We were into our ninety-sixth hour without electricity, and that meant another day of shitting in brown grocery bags—paper, not plastic. Already, there were nine soiled bags that we had used and pitched outside onto three-foot snowdrifts. There was no water to flush the toilets. It was the biggest snowfall I’d ever seen, being only ten, and some said that Tennessee hadn’t experienced a blizzard like it in over forty years. The weight of the snow had caused trees to break and fall onto power lines, leaving five counties in the dark.
It was early morning, and I was alone. Dad and Mom had risked driving to their jobs on the icy roads. They couldn’t afford to take the time off. I had gotten out of bed, free from school for the day, and was just finishing my business in one of the paper bags when someone started banging on our patio door. After I was done, I used some rubbing alcohol to wash my hands and rolled down the bag and took it with me. I was in no hurry to answer the door, so I went into the kitchen and lit the kerosene heater. I blew out the match just as I pulled the curtains open. It was our neighbour Thomas Rauhuff, who lived about a half-mile from us. He was wearing a heavy overcoat and a plaid hunter’s cap. When I saw he was toting a gun, I pissed my pyjamas a little bit before cracking the door.
“Are your mom and dad home?” Rauhuff said.
“No,” I squeaked.
“Why don’t you open the door a little more so I can talk to you better?”
“Care if I come inside and get warmed up?”
Rauhuff came into my house. There were balls of snow on the fur fringe at the top of his boots. The snow started to melt on Mom’s good rug, and he didn’t care. He held the gun to his side.
“It’s dark in here,” Rauhuff said.“Our power’s been out for four days,” I replied.
“Need to get you a generator,” Rauhuff said.
I didn’t know what to say to that because he was right.
“I’ll just tell you,” Rauhuff said, “that little SOB dog of yours has been coming to my house again and chasing
“It wasn’t my dog, Mr. Rauhuff. Cuddy doesn’t go over there any more.”
“Don’t tell me. I tracked his prints all the way from my place to here.”
“Are you sure?”
“He killed one of my cats.”
“You said he was chasing them.”
“He killed one this time.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Rauhuff.”
“That dog’s dead.”
“Don’t kill my dog, Mr. Rauhuff.”
I grabbed a flashlight and went into my parents’ room where, in the closet, I fumbled through my dad’s gun drawer until
I found the shotgun shells I was looking for. Rauhuff was still dripping snow everywhere when I got back to the kitchen and he was warming his old hands over the kerosene heater.
“Here’s some shells that we filled with popcorn. If Cuddy comes back in your yard, you can shoot him with these and it’ll just sting him.”
“I’ll burn that dog’s ass up if he comes back and messes with my cats,” Rauhuff said as he took the shells from
me. “But if these don’t work, I’ll use the real thing next time.”
“They’ll work,” I said.
Rauhuff stepped back outside into the cold. “What’s with all these bags you got thrown out here?”
“We shit in them,” I said. “They’re full of shit.” Yeah, kind of like you, I thought.
“Tell your dad to get a generator, son.”
Rauhuff stumbled through the snow, and I shut the door behind him. Then I went to dig my long underwear,
trousers and flannel shirt out of the hamper. I dressed and left the house to find Cuddy. It didn’t take long. He was in his house, which
Dad had built for him the previous summer out of landscaping timbers. I crawled inside where he lay on a bed of straw. He was
a hound mix with thin fur. “Hey, Cuddy,” I said. “Have you been into meanness?” I could see some blood on his muzzle, but it wasn’t his. “Bad boy, Cuddy,” I said. For all I knew, he’d been using a cat’s claw for a toothpick the whole time I was talking with Rauhuff. It was warm inside his house, cozy really. I felt helpless to keep him from going back. And powerless.