I’m dictating this to Police Sgt. Velmarine Davis, who required only about two seconds to conclude that there had been no accident.
Backstory: I love having a hot tub in my downtown back yard, and I used to love wallowing in its lit-up blue water late at night with a glass of wine in the drink holder—but sometimes I’d get to thinking What if a robber sneaked through the bushes, saw an old lady drinking wine in the tub, pushed her down and drowned her? Then he could go right in the back door, which had to be open, and ransack the house, and everybody’d think she just got drunk and passed out and sank.
Plus, it got so every time I opened the hot tub lid, my claustrophobia would kick in and I imagined somebody slamming the lid shut while I was in there. Pressing me down like a crab that’s trying to claw its way out of the steamer. My grownup children just rolled their eyes at this notion.
Anyway I went to the SPCA and brought home a gigantic white male pit bull for protection. I named him Churchill because his mastiff-size head usually wore a slightly amused smile. I fell madly in love with him although he was a super-wuss, wagged his whole butt at everybody, never barked, and was terrified of water. When I was in the hot tub he cowered in the bushes near the back door. He could’ve seen an intruder, I guess, but the intruder wouldn’t have seen him.
Well, folks, be careful what you imagine.
Because some guy—clean-cut looking except for his skinny blond ponytail—really did sneak up on me in the tub a few hours ago.
Another reason why I’m dictating this to Sgt. Davis—are you listening, Velmarine?—is to say to the world, especially my kids, I told you so. Also to vindicate my reputation, not wanting to go down in family history as a pathetic old wino. Also to vindicate pit bulls, often maligned for being sort of opportunistic—trotting off after anyone who seems to be in charge.
So the next thing I know, Churchill hears me yelling, bounds out of the bushes, knocks the guy down, pins him to the concrete walk, and sinks his teeth into the guy’s neck, right at the collar bone.
“Get off my dog,” I yell at the guy, who is flat on his back, struggling and screaming, “Don’t hurt my dog,” I yell. Blood is spurting from the guy’s neck.
But the guy does hurt my dog. And throws him into the tub on top of me. Me, I don’t feel a thing except surprise.
From underneath, the water isn’t blue at all, and the drain at the bottom of the tub is nasty.
Next thing I know there are sirens sighing and reening into the alley and soon Sgt. Davis and some other cops are standing around saying “Jesus Christ, it’s a wonder he isn’t dead,” meaning the guy, who is lying thereclutching a wad of cotton balls. And “Smell that chloroform.” And “Poor doggie. Give me a hand here. He’s heavy.” Next thing, out come some long black vinyl bags and I’m being zipped into one of them. They put Churchill into a different bag, which seemed heartless at the time. Churchill and I belonged together.
Also I want to tell people that one thing they don’t have to worry about after they’re dead is claustrophobia. They don’t need to get all Edgar Allan Poe and imagine what it’s like to be in a coffin. I’m perfectly fine in this bag, and anyway pretty soon my kids will turn my ashes loose in the Bay. They know that’s what I want.
Clarinda Harriss, a professor emerita of English at Towson University, is the author of several books including two academic texts, five collections of poetry, and one short fiction collection. She has worked with prison writers for over four decades, and, for even longer, has directed and edited BrickHouse Books, Inc., Maryland’s oldest literary press.