I used to watch her running through the dog pasture. She was shaggy. Her ears dark and long, almost to the ground, stuck way out from her head. Seven or eight of us side by side on the fence was the length of her tail. My crow-buds and me cawed when she’d run after squirrels or chase us away from field mice we’d been picking apart. She was noisy, though we kept up with her racket. We’d sit in fir boughs and yell down at her. She’d circle the tree and reach up, her front feet against it and bark, leaning her chest in and roll her tongue along her teeth. When one of us died she shredded him to feathers.
A woman used to come with her sometimes and toss a flat disc far to the other side of the field, “Go get it Sunny!” She shouted and Sunny would run like it was food. She leaped into the air and snatched the flying disc. The woman said, “Good Girl, Sunny.” They left the disc in the pasture. We flew down to taste but it was tough and had no smell, worthless.
One day we heard Sunny yelping and we flapped black-wings fast to the pasture. There she lay on her side. Her eyes rolled up and front legs pawed the air. We sat in a tree close by. At first we caw-caw-laughed, but after bending an eye to each other we knew it was blood and bone suffering. It takes a long time to kill even a mouse. The squeaking is hideous. We’d rather eat something dead than kill it, though as soon as the killing is done, we do a fighting dance. Anyway Sunny howled and the woman ran and called out, “Sunny what’s wrong, what’s wrong?” She whined from deep within her black fur. Then a car came whisking down the driveway. We lifted as if a breeze swelled up, settling us into higher branches. Sunny left in the car.
When she came back, the woman was crying as she brought Sunny into the pasture, pulling her along by a sling around her dog-belly like a hammock. Sunny dragged her back legs behind her. She fell down when she crapped and peed. When she left the pasture we all flew down and walked a circle around her droppings. Everybody cawed at once about how it smelled. I jumped in close, even pecked at her leavings to show, I was not afraid.
When summer left, the rosehips stood like fists on sweet briar branches and Sunny came to the pasture by herself. She didn’t jump up as we sat in fir trees though we cocked our heads down and cawed. She didn’t run through the pasture anymore. She walked slowly with one foot dragging behind her.
-Flash fiction by Teya Priest Johnston
Teya Priest Johnston lives on Blue Mountain in Washington state with many dogs and a nice husband. Every day brings the ephemeral gift of each season and the temporary pain or pleasure of the dramatically changing era.