When she ran into the street, I didn’t think much of it until I heard the sound. The brakes’ gutting squeal, and then the way, when you had always imagined it as the cracking of bones, there was instead a dull, pillowed thud, like a tree falling into a field of flowers.
The car kept going down the block and into forever, and I ran to pick her up, this mottled mess of blood and fur. I figured she’d be screaming something high and weasel-y out of the long pitch of her snout, but she was quiet, like nothing had happened, like breath was all she knew to do, no matter the circumstances.
In the backseat, on the thirty-mile drive to the only animal hospital around, she stared out the window, maybe counting stars, maybe not, once raising her head to gaze at something moving beyond the highway, only to wince a whimpered sigh and come back down.
They put her in a tube that made noises no man can make and even those didn’t scare her. She lay quiet and still in the stinging mechanical drone.
I kept thinking of the car squealing not even to a stillness, how, if you only heard the word and never knew its spelling, the sound of brake means both to stop and shatter. I heard them say that only her ribs had broken, and couldn’t listen through the joy when they said they found a lump inside her gut.
Thank god the car hit her, someone said, and I snapped up and out and said, What?
It would’ve been too late otherwise, they said.
Years ago, when I first saw her, she was racing round the Monroe County track. For a long time I knew not even beauty could save me. I had a beer in my hand and a whiskey on the rail. I had money on the race and watched them chase the rabbit round the bend. Sometimes late in the days and years before I would hear the shouting in the cages when I left. The growling, too. The men making an angry mess out of mostly quiet beasts. I didn’t think much of it.
When I first saw Grace and the way she broke from the pack at the gun’s burst, I wasn’t thinking then how break can also mean run, as in from, as in away. I just watched as what invisible money I had placed on some dog far behind just vanished, as if it, and so much else, had always been a lie. I stayed after until I saw them load her into a truck and asked how much will it take and paid however much it was.
I don’t love much anymore. What I do, I love hard. Like runny eggs painting the topside of a plate. Like the nearby lake’s ice frozen over by November. I always wanted to bring something home for someone I loved. I never thought I could bring home to someone I’d love.
When they said the operation would take a few hours, I went to get coffee. There was nowhere to sit inside so I just stood outside. If I strained my ears, I thought I could hear them, all the other dogs screaming. There’s so much that needs saving. I’m spending my life on just one.
They said, no promises, it might as well be a 50/50 chance.
What isn’t, I thought. A car brakes or it doesn’t. A bone breaks or it does not. At the sound of violence, someone breaks free, and maybe another goes running toward.