It wasn’t that I didn’t care. I was conditioned. How many times do you recall hearing a dog yelping? If we stopped what we were doing every time we heard a dog squeal or yelp, I mean do I really have to go there with this explanation? Science fiction and ghostly cognition scenarios aside, there was something in the air that slapped the inside of my skull after the noise had already gone through my filter and factored into the “ignore” section. I can’t explain what made me suddenly grab the bungee cord attached to that dog’s cry of pain as it plunged into oblivion and out of my memory banks. That scene from King’s book came into mind with urgency. It was that one from Dead Zone where the guy everyone thinks is okay just sinks into creepy, black evil and kicks a dog to death. I turned my head toward the window. It wasn’t a dog that had made that sound.
The neighbor (kind of a misnomer for a person who simply lives near you but isn’t “neighborly” at all) across the street had a visitor. A blue GMC truck, the kind they came out with the year their SUVs made me think of hightop tennis shoes, had pulled up to the curb. I’d seen this before. Shared custody meant that a guy came and picked up his “50% son” every other week in his ugly blue, poor excuse for a truck with the cheap tinted windows. The little kid I always see picking his nose and playing on the hillbilly trampoline in the front yard was currently wrapped around a shoe by the driver’s open door. Looked like the shoe had come off the man when the poor little guy had tensed in shock and pain as the toe made a deep indention in his gut and part of his chest.
My right hand dropped my coffee and and as the ceramic mug shattered on the tile floor, my left hand reached out and slapped the window. I simultaneously rose from my chair as a foreign language of murderous intent and disbelief grew from my throat. The driver didn’t hear me yet. This was obvious because he calmly looked over at the boy’s house and, upon noticing that no one was at the door or looking out after the boy’s welfare, calmly bent over and removed the shoe from the boy’s clutches. He was careful not to touch the boy I noticed as I rushed from the window to the nearest door. I lost sight of the driver while fumbling with the damn sliding glass door lock, and tore my shirt as I stormed out before the thick door panel slid all the way open.
I leapt off my front deck into the yard and ran to the boy as the truck sped out of view. Through my tears I could see that the boy was unconscious – or maybe dead, I couldn’t tell. I yelled at his front door, angry that someone hadn’t come out yet. There was no movement, only the pulsing blue light of a television occasionally dancing on the front windowpane. I gently scooped the boy out of the street and cradled him as I ran to the door and kicked it frantically. No one answered. I didn’t have time for this.
“Hold on, little one. Gonna’ get you some help, sweetie.”
I couldn’t stop the tears of anger and sadness pouring from my face. I ran with him into the street and yelled at the pickup that was headed toward us. Jack Mitchell leaned over and pushed open the passenger door. “What the hell…”
“Jack he needs help. Someone just kicked him hard and he isn’t moving. I can’t get anyone to come out of the house.” I pulled myself into the truck with my little ward still tucked into the crook of my right arm. Jack didn’t blink, reaching over and pulling the door shut, he grabbed the satellite phone he carried in his truck, hit some buttons, and propped it between his shoulder and cheek as he shifted the truck into gear and spun the tires into movement. When we turned onto the highway, he yelled over the engine into the phone as his hand left the gearstick and pushed the thing closer to his voice. “This is Deputy Sheriff Mitchell over in Fingerbone. I’m driving a white diesel Chevy Silverado headed South on highway 8. I have a fatally injured child who needs immediate medical attention. Do you understand?”
Jack Mitchell was the head police officer in our little rural area. It wasn’t coincidence that he was driving along this road when this happened. He was my landlord and was probably headed over to fix my heater before the harsh winter hit. He also owned his own construction company. Most people up here had two or three jobs in order to pay the bills. Some did it to live more comfortably. I think Jack did it because he couldn’t be still. We were 45 minutes from an emergency room and, for the kind of attention the limp little boy in my lap would probably need, we may as well have been at the North Pole. I buckled us both in and prayed for a miracle.