She hates me. The woman that delivers my newspapers hates me. It’s my fault, probably—I forgot to give her a Christmas bonus, and now I am paying the price. Some mornings, I wake up afraid as the newspaper bangs on my front door like a scorned lover. Other mornings, she tosses the paper into a bank of ivy, and I have to search, out there in my bathrobe and my doughy flesh.
Today, I wait. Under my bathrobe, I wear my best pajamas. On my feet, my finest work shoes gleam. Hair combed, teeth brushed and flossed, I wait, and here she comes now, driving a little too fast, tossing papers into driveways, thwap, thwap, thwap. When she sees me waiting, I wave and smile and wonder if she’ll stop, but does she stop? No, she tosses the paper over my head and onto my dewy lawn. She doesn’t smile, doesn’t wave, doesn’t even tap her brakes. She is about my age, with short, no nonsense hair, and strong forearms. We could be friends, in a better world.
Can’t you see, newspaper delivery woman? Can’t you see that we are all connected and that we live together in a fragile knot? Can’t you look beyond my gaffe and find your warm spot of forgiveness?
I sit on my front stoop, and open my damp paper. The news is mostly terrible, but the front page features a dog, an overweight beagle named Clyde, that walked in winter from Kansas to Virginia to reunite with his family.
The family, they had moved here for the father’s job, and in the story they claimed that Clyde ran away from home a few days before they had to move to Virginia. They were shattered by the loss, but had to move on.
There’s a picture of the family with Clyde, and I want to believe this story, but something is fishy here. Frankly, and I am sorry to say this, but Clyde’s face conveys neither intelligence nor determination. Clyde is the type of dog that barks like a lunatic when someone rings a doorbell on a TV show. Also, he’s fat. Wouldn’t a dog that traveled halfway across America be lean and mangy? Wouldn’t a dog like Clyde feel betrayed? This dog, clearly, was no king of the wilderness, this slobbering, cross-eyed, wobbly liar.
Jeff Landon lives with his family in Richmond, Virginia, and teaches at John Tyler Community College. His stories, online and print, have appeared in Mississippi Review, Crazyhorse, Another Chicago Magazine, Other Voices, New Virginia Review, Pindeldyboz, Hobart, FRiGG, Smokelong Quarterly, Night Train, Quick Fiction, Phoebe, and other places.