Ron Ridenour

About Ron Ridenour
Short stories



May 1, 2007

Nine stairs separate the ground from the back veranda, a distance separating life from death.

Spark sleeps on the veranda ensconced in a soft couch. There he cuddles until 07:15 when he promptly scrapes against the door separating him from us and lurches into our bedroom. Time to rise and feed the children!

On the coldest night of the year, my wife and I were brusquely awakened to loud barking. Our Shepard-Pincher was clamoring so that I thought he’d captured a dangerous intruder of whom nightmares are made.
My head reeling with thoughts of burglars, baby snatchers and snooping FBI men come to carry me away into the dark of the Siberian night, I snatched my gun and dashed to the back of the house.

Spark was jumping up and down, scraping at the door, barking ferociously. I rushed to open the glass door and. Spark leapt out. Scramble and scrabble; piercing yellow dots glowed and faded in the pitch of night.

My dog was in the lazy habit lately of leaving kibble in his bowl until morning when he would leisurely nibble on it. Apparently Spark hadn’t surmised that an animal could penetrate into the walled yard while he was trapped behind closed doors and eat his meal. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I spied a creature with its snout in Spark’s bowl as my pet’s fangs dug into its throat. He growled as he shook the intruder, demanding revenge for the humiliation he suffered at the sight of this foreign essence devouring his meal.

Spark’s raucousness would wake the neighbors. I called for him to lay off. Nothing! I whistled. Nothing! He never failed to heed me before. I couldn’t stand naked here any longer. It was freezing cold, as icicles hanging from the staircase railings attested.

“Damn you Spark. You’ll bring the whole neighborhood to our door and give me pneumonia to boot.”

I plunged into the raw air in my altogether. Then I saw the animal clearly. It was about a meter long with a stringy rat-like tail. Its eyes were closed. Its stomach…why, it had a pouch! An opossum in Los Angeles!

I grabbed Spark by the collar and dragged him away, yet he scrambled to get back to his intruder. He howled for justice even after I managed to corral him inside the house. Ignoring the very nature of nature, I scolded Spark for his brutality, for murdering the opossum, an animal he would not even eat. I felt somehow disquietly responsible.

I could hardly sleep the rest of the night, tense from the violent agitation and Spark’s whimpering. I got out of bed before the appointed hour and sneaked out of the house so that Spark would not follow. I looked for the opossum, but there was only an empty bowl.

Ron Ridenour: April 1971; rewritten, May 2007.

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