Whitehall’s family owned a big, angry dog named Treacherous that bit one of our friends. Zach’s got a scar on his cheek to this day. They didn’t agree to put the dog down. We should’ve known there was something wrong with that family right there. Something wrong with every damn one of them, even the baby who’d later grow up to be a firefighter.

Years go by. Zach’s scar isn’t doing him any favors. Single. Unable to hold down a job. It itches him like the shame his life’s become. He’s not the type to go around blaming others but its an itch he can’t scratch hard enough. He looks in the mirror. A scar’s all he sees.

Later we reunited for a night of heavy drinking, someone said something that got taken the wrong way. Next thing anyone knew, Zach and Whitehall were drawing knives from the block atop the kitchen counter. At the time, it still seemed harmless. No one thought it would come to violence. But then again, everyone had enough trouble just standing still. We were all in the sway of things. Zach just wanted to kill the dog but Whitehall wouldn’t let him. So I guess in a way, the dog killed Whitehall. You just try to get a jury to see it that way.

Jason Graff’s debut novel Stray Our Pieces, published by Waldorf Publishing in the fall of 2019, concerns a woman extricating herself from motherhood. heckler, about lives colliding at a struggling hotel, was published by Unsolicited Press in January of 2020. He lives in Plano, TX, with his wife and their son.

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