Daddy Said I Had To

Daddy Said I Had To

Get your gun,” he said. Daddy was looking out the window into the back yard.

I’d just finished my homework and come into the living room to see if he was done reading the comics in the newspaper.

“Yes, sir.” I ran to my bedroom, pulled the double-barrel shotgun and shells from the closet shelf, and went back to the living room to stand by Daddy’s side.

“Load it up, Pot.” Daddy called me Pot because I fell in love with pot likker when I was three-years-old. Eight years later, I preferred Coca-Cola to any drink flavored like collard greens, but the name stuck.

I loaded two shells and put the other two in my front shirt pocket.

“That dog’s here.” Daddy pointed toward the apple tree. The brown dog was nosing at fallen apples, the same apples that Mama liked to cook down into sticky, syrupy apple jelly that oozed into biscuit crannies. “It killed Annie.”

“Yes, sir,” I said. Mama’s purple bachelor buttons and golden daylilies lined the edges of the yard in a paradise picture fit for The Phantom or Brenda Starr. The dog looked like any old floppy-eared dog, though, not worthy of an adventure like Snoopy battling the Red Baron but not monstrous. Evil didn’t sit plain on its face.

“That cat was family, Pot.” Daddy patted my shoulder. “You need to kill the dog.”

“Sir?” I’d found Annie’s body, knew what the dog did to her better than anyone. But it was just a dog that did dog things.

“Men take care of their family.” He gave me a push. “Do your duty, Pot.”

I went to the door carrying the shotgun but stopped with my hand on the knob. It was just a stupid dog.

“We protect our own, Pot.” Daddy’s voice made me think of the preacher booming about the wrath of a righteous God. Daddy fed Annie a boiled egg every year to celebrate her birthday, and when we moved here to the country from Atlanta, we made a special trip back into town to find her when we accidentally left her behind. One whistle from Daddy and Annie dropped straight out of a tree down into his arms.

I went outside. My hands shook. This was different than squirrels—revenge not supper. The dog cried after the first shot. I finished it on the second.

The noise drew my little brother and sister into the living room. They joined Daddy and watched me from the window while I got the shovel and buried the dog, still popping with fleas, under the apple tree on the opposite side from where I’d buried Annie and marked her grave with a chunk of pink granite and a circle of daffodil bulbs to bloom next spring. I saw them talking and giggling framed in the glass, Daddy too, like they were characters in a comic panel that I was too far away to read.

Stupid dog.


About the Author

Caralyn Davis lives in Asheville, N.C., with her cat Henry. Her work appears or is slated for publication in Fiction International, the Bitter Southerner, Molotov Cocktail, Eclectica, Flash Fiction Magazine, Writers Resist, and other journals. She is a master knitter of rectangles; believes the answer to all spiritual concerns lies in striped Armenian cucumbers; and can be found on Twitter @CaralynDavis.


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