The dogs are stuck together, ass to ass, the much bigger bitch clearly upset and swinging her suitor against the oaks in a vicious pendulum. The male, a Boston terrier, yelps with each blow but this only seems to encourage his aggressor, a hundred-pound Doberman with ears like black horns. Wade’s sister-in-law Jeanne watches from her lawn chair, cigarette in one hand, vodka-Squirt in the other.

“Teach you to come sniffin’ ’round here, you little shit. Get ’em, Ella!”

The two men across from her, boys really, laugh into their plastic cups, humoring Jeanne as any man would. Each visit to the trailer house brings with it a new cast of supporting characters, yet Jeanne, at forty, remains the one constant, the raven-haired queen of the roost. It’s hard to believe this woman is his wife’s sister.

“Gonna be some messed up puppies,” says one of the guests, stick figure thin with a half-dozen facial piercings. Wade guesses him at twenty, twenty-two tops.

“We’ll see,” says Jeanne, blowing smoke Wade’s way. She’s wearing a black miniskirt and a tight white tank top with nothing underneath. Wade has to fight to keep his eyes on hers.

“So, Wade-man, right now you’re thinking how the hell …”

“Not here to judge,” he says, hands stuffed in his khakis. “Just the deliveryman.”

“Ah, yes,” says Jeanne, crossing her long legs. “Another hand-me-down piece of furniture from my yuppie sister.”

“Hey, we don’t—”

“Whatever,” she says, waving him off. “Can you white trash knights kindly unload the fucking armoire?”

The young guests rise as one, yet their attention stays fixed on the yard. There, the terrier hangs limply from the Doberman, its bloody snout bouncing off the earth as the bigger dog darts around, bug-eyed and whining from the dead weight she’s carrying. Then, suddenly, a nasty pop as they come apart and the Doberman drops into a ball and commences licking herself. The terrier twitches once, twice, and just like that rises and limps off without looking back.

“Some funky shit, hey Dockers?” says Stick Figure, passing by in a wave of pot funk. He feigns a punch to the midsection and Wade flinches, silently cursing himself for his reaction.

The other guest follows behind laughing. Wade gives Jeanne a final look and is about to join them when another man, an older, thicker version of Stick Figure, emerges from the trailer.

“Thought you were my parole officer,” he says, rubbing Wade’s lower back almost sensually. Wade has encountered plenty of beaus at the trailer, but never this one. The new beau struts up to Jeanne, pulls her up and puts his tongue in her mouth, moving his hands down around her ass. Wade looks away.

“How about some quesadillas?” he says. “You like quesadillas, Brother-in-Law?”

Jeanne starts for the kitchen. Wade hikes his eyebrows; he’s never seen her act the homemaker. He’s reminded of his wife Joanne baking casseroles and rum cakes and shopping in the maternity aisle. Joanne is fond of her calling her younger sister the Whore of Wixom. And Wade? Wade is fond of conjuring the Whore of Wixom every time he lies with his wife.

From the corner of his eye, he catches movement from the back property line: a man in black slinking along with a pistol. And two more to the right. Cops? he thinks. Criminals? He can’t be sure. The new beau pulls out his own handgun and orders Wade to get her inside, now.

Jeanne knows where to go. The closet floor opens to reveal a modest grow house amid dirt walls. She hops down and Wade follows, pulling the trap door shut. There’s barely room for one, let alone two, and she has to lean over the table to get comfortable. From above, a gunshot and a yelp.

“Ella,” she says softly. “Motherfuckers.”

Wade stands behind his sister-in-law, pelvis pressing into her backside as they listen to the taunting from the yard. It’s clear now that these aren’t cops, that the new beau is in serious trouble.

The explosion of gunfire is broken only by screaming and laughing. Wade has the sudden realization he won’t make it out of this alive. Jeanne must realize it too because she’s looking back at him, and now she’s reaching between her legs, and before he knows it she’s squeezing him hard enough to make him grunt.

“Teach you to come sniffin’ ’round here,” she snarls, and Wade, despite himself, smiles through clenched teeth like a dog.

~ fin ~

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Andy Henion’s short fiction has appeared in Plots with Guns, Grift, Shotgun Honey, Word Riot, Hobart and many other print and online publications. His stories have been shortlisted for Best American Mystery Stories 2014 and the Derringer Award, and nominated for a Pushcart. The Devil in Snakeskins, a novella, is available now from Beat to a Pulp Books. Formerly a newspaper reporter and editor, Andy now works in academia. Husband. Father. Dog lover. Lives in Michigan. Roots for the Tigers. Blogs at