C. G. Rusch ~ The Man Who Buried His Dogs in the Front Yard

It’s a long stretch speed­ing down the high­way from Atlanta to New Orleans, and most every­one dozes off. But the moon is just right, and for a moment, through the gums and elms and oaks and dog­woods of the road­side for­est tonight, a dwelling stands alone, its perime­ter out­lined with glow­ing col­ors. White lights and blue lights and red lights and yel­low. In the house lives a man who believes with all his heart that Bosnia must real­ly belong to the Serbs because he heard some­body say it on his favorite radio show. He knows for sure that a bull­fight­er is a man who nev­er los­es his nerve, and to prove it he has a pic­ture of one of them, red cape swirling, taped to the inside of his clos­et door. And he is absolute­ly cer­tain that any­where he goes he will look cool if he puts on his curly-haired toupee and sun­glass­es and a loos­ened tie, like on TV.

Sure enough, while he pre­tends to be look­ing through the sacks of mar­ble chips and pot­ting soil and turkey manure and peat moss down in the Wal-Mart park­ing lot, a red­head­ed woman in a close-fit­ting pink silken dress that quiv­ers like rasp­ber­ry marsh­mal­low Jell‑O moves so close to him that when he whis­pers how he’d like to show her his house at night because it looks so pret­ty with all those lights, she does­n’t hes­i­tate a minute.

She even offers to help him load the peat moss in spite of the fact that she’s wear­ing her best dress, but he tells her that the last thing a man who lives around all those trees needs is a sack of peat moss, and toss­es it back down on the pile with the oth­ers. Nobody says that the first thing a man who lives around all those trees needs is a look, and then a word, and then a touch. But nobody has to say it, not now.

She cooks chili for him like Becky used to, only hot­ter, and she serves it over fresh warm corn­bread so moist that as soon as he fin­ish­es the last piece he licks his fin­gers. And then after the dish­es are all put away and the floor is swept clean, when he sings “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” to her at the portable organ he car­ries in from the shed, she has to wipe her eyes, it is that mov­ing. And when he tells her about the dogs, she under­stands, even before he starts to cry.

She holds his head on her lap and tries to cheer him up with “Onward Christian Soldiers” in a sopra­no voice that makes him for­get all about Hot Lips and Shooter. Presently, when she begins to keep time with her long, mauve fin­ger­nails on the back of his shoul­der blade, he jumps up and wipes his eyes and runs back over to the organ. Their duet lasts a full twen­ty-five min­utes, because she knows every one of those vers­es, and when they reach the end they keep right on going because it’s so much fun.

And as they lie togeth­er on his turquoise waterbed cov­er­let look­ing out into the road­side for­est from his bed­room win­dow, they see a Greyhound bus speed­ing by, fast as the wind.

~

C.G.Rusch’s sto­ries have appeared in Abiko Quarterly, Buffalo BonesPacific Coast Journal, Southern Exposure, and else­where. Her plays have been pre­sent­ed in New York, Los Angeles, Ann Arbor, and pub­lished in the antholo­gies One Act Plays for Acting Students and The Actor’s Scenebook.

Reprinted from Mississippi Review V25, No1&2, and Blip Magazine V16, N2, 2010.