When Anna saw the dog in her bedroom she immediately yelled for Karen. They were living together then, both finishing up graduate school in an apartment with olive-green appliances and worn Berber carpet. Anna was sure she was hallucinating. The dog would be gone before Karen or anyone else could confirm or deny its existence.
In the couple of seconds it took Karen to get from the kitchen to Anna’s bedroom, the dog had not disappeared. There was no doubt – a long-legged, curly-haired mutt was sniffing Anna’s desk, then pacing to her dresser, circling, and settling on her rug with a heavy doggy sigh. The girls watched this frozen in the doorway.
“Did you leave the front door open?”
“No.” Anna did not point out that, being in the kitchen and next to the front door, Karen surely would’ve noticed an animal of this size strolling inside.
They were silent for a moment, watching the dog, which did not seem to have noticed them. Anna spoke again. “I just left my room for a second to go to the bathroom.”
The dog yawned, bringing attention to its large set of teeth and heavy jaws.
“Maybe we should shut the door and call the police.”
“Sounds good.” Anna’s heart hurt from beating so hard.
When the police arrived and re-opened the door, the dog was gone. Figures, Anna thought, as the police officer silently opened her closet door and peered under her bed.
“I am sleeping on the couch from now on.” Anna vowed to Karen that night.
“I don’t blame you. At least it seem too threatening or anything, though.”
Sure, Anna thought, easy for her to think. Her bedroom wasn’t The Haunted Dog Room.
Within two weeks, the stress of a dissertation defense, a job search, the flat couch cushions, and the lack of even a single mysterious dog hair made Anna relax her hold on the official name.
“You’ll be fine in there.” Karen assured her. “Apparitions like this almost never show up again.” While Anna had been studying, Karen had apparently been doing some research. Anna didn’t know how to respond, so she didn’t. But she did start sleeping in bed again.
A few months after graduation, both girls were vacating the well-worn apartment.
“Someone else can inherit the mysterious dog.” Anna said, half-laughing, as they did a final cleaning.
“I wish I could leave them a note, ask them to contact me if they see anything.” Karen half-laughed, too, but repeated herself later.
Anna moved back to her hometown for a one-night-a-week teaching job at the nearby community college, where she cracked defensive jokes about Ph.D.s and student loan debt before anyone else could make them. Karen took a lab job with a big pharmaceutical firm in a city a couple hours away, something boring, she told Anna, but decent-paying.
After a few months, Anna had decided she liked teaching, though she’d like it more if she didn’t have to supplement it with waitressing. She wished she had more time for socializing; despite how busy she’d felt in grad school, she and Karen had goofed off plenty.
Karen was currently spending her free time joining organizations like the Northern Illinois Spirit Society and the New Age Paranormal Research Group, going on late night ghost hunts and recording white noise in cemetaries. Why, Anna wondered, am I learning all this from Facebook?
Occasionally her mind tried to draw symmetry to the fading of their friendship and their sight of the dog. The dog took something from us that day, she thought after returning from a night out drinking with a coworker. In the sobering morning light, she didn’t believe that. Friendships often end, and Karen had gotten a little weird.
Anna decided to get a dog, herself, an undignified little rat terrier that was the polar opposite of the dignified, solemn dog in the bedroom.
She was at the dog park with Sammi, her terrier, on a damp spring morning when suddenly there was the dog, just before a hill at a distant end of the field. It had a Frisbee in its mouth and was bounding towards a man in a red windbreaker. She gasped, barely audibly, and it turned its massive head and looked at her. Its eyes caught on hers for only a second, then it shook itself and continued to run. It remembered me, she thought, heart thumping and hand digging in her purse for her cell phone.
“Karen, it’s Anna. I saw the dog again.” Thank God she still had her number.
“Fantastic.” If she was surprised to hear from Anna, her voice didn’t show it. “Just fantastic. I’m free this Saturday – why don’t I drive up so we can talk in person?”
“Great.” Off the phone, Anna scooped up Sammi and jogged over the bend where the dog and its owner had disappeared from view. Neither the dog nor the man were in sight. Figures, Anna thought.
Elizabeth Holden is a physics instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. She’s been previously published in the literary magazines Stirring, Tryst, Midwest Literary Magazine and The Blinking Cursor. She lives in Madison, WI.
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