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Life's A Bitch

By the end of the day The Bitch would be taking a dirt nap.

By Jack NanuqPublished 3 years ago 13 min read
Life's A Bitch
Photo by John Thomas on Unsplash

LIFE’S A BITCH

BY: Jack Nanuq

Lt. Col (Ret) Henry Mirh was attacking the earth with a vengeance. The ground couldn’t be described as dirt, or even soil. It was a conglomeration of roots, rocks, and rubber-like clay. He swung the pickaxe over his head and let it fall, thunk 2001, again thunk 2002, again 2003. At a count of 2009 he had to stop and take a breather. With each swing he loosened a fist sized chunk. In the past the three hours he had only been able to move two feet below the surface. This ground was giving him a workout. His hands were beginning to burn with the advent of blisters. He wished the going was easier, but he would finish this task. When he set his mind to something nothing would or could stop him. Although 70 years old he still had the frame of a lumberjack, or more accurately the frame of a Special Forces Warrior. On most days he could do his 100 push-ups without breaking a sweat. But today was different. Today he was using a set of muscles he hadn’t used in years. During his career he dug numerous holes, fighting position, latrines, even a few clandestine graves; just like this one. By the end of the day THE BITCH would be taking a dirt nap.

Brandy was in an especially foul mood today and it had pushed him to his breaking point. He swung the pickaxe again, 2010 thunk. He let his mind drift back to the day he and Brandy had met.

November 11, 2012, Veterans Day nine years ago. She was taking refuge in a dilapidated bus stop shelter. It was raining, a torrential downpour, of biblical proportions. The cascading water had the density to stop a bullet. He parked his truck at the curb and walked to the shelter.

He took a seat at the opposite end of the bench. She glared at him with haunted eyes. She was shivering but Henry wasn’t sure if it was due to fear or cold, maybe a little of both. Her wet auburn hair was soaked and plastered to her skin. It had the color of his favorite beverage, brandy. Her gaunt frame and unkempt look told him she was homeless.

He spoke to her softly. “I doubt you’re waiting for the bus. You look like you could use a warm meal. The VFW makes a mean beef stew. I’m headed there right now.” She just looked at him, with eyes that both touched and broke his heart. “I promise you it’s safe. I’m hungry, you’re hungry. What do the young people say? It’s just lunch. Nothing more, no commitment, just lunch. If you’re not up for stew, maybe a burger?”

He stood slowly and calmly walked to the passenger door of his truck. The downpour soaked him immediately, but he paid it no mind. When he opened the door steam from the heated cab signaled comfort and respite. “I promise no harm will come to you; I promise.” And he meant it.

She moved from her spot and cautiously climbed into the truck. As promised, he drove straight to the VFW hall. And the beef stew was delicious. So were the French fries that came later, and the pork chop that came at dinner time.

He introduced her to everyone. “Everyone this is Brandy, Brandy this is everyone.” She gave him a quizzical look and he said, “I figure you might want an alias with this group.” She nodded her head in understanding. When she felt comfortable with her surroundings, she cruised the Hall and met everyone individually. They all instantly fell in love with her. How could you not?

By the end of the day, it was clear Henry and Brandy would be going home together. When they got home, they cuddled on the couch. They did more than cuddle. Henry brushed her hair and talked. He talked and talked, told her his life story. About everything, his career, his boys, his ex-wife. How he was proud of her. “I know that must seem strange, me talking to you about my ex, but she is a great woman. And she did a great job raising my kids. And for that I am deeply indebted to her.”

He also told her how he had been floundering for the past year, since his retirement. His life’s purpose had been to serve his country but now he could no longer be a soldier. He was lost. She listened with intensity and never judged him. She was the perfect empath. The perfect friend, the perfect companion.

That night was the beginning of a love affair that has lasted almost a decade. Some people believe in love at first sight, but in their case, it was love at first seat. From then on, they were never far from one another. That night on the couch was the first of many. She completed him.

But that was then, and this is now. Things had changed, and not for the better. The once loving eyes were shrouded with the cataracts of pain, distrust, and betrayal.

He mindlessly swung the pickaxe again, 2080 whack. The vibration in the handle signaled he’d hit a large rock. He aimed the pick three inches to the right, 2081 whack. He moved his point of aim six inches to the left, 2082 thunk. The pick sunk into the earth. Thank God, he thought, it was a rock he could work around. He’d better be careful thanking God though. Grave digging was a nasty business.

He took another breather and looked toward his home. He was digging this grave in a remote corner of the State Forest that abutted his property. Brandy’s origins were shrouded in mystery and her final resting place would be a mystery as well. He didn’t want her haunting his dreams from his own yard. As he had this thought, he saw the living room curtains move. Brandy was looking out the window and trying to figure out what he was doing.

His shoulders were screaming but he needed to finish this job. He picked up a shovel and began to scoop out the loose debris. This would use a different set of muscles and give the shoulders a rest. What he was doing wrong but couldn’t help himself. A man on a mission. He set to work scooping; the menial task let his mind drift again.

He thought about the first time he took her hunting. She was a natural and loved being outdoors, by his side. That day they brought home four pheasants and had a great dinner. As the sun set, he brushed her hair again. He marveled at the beautiful red, telling the world her Irish heritage.

Occasionally, her Irish temper would flare. It was rare and generally only triggered by jealousy, her only vice. She was especially hostile when the widow from down the block would stop in unannounced. She’d snarl and make it clear that woman was not welcome. At time like these Brandy didn’t hide the bitch that she was. He hadn’t cared much for the widow either. He just went with it and let Brandy be the bad guy, so to speak.

Brandy had triumphed but that was a long time ago. And Brandy was now different. He still loved her, but…but…what? She had aged and not well. Her life before Henry had been a hard one and her past had caught up to her. She had reverted back to the feral being she had been before. She was now a miserable bitch.

The past month been especially hard. Henry couldn’t do anything to please her. She was never happy with the meals she cooked, how he made the bed or arranged the pillows on the couch. The eyes that used to look at him with love were now dark and cold. She hated life and she hated him.

He had the solution for that. He shoveled the last of the debris from the hole and picked up the other tool. He was now about 30 inches below ground level. 2083, swing thunk, 2084 thunk, 2085 whack. Shit, he thought. He moved his point of aim to the left. 2086 whack, move to the right, 2086 whack, more to the right, 2087 whack, more to the right, 2088 whack. The vibrations stung his burning hands, now covered in blisters. 2089 whack, 2090 whack. He had to stop; it was clear he hit a solid ledge. Damnit, damnit, damnit, he thought. This would have to do. It wasn’t the conventional six feet but nothing about this was conventional.

Now he needed to put some thought into executing the next part of his plan. Would he wrap her in a blanket and suffocate her in the house, or would he bring her out here for a coup de grace? He collected his tools and began his walk to the garage. He had some time to make the decision.

By the time he stored his equipment his burning hands and screaming muscles had made the decision for him. There was no chance he’d be able to carry her lifeless body that distance. He would have to get her to make the final walk on her own. Her own version of the green mile. Life really was a bitch, he thought.

While in the garage he rummaged through his bug-out bag. Inside the bag was his favorite pistol. A replica Colt 1911, handmade in a remote village in the Philippines. It came with almost every feature except a serial number. If found it could never be traced back to him. He slipped the gun into his coat pocket.

He entered the house with conviction, “gonna see this through to the end.” He repeated, to himself. It would be the hardest thing he’s ever done but he would do it. Nothing would divert him.

The house was shrine to their years together. Every wall was plastered with photos of their many adventures. There was Brandy wearing his green beret. No one in his inner circle got to touch the beret let alone wear it, but there she was. The beret askew on her head. There were also pictures of him and her on the refurbished WWII Harley motorcycle. She in the side car, the wind whipping her unruly hair.

Other photos showed them on their many bird hunts; pheasants, chukars, ducks, etc. She was a born huntress. Then there were photos of hot air ballooning, hiking the Appalachian Trail, and snowmobiling. One of his favorites was of her on a body board after he took her to Hawaii and taught her to surf. If it took place outdoors, she was game. When his sons or grandkids would visit, they’d make comments to the effect “I think you love Brandy more than us.” To this he’d reply “Yup.”

He tiptoed into the living room and there she was, awake. Curled up on the couch glowering at him. He sat on the foot stool in front of her and looked at her. He couldn’t look into those eyes, those cold, black haunted eyes.

“Sweetie, we need to talk,” he started. She just glared at him, surly to the core. He glanced at the portrait on the wall behind the couch. A photo of a field somewhere in South Dakota. “I know you’re hating life right now. I know you didn’t see this coming, and I can’t imagine the pain you’re in. You think I betrayed you, but I swear I didn’t. I know you saw me with that woman last month. But it’s not what you think. I swear it.”

He was reminded of the trip to the strange office. It was one of the rare times he asked her to stay in the truck. She didn’t like it, but she did as told. Although she stayed in the truck she saw him, he was sure of it. She saw him with the woman in the white coat. He had tried to hide to his feelings when he got back in the truck, but he made a mess of it. He wasn’t good at keeping secrets.

He glanced at the photo a second time. Wheat stubble and pheasants, and…her…and him. “Where was I?” he continued. “Yeah, pain…Can I get you anything for the pain, maybe an aspirin?” Brandy continued at glare at him. He couldn’t stand it. This was killing him. How ironic.

He looked at the photo again. Four pheasants on the ground and one in her mouth. She was sitting on her haunches and beaming.

“That woman was a veterinarian. Not our regular vet, but a specialist. Dr. Frank sent me to her. You like Dr. Frank, you trust him, so do I.” He was pleading with her to understand. He was babbling and glanced at the photo again. The October sun shone off her shiny coat and the hair took on a copper tone. She was beautiful, stunningly beautiful.

Tears flowed from his eyes, and he continued “she told me you have a rare bone disease. It’s a kind of cancer. It’s what’s causing your pain. Sweetie…there nothing they can do.” The tears were flowing freely now, like the rain on that first day.

“Sweetie, we need to go outside.” At the word “outside” her ears perked up. The hardwired genetics were still there. The genetics that went back to the times of wolves and wooly mammoths. “Can you go outside with me…please…please?” He scooted the footstool backward. She unfolded her front legs from under her and scooched toward the edge of the couch. He stood; the upper half of his body screamed in pain, but he knew it was nothing compared to the agony she was feeling.

“That’s it, sweetie, you can do this. I know you can. Just a little further.” As he said this Henry knew there was no way Brandy could make the walk across the yard. He would just have to drive his truck across it. It would make a mess, but what did it matter in the scheme of things. “Come on Brandy, you can do it.” As he said this, he helped her put weight on the paws that were now on the carpet. Her body quivered as her rear legs edged toward open space. “I got ya, I got ya, you can do it. Let’s go. Outside…truck, …outside…truck.” Talking to a dog was like talking to a baby. Simple words, simple commands. The word “Outside” triggered a primal force that moved her forward. “That’s it, Sweetie, just a little further, I got ya, I got ya.” As she moved off the couch, he noticed a wet spot where her bladder had let go. But he didn’t care. What did it matter? This…this odyssey was all that mattered.

Now that she was on all fours, he doubted she would even make it to the truck. He pulled her favorite blanket from the couch and then squatted so that he could swaddle her in the blanket. He took a position like an Olympic power lifter. With all his might he lifted her off the floor. His forearms, ribs and shoulders threatened rebellion and his knees felt like they were going to buckle at the sides. She only weighed 80 pounds, but it felt like…it felt like…like what? His burden was more than physical.

He carried her to the truck. The truck that wore a bumper sticker. A silhouette of an Irish Setter on point and the words “Life’s a Bitch”. As he approached the passenger side, he realized getting the door open was going to be another Herculean task, but he would do it. He wasn’t going to put her in the bed of the truck for her last ride. Focusing what little strength he had left he used a pinky finger to lift the door latch and then bumped the door open with his hip. Gently he set her down on the cloth seat.

As he climbed in on the driver’s side a sour smell signaled her bowels had betrayed her. “It doesn’t matter,” he kept telling himself. He put the truck in gear and the proceeded across the lawn. The tires sunk into the soggy turf, he accelerated. The vehicle fishtailed and threw chunks sod across the yard and onto his house. He was soon plowing four distinct S-shaped tracks across the lawn. “It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, life’s a bitch,” he repeatedly mumbled. He came to the privet hedge that separated his property from the State Forest. He stomped on the gas and plowed through the vegetation. “It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter. Life’s a bitch.” He was a man on a mission. He drove another 20 feet to the hole in the ground. The forever resting place. “Brandy, we’re here.” She perked up at the mention of her name. The next few minutes were a blur as he blocked out the pain and carried her to the gravesite.

He set her on the pile of freshly dug earth. He then climbed into the hole. With the last of his strength, he picked her up one last time and set her and her favorite blanket at his feet. He fished the gun from his pocket.

He pressed the muzzle against the base of her neck, as she pushed her nose into the familiar fabric of the blanket. He wanted desperately to yank on the trigger and bring this to a quick end, but he couldn’t. Years of training, practice, and muscle memory forced him to apply slow and steady pressure to the trigger. Years ago, a drill instructor told him the gun discharge should come as a shock.

BOOM! Henry jumped back with surprise. Before the smoke cleared, he took in what he had done. He had ended the life of one of God’s greatest creations. He screamed in pain, anger, and disgust. This was nothing like the movie “Old Yeller”. That was Disney, that was fiction. This was real, real life and real death. He laid down next to her and gave her one last the hug. As he wrapped an arm around the inert body, he felt pain, pain like he had never felt before. He had killed his best friend. What kind of monster was he?

He placed the gun against his ribs, just below his heart. His broken heart, a heart that would never heal. He applied slow and steady pressure to the trigger. Life’s a bitch.

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About the Creator

Jack Nanuq

Mr. Nanuq makes his living as a Private Investigator, hence the avatar and pen name.

Author of “Parabellum; When you Live in Peace, prepare for War”

JackNanuq.com

Writes, just for the hell of it.

Enjoys walks in the woods, with a chainsaw

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    Jack NanuqWritten by Jack Nanuq

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