Abby by James Bates

Early that morning Bill noticed something odd across the street. The neighbor’s dog, Abby was pacing back and forth restlessly.

“I better go check on Eddie,” he called to his wife Sue.

“What’s wrong?” She hurried into the living room.

Bill pointed out the window, “Abby looks worried.” 

The dog had been Eddie’s only companion since his wife has passed away three years earlier. 

Sue pushed him forward, “Hurry.”

Eddie Bertelson was a dedicated gardener and every summer he spent hours working in the beautiful gardens he maintained in the front and back of his home, Abby by his side. It was odd to see the loyal dog alone. Odd and disconcerting.

Bill hurried across the street and approached quickly but cautiously, not wanting to startle the big Irish setter. When he was only a few feet away he saw a swarm of blue bottle flies and immediately knew something was terribly wrong. 

He watched as Abby whined and reached out a tentative paw to touch the motionless man laying askew in the dirt at the edge day lilies. Bill knelt, swept the flies away and put one hand on the dog’s head to comfort her while with the other he checked Eddie’s neck. There was no pulse. Next to him Abby whimpered and Bill could only imagine her confusion, wondering why it was that her master was lying so still. 

“It’s okay, girl,” Bill said, petting her, trying to calm her, running his hand over her tawny coat, a coat that glistened in the morning sun from the care Eddie conscientiously gave her. Nervously licking her jowls, Abby glanced at Bill before leaning close to her old companion’s body and nuzzling the grizzled cheek, startling the flies that had once again begun congregating. They lifted off while Abby moved closer, protectively standing guard, snapping and battling furiously to keep them from returning. Bill watched, touched, a tear forming, as he took out his phone and called emergency. 

Then he called his wife, wiping his eyes, “Sue. Hi. It’s me. Yeah, it’s about Eddie. He’s gone. Looks like a heart attack. I called 911, but I have a question for you.” He paused and petted the dog some more, moved that she was doing all she could to keep the flies from her master. “I was wondering how you felt about us taking care of Abby. She’ll be all alone now that Eddie’s gone.” He paused and listened, then smiled. “I was hoping you’d say that. I’ll be home in a bit. I’m going to stay until the ambulance arrives.”

Then he turned to Abby and scratched her head and petted her some more while the two of them kept busy brushing away the flies that were swarming. They seemed to be coming out of nowhere. It was good the two of them were there. It took both of them.

Jim lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His stories have appeared online in CafeLit, The Writers’ Cafe Magazine, Cabinet of Heed, Paragraph Planet, Nailpolish Stories, Ariel Chart, Potato Soup Journal, Literary Yard, Spillwords and The Drabble, and in print publications: A Million Ways, Mused Literary Journal and Gleam Flash Fiction Anthology #2. You can also check out his blog to see more: www.theviewfromlonglake.wordpress.com.

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