“You got a name? Where you from?”
“Easy there Clara,” Howard said. He lifted his hat and wiped beads of sweat from his forehead. “It’s just shock is all, we don’t need to be crowdin’ around askin’ questions like an interrogation squad.”
“You never had a stomach for this, Howie,” Clara snapped. “Go make some tea. Must be ‘bove forty out there. We’re all parched and you got the stink of a dead pig.”
“There’s no call for insults, Clara,” said Cliff. “Not when we got this here problem to deal with.”
Howard shuffled over to the kettle and sniffed his armpits. “Ain’t smellin’ no pig,” he muttered.
Clara leaned forward. “You got a tongue? Speak up.”
“I’m thinking it’s one of them robots,” Cliff suggested. “Like them what took Millie and Ted and the others.”
“Twaddle!” Clara said. “We ain’t seen no bot goin’ on ten years. They don’t make ’em no more, Cliff.”
“I don’t know so much,” Cliff replied. He didn’t like it when Clara pretended to know the unknown. “Hardly anyone comes this way no more, least of all folks wishin’ to abandon this…heck, I don’t know what to call it.”
“It’s a menace,” Clara told them. “We ought to be rid of it before it does something we don’t like.”
“Easy Clara, let’s not be too hasty. Brand new thing such as this might be worth keeping. Heck! I swear none of the neighbour folk have one.”
“They don’t got squat,” Clara said. She didn’t like the neighbours much. “Morons and inbred swine, the lot of ’em. Ain’t none of ’em got the sense God gave ’em.”
Cliff put a finger to his lips. “Clara!” he hissed. “There’ll be hell to pay if they hear you talkin’ like that.”
Clara waved her hands at him. “Pah. They ain’t hearin’ us. If they’d stayed in the basement like the rest of us they wouldn’t be messed up the way they are when the fire burned the sky.”
“Skinny Earl ain’t got the effects yet,” Cliff told her. “He’s a wily one. Always snoopin’ around. Best we keep hushed up ’bout this lest he shows up with his boom-stick. You know what happened last time.”
Clara was quiet for a moment. “Poor Jacob,” she said. “Never stood a chance. I ain’t never seen so many holes in a person.”
“So we’re keepin’ it quiet then?” asked Howard. He passed around cups of tea. “At least till we figure what to do. Sure is a pretty thing.”
“We could cook it.”
Howard and Cliff gaped at her suggestion.
“Just jestin’,” Clara said. “You nitwits got no sense of humour.”
“Bad taste that,” Cliff said.
“We need to fathom what it’s for,” Howard told them. “Ain’t there a note or nothin’?”
“Looky there,” Cliff said. He pointed to a slip of paper wedged in the box.
Howard carefully removed it and handed it to Clara who peered at it through her spectacles.
“Well I’ll be…” she gasped. “Says here: My name is Rex. I am six months. My owners can’t look after me cos they got sick with the effects. I need lots of love and treats.“
“Six months what?” asked Cliff.
“Howie, pass me the big blue book,” said Clara.
They crowded around the book and Clara flipped through the pages until she found the right one. They stared at the picture then at the new arrival and back to the picture.
“What’s a dog?” Howard finally asked.
This short story was inspired by Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press – a challenge to write a 500 word piece of fiction using one of 2 photos as a prompt.
This time I went over with 570 words but it was worth it! On the last Writing Challenge: The Shelter, I gave a slight explanation of my story but this time I’ll just leave it open to interpretation. If you want to join in and write a short piece of fiction clicky-click Indigo Spider’s link above and wrap your imagination around one of the photos!
The photo is called The Unknown by Diane Arbus.