They come in the night, with their snarls, and their dominant leader, a tall dog, black on black; black eyes, black fur, long and matted: even in the moonlight I can see the knots of fur drawn tight against the skin of his flanks. Some nights there would be four or five of them, yet at times their numbers grew, became seven or maybe more. Maybe other dogs lingered out of sight along the edges of my yard; a brood in guard status, their eyes and ears alert for the first time I dared to leave my house; dared to threaten them.
The sheriff said they might be coyotes, but I know different. I know they’re wild dogs. I hear and see them. He has only my words, and he doubts the credence of tales seen by moonlight and told by an old woman.
I stare at the shotgun, remember the sound of it, the loud, sudden sharp noise and flinch. I don’t like loud noises or anything disruptive and unnatural. I turn back to the window and watch the dogs. They’re natural yet disruptive. I could shoot them, or at them, since my aim wanders to the right and what I hit is never where I meant. I could but I won’t.
Out there, in wait where the sheriff and his deputy placed it, is the baited meat. If they eat it, they’ll fall asleep. That’s what they told me, with their sincere faces, when I said don’t kill them.
I know they’ve found the meat, are in noisy disagreement about their shares of it. My eyes stray to the clock. Almost sunrise, almost a new day, almost another long, lonely day for me to wander through while I wait for night. I could walk out there into the yard and never face another day. I could, but I don’t.
A thin streak of almost light, a tinge on the edge of the world, trims an outline beyond my yard. I watch the streak become purple and the edge move until it encompasses my yard. The snarls are gone and I search for the dogs. A lump on the ground, then another comes into view. Motionless lumps. Quiet lumps.
I think of other times when I’ve sat and watched the sunrise, without lumps in my yard, or the snarl of dogs to keep me awake. How many sleepless nights? How many years of waiting for the promised end?
I’m an old lady, without credence, forgotten and lonely. Only the wild dogs visit me. Only the lumps on my lawn know someone lives here and waits for the final spectral. Maybe I’ve been forgotten. Maybe this is my forever.