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Authors: Callan Wink

Dog Run Moon

BOOK: Dog Run Moon
10.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Dog Run Moon
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2016 by Callan Wink

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by The Dial Press, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

and the
colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

The following stories have been previously published: “Off the Track” in
“One More Last Stand” and “Exotics” in
“Crow Country Moses” in
The Montana Quarterly;
“Dog Run Moon” and “Breatharians” in 
The New Yorker;
“In Hindsight” on


Wink, Callan.

[Short stories. Selections]

Dog run moon: stories / Callan Wink.

pages cm

ISBN 978-0-8129-9377-6

ebook ISBN 978-0-8129-9378-3

I. Title.

PS3623.I6626A6 2016



eBook ISBN 9780812993783

Book design by Elizabeth A. D. Eno, adapted for ebook

Cover design: Joseph Perez and Rachel Ake

Cover illustration: Jonathan Burton




id was a nude sleeper. Had been ever since he was a little kid. To him, wearing clothes to bed seemed strangely redundant, like wearing underwear inside your underwear or something. Sid had slept in the nude every night of his adult life and that was why, now, he was running barefoot and bare-assed across the sharp sandstone rimrock far above the lights of town. It was after two in the morning, a clear, cool, early June night with the wobbly gibbous moon up high and bright so he could see the train yard below—the crisscrossing rails, a huge haphazard pile of old ties, the incinerator stack. He was sweating but he knew once he could run no more the cold would start to find its way in. After that he didn't know what would happen.

The dog was padding along tirelessly, sometimes at Sid's side, sometimes ranging out and quartering back sharply, his nose up to the wind trying to cut bird scent. Not for the first time in his life Sid found himself envying a dog. Its fur. Its thick foot pads. A simple untroubled existence of sleeping, eating, running, fucking occasionally if you still had the parts, not worrying about it if you didn't. Even in his current predicament Sid couldn't help but admire the dog. A magnificent bird dog for broken country such as this, no two ways about it. Sid kept going, hobbling, feeling the sharp rimrock make raw hamburger out of the soles of his feet. When he turned he could see smears of his blood on the flat rock shining black under the moon. And then, the shafts of headlights stabbing the jutting sandstone outcroppings. He could hear the shouts of Montana Bob and Charlie Chaplin as they piloted their ATV over the rough ground.


Sid hadn't stolen the dog. He'd liberated the dog. He firmly believed this and this belief was the fundamental basis for the disagreement between himself and Montana Bob. Montana Bob thought ownership meant simple possession. Sid thought otherwise. He'd been in town for two months and his path to and from work took him twice daily through the alley. The dog would follow his passing through the chain-link and Sid would whistle and the dog would raise its ears without getting up.

Sid worked at a sawmill that processed logs brought down from the mountains. The logs came in massive and rough, smelling like moss and the dark places where snow lingers into July. They entered one end of a screeching hot pole building, met the saw, and came out the other side, flat and white and bleeding pitch into the red-dirt lumberyard. The men that worked the logs and the saw were Mexicans mostly, wide, sweating men who worked in dirty white tank tops, their inner arms scabbed and raw from wrestling rough-barked logs. They spoke their language to each other and Sid did not know them. He kept to himself and did his work. He was a scrap man. All day he took cast-off pieces of aspen and pine, and cut and stapled them into pallets that were eventually piled with boards to be shipped out. All day he measured and sawed and stapled. His hands were pitch-stained and splintered. All day his mind ran laps, and after work he walked back through the alley, whistled at the dog on his way by, and drank three glasses of water in quick succession, standing at the kitchen sink in the empty trailer he rented by the month and hadn't bothered to furnish. Even with the windows open the trailer smelled like a hot closet full of unwashed clothing, and Sid couldn't stand being there unless he was asleep.

In the evenings he drove. Sometimes over to the next town, sometimes for hours until he ended up in the river valley at the base of the mountains where it was always ten degrees cooler. She lived there now and he knew her house but he never drove by. He couldn't bear the thought of her looking out from her kitchen window to see his truck moving slowly down the street. He could imagine how his face would look to her. Sun-dark. Gaunt. Too sharp down the middle like it was creased. Sometimes he got a milkshake at the diner and nursed it for the drive. No matter where he drove, he took the same way back, the route that took him around front of the house with the dog. The house where the east-facing windows were covered with tinfoil and Sid had never seen anyone outside.

At the mill one afternoon a full pallet of eight-inch-by-twelve-foot boards broke free of the loader and crushed the legs of one of the Mexicans who had been standing by the truck, waiting to tighten the straps. Sid, eating his lunch, saw the whole thing, heard the man's hoarse screams over the shriek of the saw until the saw was silenced, and then it was just the man, pinned to the ground and writhing, his eyes bulging, with sawdust coating the sweat on his bare arms.

That evening, Sid drove straight to her house, still in his work clothes. When he got there her car was in the driveway and there was a pickup truck parked behind it. Sid pulled in sharply and got out, not bothering to shut his door behind him. He was striding fast, halfway up to her porch, before he noticed the dried smears of blood on his pant legs and boots. At the mill, he and everyone else had rushed to the man, frantically teaming up to move the heavy boards from his legs. There had been blood everywhere, making the sawdust dark, making the boards slick and red and hard to hold. Now, standing in her front lawn, he looked down at his hands. He tried to clean out the rust-colored crescents under his fingernails, tried to rub the pine pitch mixed with dried blood from the creases in his palms. He was rubbing his hands frantically on his stained jeans, when he saw movement in the curtains over the kitchen window. And then he ran, sliding into the open door of his truck, spinning gravel up onto vehicles in front of him as he backed out at full speed.

Sid's route home took him past the house with the dog, and, as usual, there was no sign of life outside. The truck that was often parked in front of the house was gone. Sid passed slowly and then turned around. He thought about it for a minute and then pulled over and let his truck idle. He went around back where the dog was lying on a pile of dirty straw, chained to a sagging picnic table. The dog didn't bark, didn't even get up, just watched Sid with its muzzle resting on its front paws. Sid unhooked the chain from the dog's collar, and when he turned to leave, the dog followed him to his truck, jumped in, and sat on the bench seat, leaning forward with his nose smudging the windshield. Sid drove up to the flat, windswept bench above town and let the dog run. In the hour before it got dark they put up three coveys of Huns and two sharp-tails, the dog moving through clumps of sagebrush and cheatgrass, working against the wind like some beautifully engineered piece of machinery performing perfectly the one, the only, task to which it was suited.


Sid was afraid of Montana Bob. As he ran he could feel the fear lodged somewhere up under his sternum, a sharp little stab of something like pain with each inhaled breath. It was a healthy thing, his fear of Montana Bob. You should be afraid, Sid, he thought. You should be afraid of Montana Bob like you should be afraid of a grizzly bear, a loose dog foaming at the mouth, anything nearsighted and sick and unpredictable. Sid stopped behind the wind-twisted limbs of a piñon pine and listened. He could hear the low growl of the ATV coming behind him and then the different, softer sound of the engine idling, stopped, no doubt, so that Montana Bob and Charlie Chaplin could branch out on foot to look for his sign. Sid was above them and he could see the shapes of their shadows, tall and angular, moving across the headlights, cloaked in swirling motes of red dust.

“I know who you are, Sid. I know it's you out there. We're still out here, too.”

Montana Bob's voice came up to him, reverberating off the rock.

“You got the dog and I think that is a damn stupid reason to go through all this trouble. I got Charlie Chaplin here with me. He too thinks this is a lot of stupidness just for a damn dog. Also, he has a big goddamn pistol. I bet your feet hurt something fierce. You're bleeding like a stuck hog all over this lizard rock and me an' Charlie Chaplin are going to drive right up on you before long. We will. Also, you were a big damn fool to run out the back door like that. Charlie saw your naked ass. We were just coming for the dog. You can't argue my right to it. You have that what belongs to me. You catch up that dog and bring it down to me. Also, hell. You know what? We'll even give you a ride back down into town. We will.”

Sid started out again, moving up and away from the voices and lights. He found a long piece of slickrock that stretched out farther than he could see into the darkness and he ran. He could hear the rough whisper of the dog's pads on the rock, the click of its nails. The dog's coat shone in the moonlight; what was black in sunlight became purple-blue, what was normally white now glowed like mother-of-pearl.

Would Montana Bob do as he said? Let Sid go if he came down with the dog? Sid was unsure but he thought not. The small oblong little organ of fear under Sid's sternum pulsed each time his feet slapped the rock. He kept going. The moon overhead was a lopsided and misshapen orb that at any moment might lose its tenuous position and break upon the rocks. That might be a good thing. A landscape of blackness into which he could melt.


The dog had been his for a week when Montana Bob found him out. Sid was in the Mint having a happy-hour beer before heading home, and he'd left the dog in the truck. He had his back to the door and as soon as the two men came in he had a bad feeling. The bar was pretty much empty but they sat right next to him, one on each side. Plenty of stools all up and down the bar but they came and crowded in on him. The big one wore a sweat-stained summer Stetson with a ragged rooster pheasant tail feather sticking out of the hatband. His hair was shaggy and flared out from the hat brim. He wore a leather vest with nothing underneath it save a mangy pelt of thick blue-black hair. His companion was considerably smaller and extremely fair skinned, nearly bald except for a few blond strands grown long on one side and then combed over. He wore a button-up Oxford shirt and corduroy pants. Sperry Top-Siders. On his belt he had a large knife in a sheath, its handle made of a pale-yellow plastic that was supposed to look like bone. They ordered beers, and when the beers arrived the big man in the hat drank deeply, and then leaned toward Sid, a pale scum of suds covering his upper lip.

“I don't believe in beating the bush.”

Sid picked at a loose corner on the label of his bottle of beer. He thought about bolting, just getting up like he was going to make his way to the bathroom and then sliding right out the back.

“I don't beat the bush so I'm going to get right down to the tacks. I believe I recognize a familiar dog in that blue Chevy out front and also since you're about the only one in here I figure that's your vehicle so I figure that I'll need to ask you where you happened to come across that dog.”

The man pushed his hat back on his head and swiveled on his stool to face Sid. He smiled.

“Also, I'm Montana Bob.” He extended his hand—which Sid shook, not knowing what else to do—and nodded toward his companion seated on Sid's other side.

“And that's Charlie Chaplin. Shake his hand.”

Sid turned and shook Charlie Chaplin's pale proffered hand.

“I'm a local businessman and Charlie Chaplin is my accountant. Also, he provides counsel to me in matters of legal concern.”

Sid considered Charlie Chaplin and when their eyes met he felt something skittering and cold move down his spine. Montana Bob was the bigger man, menacing even, with large bare arms and small pieces of pointed silver at the tips of his boots, but it was this one, small and waxen and pale, who made Sid shift uncomfortably.

Sid found himself speaking, too quickly, his voice high.

“I picked up that dog at the shelter. Bought and paid for. Got him his shots, rabies, distemper, all that. I got the paperwork in the truck. They said at the shelter that he was a canine of misfortunate past. Meaning his old owner used to stomp him. Kind of a mutt but he seems loyal. Likes to fetch the tennis ball. My kids are crazy about him.”

Montana Bob nodded as Sid spoke. Charlie Chaplin nodded too. Montana Bob motioned the bartender down to them and ordered another beer for himself and Charlie Chaplin.

“Two more. Also, a large pitcher of ice water. No ice.”

The bartender went away and Montana Bob spoke to Sid's reflection in the mirrored bar back.

“Likes to fetch the tennis ball does he? Well, I'll be. Did you know that that dog was given to me by a Frenchman? The dog is a French Brittany spaniel and he comes from France. Born in France of royal French Brittany stock. Also, that dog was a gift from a French count. Guy St. Vrain made me a present of that dog when it was just a pup in payment for services rendered by yours truly. You don't know Guy St. Vrain but that doesn't matter. That's how he likes it. He's in the movie business. Also, he's in the dog business.”

The bartender came with the pitcher of water, and Montana Bob took off his hat and set it on the bar top. He poured half the pitcher into the hat and then replaced it on his head, the water streaming down his face and neck, matting the thick shiny hair on his chest.

“You stole my fucking dog.” He was still looking at Sid through his reflection in the bar mirror. “Also, I had a hot and dusty day out on the trail and I come here for a drink only to find my possession in someone else's egg basket.”

In the mirror Sid saw his hands go up, saw his shoulders shrug.

“The shelter. I don't know anything about any of this.”

He slid from the stool and caught the bartender's eye.

“I'll take one more. Be right back. Gotta take a leak.”

In the bathroom he ran the water and splashed some on his face. He had his keys in his hand when he hit the door and then he was out in the last evening rays of sun, firing the truck, the dog standing anxiously with its front paws on the dash. Sid drove without looking back. He drove all the way down the river road and let the dog out. He walked a path through the thickets of tamarisk and Russian olive and when he stopped, the dog perched delicately at the water's edge, standing on a rock, lapping up the muddy red water. Before Sid had burst through the bar doors to start his truck he'd glimpsed the bar room—Montana Bob sitting astride his stool like a swayback steed. Charlie Chaplin up standing in front of the jukebox. He was flipping the discs as if looking for a particular track, a song whose name he couldn't remember or one whose tune existed solely in his head.

BOOK: Dog Run Moon
10.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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