Dog Food – Part Three
“She lied, though. She wasn’t okay because she died. I’m not mad at her, though. She lied to make me feel better. It worked, too, so I guess lies can be good sometimes.” Aaron paused again, feeling a cold wind blow through his hair. The bird shivered and pulled itself deeper into his palm. “Dad was more sad than I was. I was really sad too, but not in the same way, not like he was. Sometimes he would sit on the couch all day. He would cry, but sometimes he didn’t cry and would just look at the ceiling. I would go out and look for food instead. One time I came back and he was dead, still sitting on the couch. I cried for a little while, but not like him. I didn’t want to be so sad that I would die. That’s why I try not to cry anymore.”
Aaron walked softly to the door, petting the bird again. He shut the door behind him and latched it securely, even tighter than it was before. Walking into the kitchen, he fished an empty box of Goldfish from the trashcan. Setting the pigeon by his feet, he tipped over the box and sprinkled crumbs over the tiles, which the bird began to peck at hungrily.
“I had to pull him into the bedroom by myself. I put him on a blanket and dragged it on the floor. It made it easier, but it was still really hard. It took me a whole day because I kept stopping. I put him beside mom’s body in bed. I think he’d like that.” The bird began to softly coo, the first sound it had made since Aaron had found it. He smiled and picked it up again, holding it closely to his beating heart. He could feel its own rapid heartbeat through his hands.
Plodding over to the window, he sat on the sill, looking out over the destroyed streets. Some bodies hung from windows, some burned alive inside their cars, and dozens dried corpses littered the streets like cigarette butts.
“I used to be scared of the bodies,” Aaron said. “I still am, kinda, but now they don’t bother me as much. I was really scared of how they were just lying everywhere with nobody to bury them or get them out of the way or do something. If I died, I would want someone to take care of my body. I’m happy I got to do that for my dad.”
Leaning down, he kissed the bird on the back of its bewildered head.
“You can come back if you want, but come in through this window, okay?” Aaron kissed it one more time before standing up on the rubble and tossing the bird into the air. It dropped for a single, panicked second before opening its wings and taking to the sky with the ease of a fish through water.
Aaron stood outside, watching it fly off between the fallen skyscrapers and skeletal buildings until it became an indiscernible mote against the sun and disappeared.
“I miss the noise, sometimes.”
Aaron had dragged a small piece of wood in front of the store window. Sitting on it, he looked up at the destroyed mannequin, seeing something entirely different. The day was windy and bare, so he brought a blanket with him and wore extra socks.
“When it’s really quiet, sometimes that just makes me listen harder for other sounds. I get really scared and it’s hard to go to sleep. I look around for food and stuff all day, so I get really tired and can fall asleep really fast, but that doesn’t work all the time. I miss cars and stuff, and the little stuff that I didn’t think I’d miss, like the refrigerator or a toilet or a lightbulb or something.”
He inhaled a puff of ash and spent nearly a minute coughing it back out. His eyes stung and watered. It was from the coughing; it didn’t count as crying.
“I miss people talking, the most,” he continued. “It makes everything so weird that I feel like I’m on the moon or something. It’s been so quiet for so long, it scared me. Sometimes, especially at night, I would hear someone talking or a voice outside. It freaked me out. I went outside and called for people, but nobody answered. I thought they were hiding from me, but I realized that I was just imagining it. Like…sometimes I heard my thoughts outside my brain, and I’d get really excited, but I’d have to remember what was a real sound and what was one I was just thinking. It gets hard when I’m tired, so I sleep a lot more.”
Aaron paused for breath, his head spinning from talking so much.
Photograph by Jacob Montrasio