Leah Mueller

No Sense in Waiting

Rain fell like artillery
on a chilly March evening
while the four of us huddled
beside a tiny wood stove
in a damp farmhouse.

We rubbed our hands together
in front of the fire,
and the flames sparked abruptly,
making popcorn sounds
as the wet wood ignited.

It was one of those nights
when no one had much to say--

words fell to the floor
like sacks of laundry
and remained there, unattended
until the entire room was filled
with the stench of dullness.

My visiting boyfriend was an attorney
who had followed me from Chicago
to a tiny island in Puget Sound
where I lived with Chris and Debbie,

two women I’d met on the highway
only a month beforehand.

Debbie owned a dog
who’d roamed the same highway
while in heat,
searching for a willing partner
to alleviate her strange discomfort.

Eventually she coupled with a canine
who had bad genes,
then gave birth to a batch
of deformed puppies, who lay now

in a jumbled pile in the nearby barn,
attended by their anxious mother,
waiting for their fate to be decided.

We humans had known their fate for a while,
but never discussed it openly.

Debbie was a single mother
who had migrated to the Northwest
from somewhere in the South,

her sullen toddler son and the dog
tossed into the back of her car
with their few possessions,
stopping only to purchase soda,
disposable diapers and cigarettes.

Now she had a squirming mess
of defective puppies
but no money for a vet bill
for their humane extermination.

Still, Debbie was nothing
if not intrepid--
she suddenly rose to her feet,
strode across the room,
and heaved herself over to the corner
where her shotgun lay.

She lifted the barrel to her shoulder
and, while everyone stared at her
with stupefied amazement,
she said,

“Well, might as well do it now.
There ain’t no sense in waiting,”
and stormed outside into the rain.

A minute later, the gun fired six times
and everything was quiet--

at least until Debbie came back inside
sat down beside the wood stove,
snapped the door open,
and threw a new log on the fire.

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