November 8, 2021 by Laird
(You Won’t Be) Saved by the Ghost of Your Old Dog
by Laird Barron
The man dreamed of his gray, rheumy-eyed dog, lost for many years now.
“I always loved you!” the dog said. “Even when I did wrong!” The dog did not speak as men speak, of course. His notched ears crumpled and he howled. But it meant the same thing.
“I always loved you as well, you incorrigible asshole,” the man tried to answer. He could not speak because it was a dream.
The man awoke and waited a while for the strength to rise. No more water, no more hardtack or jerky. His snowshoes had gone up as kindling smoke. He leaned his pack and rifle against a tree. He buttoned his coat and tightened the laces of his boots. He kicked dirt over the ashes of the fire.
Sky and the earth were the same deep matte. Cold as the metal of his broadhead axe. Icicles snapped from his beard. Tiny icicle tears snapped from his lashes when he blinked.
The man was no tracker, although he’d lived in the woods and knew how to survive. He limped in ever widening circles along the slope of the mountain and eventually cut across the dog’s trail. Blood glittered in the paw prints. North.
As always, he’d followed the tracks for a short time when it began to snow.