By: Bethany Rountree
In the end, the flies knew
before we did. They hovered
around him, buzzing interest,
flashing sheens of emerald, dipping,
following as he wandered
in attempt to leave them behind.
I never gave thought to those flies before
but recognized them immediately
as ones that come to dead things.
Shorty was still living, though barely,
drooling as he walked, coughing
exhales, stubby tail no longer wagging.
That’s odd, we thought.
Later, when Shorty appeared
under the picnic table, we covered him
with a towel and offered food. He didn’t stay
long. Our neighbor, the dog expert,
called on the phone, he’s here. Upon closer
inspection, he’s covered with eggs.
Eggs from those flies. Eggs in tiny yellow
clumps, like flecks of styrofoam. Eggs
that would hatch and burrow under his skin.
Our neighbor spoke gravely, it’s time.
Then things moved quickly.
A call to the vet, blanket in the back
of the car. The three of us silent as we drove
to town, breathing shallowly and rolling
down the windows to air the fetid odor
as Shorty lay without complaint
or whine. The receptionist greeted us kindly,
offering a room. The vet looked Shorty over
and nodded affirmation. I can’t stay,
my husband said with thin voice and red eyes.
I can’t either, said my daughter following him
to the waiting room. Somehow I could.
My hand calmly on his head, stroking his fur
as the nurse gently held him still.
The vet prepared the syringe
and inserted the needle into his leg.
Blood spurted in milky slow motion
into the serum. Shorty’s a good dog,
the vet crooned softly, as he pushed
the bulb closed. The fluid
disappeared. Shorty slowly
lay his head down.
That was so… fast, I heard myself say. The vet
smiled sadly. Not just those fifteen seconds,
but the time from that morning and that moment,
the time between a young dog begging for food
and an old one laying on a table
exhaling the last of his body’s reflexes.
A nanosecond, really. Life racing
in strange time lapse distortion,
a planet off kilter revolving at warp speed.
It’s all so fleeting. You want to believe
it to be leisurely, time immeasurably
endless, but we fool ourselves.
Lay your head down and notice
nature flashing it’s warning.
Nothing lasts for long.
Bethany Rountree is a writer and stay-at-home mom in Celo, North Carolina.