“Here, King,” Judith shouted. The half-grown collie stopped sniffing around the chain-link fence and ran toward her. She gave a biscuit an underhanded toss. The dog snatched it out of the air, gobbled it, wagged his tail, and pushed his nose into her hands, looking for more.
“No more now, King,” she said as the raised both hands over her head. Disappointed, the dog approached Tom. Tom squatted down, grabbed the dog's ears, and scratched behind them, as he'd seen Judith do. “Good doggie, King. Good doggie.” The dog licked his forearms.
“See, he likes you,” Judith said.
“He just likes the salt on my arms.”
“Oh, you! It's too bad you never had a dog when you were growing up.”
“You're right. I wish I'd had a dog. But where would we have put him? The apartment was too small, and there wasn't any yard. The nearest park was ten blocks away.”
“You might have had a small dog.”
“I don't think that would've worked either. My best friend Jim's family had a terrier in their apartment. Every time I went over there to play with Jim, the place always smelled of dog, and it was full of dog hairs. I don't see how his mother stood it.”
“I guess you're right. It wouldn't have worked. But you missed out on grass and trees and a place to run, too. Maybe a place where you can't have a dog isn't fit for human beings, either.”
He laughed. “Maybe so. My father's dream was always to move to a house in the suburbs, with a big lot where us kids could play. By the time he finally could afford it, my older brothers were all grown, and I’d just gotten out of high school. I lived there only a few weeks until I got this job and moved back into town.”
“At least he and your mother could enjoy it themselves, even if you kids were grown.”
“I don't think they would've enjoyed it much longer. The big yard was getting to be too much for him and mother to take care of. He was talking about moving back to an apartment just before the accident.”
Tom fell silent for a moment, a glum expression on his face. He continued to scratch King's ears as though he were on autopilot.
“It still hurts, doesn't it?” Judith asked.
“Yeah. Damn that drunken driver! Why wasn't he in jail? Why did they let him off with a reduced charge so many times? Why was he still driving, even though they'd taken away his license?
“I keep asking myself, what's wrong with this country when law-abiding folks like Mother and Dad have so many restrictions on them, while crooks get away with murder? Dad's barbershop was crawling with inspectors, and he was buried under regulations that told him every move he could make. And yet convicted drunks drive around without licenses. It isn't right!”
He shook his head, knowing there was no answer, and stood up.
Tom stood, hands on hips, and slowly scanned the yard. The chain-link fence surrounded the back yard on three sides and connected to the house and the garage. A gate beside the garage allowed him to get in and out with the mower. King could be kept in the house at night. In the morning he could be let out through the sliding glass patio door right into the back yard. With a burglar alarm installed on all the doors and windows, Tom felt the house was as secure as anyone could reasonably ask. And they had their guns as the final defense.
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