The dog’s tongue lapped hot and wet against Ned’s cheeks. A salty mixture of slobbers and tears tumbled over the boy’s lips as he slid to the cold, hard floor.
“What’d you do that for, Ned?” Billy stood with his arms spread wide, the red sunset framing his slender body in the cabin’s rough-hewn doorway.
Ned looked from his brother to the dog, wagging its tail now, nudging the boy’s hand with its muzzle.
“This is all your fault,” Ned said, turning his angry gaze back to Billy.
“What did I do?” Billy’s eyes were as wide as one of Mama’s dinner plates.
“Why did you have to bring this mongrel home, Billy? Daddy already said we couldn’t have a dog.”
“I told you, Ned — he followed me home from the creek. What was I supposed to do, beat him back with my fishin’ pole?”
“He’s got rabies, Billy. He’s dangerous!” Ned wiggled his way up the wall with his back, careful to keep an eye on the beagle.
“He doesn’t have rabies, Ned.” Billy said. He stepped into the house and stooped to pick up something from the floor.
“Sure he does,” Ned said, and he studied the happy looking dog standing in front of him. “He was foaming at the mouth when he ran through that door.”
Billy held his hand up in the waning evening light.
“He wasn’t foaming,” the younger boy said. “He was carrying the bluegill I caught.”
Ned stepped closer to his brother and examined the fish. The dog nipped at his pant leg, then trotted to the rear of the main room.
“Daddy’s gonna be mad,” Billy said.
The shotgun slipped from Ned’s hands as he shuffled into the shadows. He could already hear the dog lapping at Mama’s gaping belly wound.