His name was Charlie. I was fascinated by his eyes, one dark brown, one pale blue. Such assets would make for a peculiar looking man, no doubt. Charlie wasn’t a peculiar looking man at all, but rather, a peculiar looking dog.
He had a bit of Husky in him, but Charlie was an undeniable, pure-bred mongrel, an abandoned mutt that my grandmother felt sorry for while driving home from the grocery store one afternoon. He was a pup then, flea-infested, hungry and skittish, trying to hide himself and his mass of black fur behind a thick patch of Black-Eyed Susans by the railroad tracks.
Charlie went home semi-willingly with my grandma. Although an undeniably beautiful animal, he grew rather large, and he was extremely private and didn’t seem to care for humans much at all….except when they had food for him. He lived in Grandma’s back yard beneath the apple trees in a dog house that my father had fashioned out of lumber left over after rebuilding the tree house that he and his brothers had played in as children.
I was four years old the day I had my confrontation with Charlie. I was fascinated by those bewitching eyes, especially the blue one that seemed to be watching me no matter which direction the brown one was looking. Grandma had just fed him, and he was standing guard over his bowl as if his very existence depended on its contents.
I approached him slowly, my small feet stepping over the green apples that had plopped onto the ground surrounding Charlie and his house. I crouched down next to him to get a better view of that pretty blue eye.
He looked directly into my eyes for a moment, which is an unusual thing for dogs to do. They usually avoid eye contact; Grandma had said that dogs show respect for you by not staring you in the face. It charmed me, in an odd way, to have that mysterious, lovely blue eye looking directly into mine. The low-pitched growl that was rising in his throat didn’t phase my small ears at first — not until it was too late. His mouth gaped open and a hideous snarl escaped it. Before I could retreat, he clamped his jaw on the entire right side of my small face…and he wouldn’t let go. He shook me like a rag doll, growling and snarling the entire time. I was too frightened to feel any pain that may have been shooting through my head. I just screamed over and over again until my father came bursting out the back door. He kicked Charlie in the ribs, making him groan instead of growl, and he released my face from his ruthless mouth.
My cheek was bleeding profusely, and the sight of the blood that poured onto the ground below me was almost as terrifying as Charlie had been. He’d nearly ripped the flesh from my skull. I was taken to the hospital, stitched up and cleansed thoroughly, and taken home to rest. I had nightmares about Charlie every time I closed my eyes to sleep. Those huge teeth, that growling noise, that horrible, mean blue eye. I hated Charlie, and I remember telling my mother and father just how much I did.
The following day was Sunday. Grandma had the family over on Sundays for an early afternoon supper. I was terrified of going because I knew Charlie would still be there….watching me with that terrible eye. My father assured me that Charlie would never hurt me again, and because I trusted him so completely, I believed.
I remember looking out Grandma’s bedroom window onto the back yard, and I saw Charlie taking a nap beside his house in the shade. Mean, ugly, terrible dog, I thought to myself. I hate you, Charlie. I hate your mean guts. I have stitches in my face because of you.
I snapped out of my thoughts as I saw my father and my uncle Don come outside and approach Charlie as he slept. My father had something in his hand, but I couldn’t tell what it was exactly. Something shiny, silvery, very pretty. He then pointed it at Charlie. He must have suspected something, for he stood to his paws immediately and stared at the two of them. My father then squeezed that shiny instrument in his hand and a thunderous noise sprang from it, making me jump from shock.
Charlie fell forward onto his nose, slumped over onto his side, and shook for a mere second. I understood, somehow, what had just happened. Charlie was dead. Death: his punishment for being a stupid, introverted animal who had taken the liberty of looking a curious child in the eye.
I began to cry. Somewhere in my heart I felt sorry for the big mutt, even though he had hurt me badly. Poor Charlie, dead because he thought a kid was going to take his food. He lay still on the ground, one blue eye still open and gazing blankly at the scattered apples surrounding him.
I watched as my father and uncle put Charlie’s body in a wheelbarrow and pushed him around the other side of the house where they buried him, I assume. I sat there bawling. Bawling, over a monster who had nearly disfigured me. Poor me. Poor Charlie.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen one blue eye on a dog. I still think of Charlie sometimes, and even now, I feel terrible when I remember the day I witnessed his fate through my grandma’s window. Amazingly enough, the scar Charlie gave me is hardly noticeable. He left another scar, one that’s invisible, yet much larger…and deeper.
It’s behind my eyes, and under the skin of my memory. I’ll never see a green apple again without remembering Charlie.
© Anna Christine Wess, 2001