TINGE Magazine - http://www.tingemagazine.org

Issue 9

Near Bella Fourche, South Dakota

 · Fiction

7 AM.

Hello, you have reached Peter Garcia. Please leave a message after the beep.

Hi, this is Ted, your neighbor. I know we haven’t spoken much, just the first time after you bought the place, when I leaned out of my truck and waved by way of introduction as I drove past, and the second time when your daughter — Mia, right? — was out overnight and you called to ask if I’d seen any cars that afternoon. I didn’t mean disrespect when I said I wasn’t surprised ’cause of how she dresses, just that she’d probably gone camping at the lake with some fella or another, or maybe a couple at once, but from the curt goodbye I realized maybe you took it wrong.

And then you put up that new barbed wire at the property line. Triple-stranded with a figure eight barb — is that a Texas thing? I never saw anything like it up here. Kind of impressive, but holy savior, must of cost a tractor to string it around your whole two hundred, and I know you went the distance because I rode the perimeter to see. Made me think of a poem we read in 10th grade, Mrs. Simon’s class. There was a refrain I still remember, good fences make good neighbors, it went, and on the surface it sounds like that fancy wire you strung between us is a good thing, but Mrs. Simon said the man who wrote it meant something different. I thought maybe you were mad about the Mia thing, or about my goats munching that good alfalfa you got planted. Only happened the six times, mind you, but I told myself that’s why the fence.

I did meet your wife two summers back. I was grilling on the porch when a dog come barreling across the yard and right behind him, shouting “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby,” was Josefina in a loose blouse thing and tight stretchy pants like maybe she’d been exercising. I grabbed the flank steak from the barbeque and hucked it. Animal near somersaulted trying to stop and was honking the meat down — all 14.99 of it — when she caught up and grabbed his collar. Hauled him off and shouted gracias over her shoulder and that was the last I heard of it, which is funny because I would have thought you all might have replaced the steak, fine cut of meat that it was, or asked me for dinner, or sent Mia over to do a few chores or some such neighborly thing.

But I’m not calling about the steak or the fence. Thing is I’ve been missing some chickens. Two went in July, three last week alone, and one Monday. Past couple nights I stayed up, sat out back with the deer rifle and a thermos of coffee, and early this morning I saw the varmint, moonlit, moving through the field at a half-lope. Coyote, looked like. Took a bead and dropped him, one shot. Clean kill you’ll be glad to hear — took a white ribbon at the state fair as a boy — but hoooie, was I surprised when I went to look. You see, hombre, I shot your dog. Bobby, the meat inhaler. Shot him dead. In the moonlight his coat was grey, and maybe I was delirious from sleep deprivation. Anyway, there you are. I buried him — figured it’d be easier if you didn’t have to see him like that — put him right near where he fell, in the alfalfa, on your side of the fence. I had to cut the wire in a couple places to do it, so you’ll want to mend that. Well, you take care now. It’s Ted, your neighbor.

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