Another 9/11 Tale

Image of Short Story

Allan Krantz walked up the driveway hoping to pick up the truck he’d placed a down payment weeks ago. His brow furrowed.
Old Tomas, sat in the shade of an open garage, his black and white border collie Zuma rested beside him. Tomas looked like a worn-out biker; straggly gray hair and whiskers, blurred tattoos, gold studded earlobes, torn jeans, and a soiled t-shirt. “Ah, Mr. Krapz?” asked Old Tomas.
“Kra-ntz. Where’s my truck?” Alan scratched his stubbled face, very tired after weeks up at the James Bay diamond mine, ground down by long shifts and remote camp life.
“Ain’t here,” said Tomas, grinning, displaying yellow teeth. “You were supposed to be here four days ago.”
Allan shrugged. “Couldn’t get home. I sent you a down payment on it.”
“Maybe you died, ‘nother guy came with cash, yesterday.”
“I’m supposed to do what?”
Tomas shrugged.
Allan’s face twisted. “Asshole. You get my truck!” He took a step toward Tomas.
Old Tomas jerked back. “Whoah!”
In a flash, the dog leapt, clamping onto Allan’s forearm.
Alan screamed and reeled back.
“Zuma, no!” Tomas slapped the dog’s head and the animal released its grip.
“What the hell you sic ‘em on me for?” said Allan, cursing, cradling his wounded forearm.
“I didn’t! He never bites anyone!” protested Tomas.
Allan’s forearm felt like a sledgehammer hit it. The bleeding wound had four puncture marks. “I’ll be back,” said Allan, cursing as he walked the four blocks home.
He cleaned and dressed the wound. The dog’s teeth had penetrated deep, tore into his tendons causing spikes of pain when he moved his fingers. He downed painkillers and glanced at the clock; eight hours to go for a flight to Mexico.
Not wanting any hassles on the flight, he wore a long-sleeved shirt. The arm went numb and began to swell.
In Mexico, he cabbed to a pharmacia and pantomimed a dog bite. The señorita behind the counter handed over a vial of meds. After a long cab ride to the obscure Mexican town, he was dropped at the only hotel in town; stocked with beer, tequila, and buddies, right on the Pacific. He told the tale of his truck and the dog to his pals. They vowed to ‘get’ the old man and kill the dog.
Next day, hungover and tired of medical advice regarding his arm, Allan bought two long sleeved shirts--XL. With the super-duper painkillers, the next few days became a blur of booze and Seadoos, drinking binges, and cannonballs in the pool.
One morning, hungover again, he bumped his swollen forearm and screamed. He lifted the gauze dressing and was disgusted by its rotten stench. Black capillaries webbed his forearm like roads on an insane map.
He passed the lobby where dozens of guests were glued to a TV, some quiet, a few crying at some unfolding crisis. At the pool, his buddies were already partying and handed him a tall drink with an umbrella in it.
One buddy, teetering slightly said, “Everyone toast Allan with the Hulk-sized forearm.”
“Allan, you should get to a clinic,” said another.
Pain squeezed like a vise. He could barely feel his fingers. Allan downed his margarita, put the umbrella in his shirt pocket and walked back into the lobby.
A large middle-aged man, in obvious distress, blocked his way. He wore a red flower printed shirt, matching a beet-colored face. “You ‘merican?”
Allan pulled a face.
“A damn plane just flew into a New York skyscraper!” he said, gesturing with his drink to the TV.
“I’m Canadian.” Allan slipped past him and outside. He dashed across the street to a cab.
He failed to see an approaching golf cart.
Allan awoke on a cot, a cracked plaster ceiling looking down at him. Lingering daylight beamed into the room. His ankle was nearly as swollen as his forearm. He tried to sit up and discovered how exhausted he was. His hip throbbed, too.
“Hey!” he shouted. “Medicos! Help! Ayuda!
Trying to get to his feet, he fell, banged his head against the block wall, and passed out.
He awoke in a different room, one with stainless steel tables and lab equipment. A hospital, he thought. Strange pictures of anatomy graced the walls.
A man and a woman in lab coats stood before him.
“Where am I?” asked Allan.
The woman translated to the man, who responded with a knit brow. “A cart hit you. You went to a clinic, far from your hotel. There is no medico there often. They move you here to a medico.”
“This is el medico,” she said, nodding to the tall man. “I am nurse.”
“How long have I been here?” He thought he could smell animal feces, but maybe it was his festering arm.
“Por favor, not speak fast,” she said.
He repeated the words slower. She said two days passed. They’d called the hotel for a friend to come.
“What happened to your arm, señor?”
“Dog bite. In Canada,” said Allan, examining his bloated limb and erratic veins.
“You have broken ankle, too,” she said.
Allan cursed and slammed his head back on the pillow.
“Medical insurance? Credit card?”
“Uh,” he said. He had no foreign travel medical coverage. Everyone said everything’s cheap in Mexico.
“Your body cannot fight infection.” She explained the severity of the problem in both languages, while the doctor pointed to areas on Allan’s damaged arm. “Your amigo gave us this bottle. These pastillas are painkillers, no antibioticos.”
She removed the dressings, revealing punctures oozing pus and clear liquid. The reeking, putrefying flesh made her turn away as she dabbed on alcohol.
“Shit! That damn dog!”
On cue, dogs barked painfully in pained gruffs.
His buddy Jay walked in, nodding to the doctor and nurse. He spoke to Allan briefly and tossed Allan’s wallet onto the bed.
“The arm must come off.” She made a chopping motion.
“Gangrene,” said Jay, unable to take his eyes from the ballooned forearm. “Allan, this is not--”
“Let’s go to the airport, get to the university hospital at home!” said Allan.
Jay sat. “Look, no one can fly anywhere. Some Arabs crashed planes into skyscrapers in New York. North American airspace is closed.”
“They expect another attack. You don’t have a choice and no time.”
“Like a war or something? We’re stuck here?”
Jay nodded. “The guys think it’s great, but you...”
The nurse snatched the wallet, pulled out his credit card.
The clinic’s meds were powerful. He barely realized they’d amputated his arm below the elbow or padded the medical bill. Or took him to the hotel where the credit card company called him to verify the charges and he cried.
“How much? No, I don’t have a pet?”
Allan joked to his buds he’d just bought a Mex vet clinic.
The trip home was a blur of revenge
Allan limped along the street with his crutch to Tomas’s house, anger flaring. Old Tomas still in his lawn chair with Zuma down beside him. Déjà-vu, thought Allan. A time warp. A knife and several fish fillets were on a small table beside the old man.
Tomas squinted at the hobbling man. “What do you want?”
Allan lifted his amputated limb wrapped in gauze. “For starters, my damn arm back, the arm that Cujo took!”
Zuma growled.
“You’re crazy, she gave you a little nip and--”
“I got an infection and freakin’ gangrene! Got no arm, no job, and can’t write my damn name! They cut it off at a Mex vet clinic!”
Old Tomas chuckled.
“And no truck!” Allan stepped closer. “I’m gonna take everything you got and have Cujo there put down!”
Allan swung his crutch, intending to jab the dog, but the animal launched up.
Allan lifted his arm to defend himself.
But there was no arm there.
Zuma flew against Allan’s throat.
They went down in a flurry of thrashing and growls. Alan’s head clunked against the concrete. He went limp. Old Tomas knocked over the fish-cleaning table, pulling Zuma off Allan.
He called 911 on his cell and sat watching Allan bleed out.
Zuma licked his bloody chops. Tomas petted him lovingly. Sirens sounded.
The paramedics pronounced Allan dead. One of them held up the fillet knife.
“He took my knife, threatened to kill me over a truck deal,” said Old Tomas, teary-eyed. “My dog saved me.”
The paramedics nodded and took Allan’s body away.
Old Tomas scratched the dog’s ear as a police car pulled up. “You and me, Zuma, we’re all we got.”