Friday, January 16, 2009

Indistict Impressions, a short story

Indistinct Impressions (a short story)


“Mr. Olson, Mr. Olson,” the doctor said, gently shaking the old man’s shoulder. “Can you hear me?”

Mr. Olson opened his eyes and looked about the room. “Ow,” he said, reaching toward the back of his head and then noticing the IV hooked to his arm. “What’s that in me for? Did I lose any blood?”

“I’m doctor Kent. How do you feel?”

Mr. Olson propped himself up on his elbows and shook his head from left to right. “I feel like I have a headache.” He shook his head again with more agitation and looked about the room. “Where’s Rusty?”

“Calm yourself, Mr. Olson. Rusty is just fine. Your son Tom has her. He took her home with him for the night.”

Mr. Olson leaned back on his pillow. “But how is she?”

Just then a man in a suit walked into the room. “How is he doctor?”

“He is lucid. I guess you can ask your questions, but don’t tire him out.”

“What questions?”

“My name is detective Winter. How much do you remember?”

“I remember some damn fool kid came rushing at us out of the bushes. Must have been on drugs. What kind of a mugger would go after a man walking a dog?”

Detective Winter smiled. “You’re probably right about the drugs. We’ve had a rash of muggings in the area these past three months and my captain is leaning hard on us to catch this guy. As many people as he’s mugged you’d think we’d have a good idea about what he looks like, but he is all rage and violence and tends to put his victims into shock. They don’t remember too much. How about you?”

“Well, I wouldn’t say he put me into shock. He ran into us hard and I went flying. I guess I hit my head. The last thing I remember seeing was Rusty going for him.”

“Yeah, and she got him. We got his DNA off of her teeth. That’s the first time we’ve seen his blood. But did you get a good look at him?”

“Depends on what you mean by good. Where’s my glasses, by the way?”

Detective Winter shrugged. “If they weren’t with your stuff, I don’t know where they are.”

“Where’s my stuff,” Olson said, swinging his legs out from under the covers and onto the floor?

“Hang on, hang on,” Winter said, making calming motions with his hands. “I’ll look.”

He walked over to the closet and rummaged in the pockets of Olson’s clothing. “I don’t see any glasses.”

“How about my knapsack?”

Winter brought it to Olson, who looked through it. “Dang.”

“We can look for them tomorrow, but you never said whether you got a good look at the mugger.”

“I saw him all right. I’d recognize him again. Shouldn’t be any confusion, what with his left hand all torn up.”

“Ah, that was my next question. How badly was he hurt?”

“I only have an indistinct impression about that. I saw Rusty go for the guy’s hand. He had something in his left hand – maybe it was a knife but I don’t think so. She got him good and then everything went black.”

“Just the hand?”

“That’s all I saw when I went down, but she didn’t look like she was going to be done with him any time soon.”

“Must be quite a feisty dog, that Rusty. What is she, a terrier of some sort?”

Mr. Olson was offended. “She’s an Airedale. Ain’t no dog tougher than an Airedale. I don’t care what anyone says.”

Winter smiled. “You won’t get an argument from me, but she didn’t look so tough when I saw her.”

“What do you mean,” Olson asked in alarm? “I thought the doctor said she was all right.”

“Yes, yes. She’s fine. Your son was here for awhile, but they wouldn’t let Rusty in the room with you, and she was making a fuss; so he thought he’d better take her home with him. But she’s fine.”

“Good,” Olson said and got all the way out of bed.

“I’m not sure you ought to be doing that,” Winter said.

“Why, are you going to arrest me?”

“You’re kind of on the feisty side yourself, aren’t you? How old are you, anyway, about 80?”

“Something like that,” Olson said, pulling the IV out of his arm and walking over to the closet for his clothes.

Just then Doctor Kent came back into the room. “No, no, no,” he said. “You must get back into bed, Mr. Olson. You can leave in the morning if there are no complications.”

“Well, this here detective isn’t arresting me, and I’m pretty sure you can’t; so I guess I’ll just go home.”

Doctor Kent shook his head in frustration. “Elderly people are more fragile than they realize. You could have some nerve damage from your fall.”

“If I do,” Olson said, stepping into his trousers, “I’ll come back.”


Mr. Olson found an exit and walked out into the night. He looked about him and nothing looked familiar. He walked out to the street and walked to the nearest corner and squinted at the street sign. “Compost,” he said out loud. “At least I think that’s what it says.”

He fished in his knapsack until he found his cell phone and called his son, but got no answer. “Dang,” he said. His sense of direction had always been poor, but he never had any trouble walking. Lots of people his age had arthritis, but if he had it, it hadn’t affected his ability to walk; so he started walking. Maybe he’d eventually come to a street sign he recognized.

After walking for thirty minutes or so he entered a dark unlighted area. The street seemed to have a lot of pot holes and the sidewalk was uneven, as though earthquakes over the years had buckled it. He began thinking that he should have stayed in the hospital. He looked back the way he’d come. Maybe he should go back. Just then he heard something move in the shadows and out came a big dog wagging its tail. “My, my,” Olson said in surprise as he squinted at the dog. “You are a Rhodesian Ridgeback unless I miss my guess.”

He held his hand out for the dog to sniff him, but instead the dog licked his hand and put his head there to be petted. “My goodness,” Olson said, “You are a nice boy, aren’t you. You remind me of an old Ridgeback I had about 20 years ago. His name was Trooper.”

At the words, the Ridgeback showed excitement and he tried to jump up on Olson.

“Hold on. Hold on, boy. You’ll knock me over and I’ve had enough of being knocked over for one night. So you’re name is Trooper as well,” Olson smiled down at him. “Gad. I wish I could see you better, but you sure do look like him.” Then looking at him speculatively, he said, “you wouldn’t happen to know the way home, would you? My home I mean, not yours.”

At that, Trooper began leading off down the dark street to a park. He then started through the park. “This is starting to look familiar,” Olson said, hurrying after the dog.

Half way through the park a big man loomed out from behind a tree. “Well, well, looky what we have here. The old man I never got to finish mugging because of his nasty little dog. I don’t see no little dog now, old man; so get ready for your beating.”

“I brought a big dog this time,” Olson said, backing away and looking over at Trooper.

“You can’t fool me. You don’t have no dog.”

“Right over there,” Olson said, pointing.

“Why there’s nothing . . . oh my god,” the man said stumbling backward and then running back into the bushes with Trooper chasing him.

Olson stood transfixed, listening to the man’s screams that went on and on so long that Olson put his hands over his ears. At last Olson felt Trooper nudging him with his nose. “Good boy,” Olson said, gingerly patting Trooper on the head and looking apprehensively back toward the bushes. “You saved me from a beating for sure.”

Trooper led off again, and eventually Olson recognized where he was.


At about 08:30, Olson woke and made himself a pot of coffee and then called his son. “Hey, dad,” Tom said, “I was just getting ready to call you. I called the hospital and they said you checked yourself out. I suppose you want Rusty back. I’ll be there in ten minutes or so.”

“Great,” Olson said, setting down the phone.

A few minutes later there was a knock on the door. Olson opened it to see Detective Winter. “Ah, Detective Winter,” Olson said. “Come in. Want some coffee?”

“Yeah, don’t mind if I do. Where’s Rusty?”

“My son is bringing her over. Should be here any time.”

“I now believe what you said about Airedales being tough. We found your mugger.”

“Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that, Detective,” Olson said, but before he could say anything further, his son opened the door and Rusty flew into Olson’s arms, wagging her tail furiously and licking his face as fast as she could.

“Okay, okay, Rusty. I’m glad to see you too.”

“How big is she,” Winter asked after Olson finally got her settled on the floor, “forty, forty-five pounds?”

“Something like that,” Olson said, but she didn’t do as much damage to the mugger as I assumed.”

“You wouldn’t say that if you saw him. She ripped his throat up pretty badly. I don’t understand how he could have gotten as far as he did in that condition. Must have held his hand on his throat.”

“I did see him, and he was fine. He was planning on mugging me again. It wasn’t Rusty,” Olson said. “I was walking home last night, and . . .”

“You walked home?” Winter and his son asked in unison?

“Well, yeah; since no one would give me a ride. And this dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback starts walking along beside me. I was kind of lost, not having my glasses; so I walked along with him. He led me through the park and half way through, the mugger shows up again. Bad night for him. Trooper chased him down and must have finished him off. I wondered about that.”

“Did you say, Trooper, Dad?”

“Well, yeah. Now don’t look at me like that. I know what you’re thinking. MyTrooper died 20 years ago. I wasn’t hallucinating. I know it wasn’t my Trooper, but I was talking to it and mentioned Trooper’s name. He responded to that; so I just called him Trooper from then on.”

Olson’s son and Detective Winter looked at each other doubtfully. “What happened to the dog, Dad?”

“Beats me. I looked around at one point, and it was gone, but by that time I knew where I was. It probably turned around and went home.”

“Just one thing wrong with that story, Mr. Olson.”

“What’s that, Detective?”

“If this Trooper of yours did what that Mugger had done to him, the ground would have shown some evidence of paw prints, wouldn’t you say?”

“Yeah, so?”

“There weren’t any. He looked like he had a tough time dying, but I didn’t see any signs of a dog being there.”

“That’s got to be wrong,” Olson said. “Maybe he wasn’t dead when Trooper got done with him. Maybe he got himself someplace else.”

Winter shook his head and looked down at Rusty curled up in a ball at Olson’s feet, and shook his head again.

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