were eating chicken nuggies and the dog was eating steak and shitting it out on the lawn by that ugly brick wall. Even the dogs of the world got treated better than Jenny ever did. Her mom leaves and she has to drink toilet water and eat stale cereal but Darling the dog gets top-fucking-sirloin.
Darling continued to yap.
“Reach up on that shelf and grab a box of doggy snacks, would you, dear?” the old woman asked. She was leaning over the edge of the freezer to grab one of the meat chunks wrapped in brown paper. “He knows I keep them down here.”
Fuck if Jenny was going to feed the dog. There were about fifteen different types of doggy biscuits on a shelf above one holding a box of latex gloves, a roll of doggy-doo bags, and some plastic ties.
There was also a hammer.
The choice was obvious.
Two blows later Jenny lifted the old broad’s ankles and folded her into the freezer. Darling had stopped whimpering. Jenny looked down at the Pomeranian who looked back with curious eyes. Jenny took a box of snacks and threw a couple to the dog. It looked at them but didn’t eat them. Jenny bent and took hold of the leash. She led the dog out of the room. She closed the door behind her and clicked the lock on it closed. The last thing she did was take the latex gloves off and shove them in her pocket.
At the steps the dog whimpered. Jenny yanked on the leash and the dog put its front paws on the lower one. It looked up at Jenny who reluctantly lifted the dog into her arms. She carried it up the steps and out the door. Back out in the fresh air, the dog seemed more of itself. It began to pull on the leash and eventually led Jenny to its favorite dumping grounds.
Jenny stood with the leash looped over her wrist. She lit a cigarette and blew the smoke up into the air. Her eyes turned to her apartment window. Eric wasn’t there, but looking out the window of the same upper apartment in the next quad was a little girl. Jenny had seen the child on the swing of the common playground. The girl gave her a puzzled look and turned away from the window. A second later her mother appeared and looked down to where she pointed at Jenny and the dog that always shit by the wall. The mother opened the window.
“Excuse me,” the mother said. “But I’ve been meaning to tell your grandmother that my daughter plays back there and we’d appreciate it if you cleaned up the mess afterwards.”
Jenny jetted smoke and flipped her off.