Upturn (2008 anthology story)

The straw that broke the camel’s back was a pebble that broke through the puppy’s cracked rib, spraying blood on the ground and opening the way for more fatal injuries. Unfortunately, straws rarely fall one at a time, and it was impossible to tell which was the straw.

Like most puppies, Chuck wasn’t built to be cracked, split open, and spilled onto the asphalt. Quite the opposite, in fact- Chuck’s moan of pain lasted less than a second, as his battered heart stopped beating and was torn asunder. His friend, father, partner- but never master- looked out of his second story window the second he heard Chuck’s cry. Like most bystanders, the man noticed too little, too late. Chuck the pup – half Pit Bull, half Pomeranian, the last of his breed – was doomed from the start.

Had this been Temple City, Roger, Santy, and their female friend Xandra could have been the children of the man’s former classmates. The children of the boys and boyish girls that called him “Dorkus” because he wasn’t as athletic as them. The children of the boys and boyish girls who supported their freakish muscles with their smaller peers’ lunch money. The children of the world’s worst role models, and as such they may have been excused for their actions.

But this wasn’t Temple City, and these children had never been taught that this man was fair game by their parents. This was The Country, a land where men and puppies did as they pleased and children were kept on a short leash. A land where nothing but the irrational hatred of outsiders could motivate a crime such as this. Also, a land where he had no intention of taking this lying down.

“Is it getting kind of hot out here?” Roger asked, taking a drag of his cigarette and blowing the smoke into Santy’s face.

“Fucking… kill you, pendejo,” Santy coughed. “Told you not… do that shit.” After inhaling some smoke, Santy was starting to agree with Roger about the heat. “Maybe we go inside.” At that, he doubled over into a coughing fit. Santy had never liked cigarette smoke.
“You’re just a fuckin’…” Xandra’s retort trailed off as the cloud of smoke enveloping her friends mushroomed into flame. Roger had been smoking constantly- had almost finished a pack since school had let out earlier that afternoon- and the stream of fire the smoke had become looked to Xandra like a dragon. First it appeared, spreading out from the cigarette butt, and then it consumed Roger from the inside out. Santy’s face, already darker than theirs, blackened, cracked, and exploded outward, kind of like Xandra’s last attempt at baking had. Then the heat radiating from the flames began to take its effect, baking Santy and Roger’s remains like marshmallows held over a campfire. By the time Santy’s eyes and testes comically exploded from the heat at the same moment, Xandra could watch no more. After all, what cool girl doesn’t smoke when she’s cussing?

6 thoughts on “Upturn (2008 anthology story)

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