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Tinderbox Blood / Corey Villas

The boy finally had enough. For the last couple of weeks, his old basset hound, Elvis, had been attacked by something, cut up and bloodied on more than one occasion. He wasn’t sure what it was, but something was coming up on the porch to get the dog’s food. Another dog, maybe? A fox? Maybe a big cat. Didn’t matter. It was going to stop. Tonight.

The hot evening air finally began to break. Inside, he boiled water on the dilapidated gas stove. A singular lightbulb hung from the ceiling, casting a dim, yellow glow throughout the kitchen. He ate a sliced tomato and leftover biscuit from that morning’s breakfast, his nerves running hard. He peeled back the curtain on the door’s window to make sure Elvis was on the porch and had plenty of food, getting ready for whatever might come their way. Like all other Wednesdays, Mom was at church - probably praying for Daddy. He was glad she wasn’t home tonight. 

As he looked out the window at the tranquil orange sunset, he wondered if he had the balls to do what was needed to protect Elvis. He wished his Daddy was here to handle this and not in the pen for beating the hell out of some drunk asshole for getting handsy with Mom one night in town. He beat him a little too good, damn near strangling him to death. That was enough for the judge to send him away. One year down, two to go.

The boy felt his face get hot, like any other time he thought about how his Daddy did what he did. He always had to put on a fake smile when folks in town asked how his old man was holding up. His answers were always polite, of course. He couldn’t say what he really thought, though, knowing Mom would’ve jerked a knot in his ass if he did.

As the water came to a boil, he heard a commotion on the front porch, then a loud moan from Elvis. He grabbed the pot of water by the handle and ran to the door, his heart racing, his temples pounding. He flung the door open and saw a possum sinking its teeth into the old dog’s neck. 

In one swift motion, he kicked the possum square in its side, sending it sailing, hissing as it flew down into the yard. Before the possum could escape, the boy raced from the porch and dumped the scalding water on it. It let out a brutal wail, twisting in agony. The boy raised his foot and stomped, roaring as he crushed the possum’s skull under his boot, feeling the crunch of bone through his heel. The possum was dead immediately save a death twitch or two. The boy tilted his head back, looking up towards the dusky afterglow in the darkening sky, and heaved a long sigh of relief. A wave of release left his body, sending chills up his spine. When he came to, he picked up his foot and watched blood drip from the sole of his boot into the matted grass beneath him. Bone and brain were smashed into the ground, nothing left of the possum’s head.

The boy wiped the sweat from his forehead and sat down next to the bloody mess.  He leaned over and examined the remains. “That’s what you get for fucking with Elvis.”  He looked over his shoulder towards the porch, and saw his dog laying there, licking his wounds. As he pondered what had just happened, he lowered his face, his eyebrows furrowed. Then, he pulled his knees to his chest, and wept.


COREY VILLAS, born and raised in North Carolina, is a graduate of Auburn University. His work has appeared or is scheduled to appear in BULL Magazine, The Milk House, The Argyle Literary Magazine, and A Thin Slice of Anxiety. Corey is a proud husband and father of two.

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