True Story: The Stray

[Editor's Note: Jack Grisham is an author, hypnotherapist, T.S.O.L. front man and all-around troublemaker. This column, True Story, may or may not be factual, with characters who may or may not be real.]

The old man was awakened by its cries--an animal outside, its wounded voice carrying louder than the trains crossing the overpass below his house. They were awful, these beasts, unkempt feral animals whose outdoor existence was only encouraged by the soft-hearted do-gooders who brought them food.

"If you love them so much," he thought, "why don't you take them in, let them defecate and breed in your neighborhood. But oh, no--'They're fine out there,' they say. 'They're not hurting anyone. They have rights--just like you do.'"

He rose from his bed and pulled on his work boots. He grabbed a flashlight from the kitchen, put a jacket on over his nightshirt and walked outside. The animal was still wailing--high-pitched mournful calls begging for help.

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"Ughhhh, why can't this fucking thing die?"

And it's not like this was an infrequent occasion; these beasts were always getting hurt--hit by cars, wandering onto the train tracks, even getting abused by some of the children who lived nearby. Not that he was for that. He wasn't cruel; he was just tired of it.

He'd called the various city and county agencies that dealt with this sort of thing, but their reactions had been nothing more than political indifference. He scanned the yard with his light. The cries were coming from out back, behind his fence, from the alley that ran adjacent to his place. He opened the gate with a bit more force than necessary, hoping the noise would drive the beast off, but if anything, his appearance only amplified its cries. He pointed his light at the sound. The stray was lying near the trash cans. It was moving--slow-motion writhing in the dirt. He walked toward it. There was a trail of blood.   "It didn't get hurt here," he thought. "Maybe it was trying to make its way back to the bushes."

He kicked at its legs with his boot. The animal cried.

"What the fuck am I supposed to do, go back to bed and hope it dies before morning? Nobody is going to come here at this hour and pick this thing up."

He shook his head and walked back into his yard. There was a small tarp covering his workbench; he grabbed it. When he was a young boy, he'd watched his father put down animals on the farm. He didn't know if he'd have the stomach for it, but it was either this or no sleep. He went back to the beast and shined his light on its face. It was old and it smelled. The injured animal turned its great head toward him. The light shown painfully in its eyes. "Jesus," he thought, "sometimes it looks like they've got a soul--the way they look at you."

"Please," the beast said. He reached out for the man. "Help me."

The old man covered it with the tarp, and then he stomped on its head until it ceased to cry.

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