by Luke Larkin, 3.49am March 10th 2022
Boyd and me were crawdad fishing in the Bear Creek — or at least that's what we both called it, the creek, on account of all the bear shit we found around. Didn’t scare us any; My grandpa always said: “Black bear, don’t care; Brown bear, you’re headed down there,” and he’d point to the floor. Whether that was a tip to play dead or a prophecy, I never found out. Probably both.
But crawdad fishing. Hotdog chunks tied to bright yellow yarn tied to grill tongs. You ease the hotdog in front of a crawdad hole and coax the sucker out, then scoop him with the net once he’s good and naked. We had a bucket of em, and by sundown would have another, and we’d eat fine.
At least we thought we would, until Tunnel Pit showed up. See, we fished at the mouth of this great big tunnel. No clue what it was for, but the creek fed into it and under the tennis courts of the country club and nobody ever found out where it spilled out. Some kids up the street said their older brother tried to find out once, and he spent a whole day following it and would come out into a different country every time he tried. Mostly kids just smoked weed in there.
So we were fishing by the tunnel when Tunnel Pit came out, this all-white pit bull with a chunk taken out of his right ear. Neither me or Boyd had ever seen the tunnel spit out a pit bull — it’d spit lots of things: kids and garbage and strange noises that’d sound like your mother calling you home — but never a pit bull. But there he was, and he sauntered right up to our crawdad bucket, gazed into it like a guy in a suit picking his lobster from the tank in one of those schmaltzy seafood places, then with a whip of his muzzle snatched the whole bucket and went back into the tunnel.
Boyd and I just looked at each other and shrugged. We had another bucket.
Tunnel Pit paid us plenty visits after that, each one going the same. He’d waltz out with the bucket hanging from his mouth and wait for us to fill it, then take it up and waltz back where he came. It got to the point we’d wave hello and say things like, “Greetings, good sir. What will it be today. Ah, the whole lot of ‘em, fine choice,” and he’d wag his tail and disappear.
Then one day he came, and he brought another Tunnel Pit with him. Out comes another all-white pit bull with a chunk out of its right ear, and they both head straight for the bucket.
“Holy shit,” Boyd said, “the tunnel’s cloned him.”
“Could be a she this time.” I bent over and checked. “Nope. That’s a he. Probably is a clone, then.”
“Clone dogs,” Boyd said, and shook his head. “I’m gonna keep em.” And he did.
Boyd lured them both to his house with a hotdog. The Tunnel Pits walked all synchronized, barked at the same time, even cocked their heads the same way. It was like it was the same dog, only through those glasses that make you see double. They, or it, whatever, lived with Boyd for a while, but they didn’t seem too happy. They wouldn’t fetch or roll over. They’d just paw at the door any time I was over, and try to jump the fence, like they were trying to go home.
Then one of the Tunnel Pits dug a hole under that fence and got itself ran over.
We held a funeral for the Tunnel Pit, out there at Bear Creek. Boyd cried hard, and the other Pit cried harder, and when we were through, the Pit made a big show of howling and yelping and laying on the grass all sorry, before it solemnly stood and loped to the tunnel. Boyd shouted after him, and I held Boyd back.
“Let him go, Boyd,” I said, “Let him go home. He’s probably got a whole family of cloned Tunnel Pits in there, and they probably miss him bad.”
Boyd watched his pal disappear into the dark.
We still fished at the mouth of the tunnel, and every day Boyd would glance into its mouth like he was expecting something to come out. Plenty did — jet-black pigeons, weird smells like rotting apple pie, and a homeless woman once, who told us to have a grand day.
And it was a grand day, because right after the homeless woman, Tunnel Pit came back. And right behind him was another Tunnel Pit. All-white, chunk out of the right ear, Johnson equipped down below.
“Hello, gentlemen,” Boyd said. “Catch of the day is crawdad, like it was yesterday, and will be tomorrow. Help yourselves.”
And they did.