“Keep an eye on Cudi,” my wife always said. But it became part of our everyday banter, faded into the background: the AM chatter I played on my shower radio while I jerked off. That particular morning I should’ve really heard her. Paid heed. But I’m sure had she been in my position, she would’ve ignored any of my daily protestations: buckle your seat belt, don’t forget your keys, go first-class on the stamps.
Cudi or Cudahy was a rare breed of boy. Nothing scared him. When met with all the typical fear mongering tactics of older ilk, anyone approaching post-pubescent brain development, he didn’t blink an eye. Waited on you to flinch first. He growled at 3-D animated sharks with their digitally rendered mouths full of sharp teeth. Dad, his granddad, dangled him upside down from the second floor banister. Not a squeal, not a yelp. That’s why he didn’t react like most when the pitbull came barreling down on him. This was in the park: a big, jowly pit with no clear owner ran free toward whatever softest was in its path. Cudi’s lack of fear doomed him. His wiring buzzed fight. He had no flight in him. Instincts are one thing. What to do with them is another. A one and a half year old, no matter the chest puff and brave face, does not know how to defend himself. The dog skinned him easy: peeler to a potato.
With the next bite, it crushed something vital in him. He rag dolled while the pit continued to snuff him into the dust. I was close, five, ten feet tops, turned away to attend to a mundane thing: the dialing of a number. I screamed so loud, my voice cracked. Frightened the dog into stopping, into fleeing. It was able to pick up on some innate sense that had it not gotten out of there grave danger was headed its way. I would’ve done everything to gouge out its eyeballs with my hands. Fingered its skull liked a bowling ball. For a second, I was split. Go after the animal, or stay with my baby boy. I stood, weirdly posed, not like a real person, but more a life-size action figure of a man minus the action. I cradled Cudi. Called the cops, my voice hoarse. Barely there. An ambulance whirred up in what seemed years, decades, epochs and eons gone by. And all the time my baby boy had been wet and limp, insides outside. Bits of his scalp here and there—a burst red balloon. Blood all over.
When I called my wife, I couldn’t get the words out. Sobbed them. Cudahy. Dead. Dog. I heard her scream on the other end. She never mentioned the early morning warning. We both ignored it. Background chatter. Forgotten rituals. I’d like to say we got closer. But that’s not true. We grew apart, both so afraid to move, no warnings were necessary.
Gene Kwak is from Omaha, Nebraska.