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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 18: 29 Apr. 2023
Flash Fiction: 509 words
By Mikki Aronoff



Bagel curls tightly on my lap, a closed comma, wet nose to knees, unless the doorbell rings or there’s a commotion next door, and there are plenty. I call it The House of Bruise and keep my distance.

Suddenly Bagel’s up and out the back door dog flap, yapping in crazy concert with Bozo, the neighbor’s pit bull, tied up since he got “too big” to be inside. I once offered them the number of a free pet behavioral help line knowing they’d be training my neighbors more than their dog. That was some scary reception I got. If I weren’t afraid of walking around with two black eyes, I would’ve called Animal Welfare. I made friends with the pup on the sly, a missing brick in the wall our secret meeting place. That’s where I get to rub his big head, skritch behind his ears, watch his eyes dissolve.

Now there’s a canine chorus going crazy over a pickup truck I’ve never seen before parked in the alley behind their house, the motor still running. I go back to my living room, crack open my front door, fake-check my mailbox to see if the neighbors are home. The driveway’s clear, so I tiptoe out back again, peer through the breach. A guy in a hoodie and mask is cutting the neighbor’s gate lock and Bozo’s issuing a steady stream of yelps and howls, more bluster than threat. The guy sticks his hand in a pocket, pulls something out and offers it to Bozo. I freak, wonder if he’s going to poison the poor pooch, then hear Hey, Boy, don’t worry, don’t worry, I won’t be here long. Bozo wags his whole behind as the guy rubs, then nuzzles his scruff. When the intruder jiggles the back door lock and goes inside, Bozo starts to whine, amping it up each time the guy parades back and forth with some new item to fence. On each empty-handed trip back to the house, he gives Bozo another Hey, Boy! and a treat and a neck rub.

Bozo’s a sponge for the guy’s affection, and my heart is breaking open. When the burglar’s inside, I go out my back gate with my garden shears in hand, loop into the neighbor’s back yard through their back gate and cut Bozo’s rope. The burglar saunters out with a laptop and laser printer in tow, startles at the sight of me.

Please,” I say, arms outstretched, offering all the money I have in my wallet with one hand, a frayed rope with a wiggling Bozo attached in the other. The burglar puts the printer down, grabs the cash and the dog, runs back to the truck for the last time, tears out, pedal to the metal.

“His name is PRINCE!” I yell after him as the pickup thunders out over the unpaved alley, a long pink dog tongue lapping up the breeze from the open passenger window. Dirt and gravel spray everywhere as the neighbor’s 65-inch TV tumbles out, shattering face-down on the ground.

Mikki Aronoff’s
Issue 18 (29 April 2023)

work appears in New World Writing, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Tiny Molecules, The Disappointed Housewife, Bending Genres, Milk Candy Review, Gone Lawn, Mslexia, The Dribble Drabble Review, The Citron Review, Atlas and Alice, trampset, jmww, and elsewhere. She’s received nominations for the Pushcart, Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, Best American Short Stories, and Best Microfiction.

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