“Well, if you end up facing an aggressive dog, just hold still, let them know you're not a threat. That's how they communicate, it’s all body language. When a dog is afraid of another dog, they just go belly up and hope for the best. It always works."
“Well, I haven't really tested the hypothesis myself, to be honest. Pepper spray works too, or a fucking double barrel shotgun blast to face. Whatever.
“Think I should say something to him?"
“Maybe," said Glen. “On the one hand, you don't want to piss off your new neighbour. On the other, if his dogs are driving you nuts, and especially if they're being mistreated, maybe you should. Be careful though, only lunatics and rednecks live out there.
“Very funny. Maybe I'll wait till you come out, you can do the talking."
“Me and your neighbour can play Deliverance! Squeal like a pig!" Several other customers glared at them after this outburst. Glen always seemed to enjoy offending people.
“You're sick, man!"
* * *
Matt was almost home and it was getting dark. The trees that edged each side of the road formed jagged stretches of black under a deepening grey sky. There were no stars yet, no moon. He was listening to Tout Petit Moineau, by Igorrr. The song progressed from beautiful, tranquil baroque music to an expression of despair so raw that it brought to his mind the howling of the dogs next door. His curiosity about the dogs had turned to a nagging concern as he'd made the winding drive out from town. Obviously, Glen was right. If Matt hadn't seen them in all this time, something was wrong. But it was more than that. There was something that Matt couldn't quite nail down at first. It was the song that told him what it was, what he thought he heard it the wailing, yapping noises: despair. Matt played the song again from the beginning.
A few minutes later he turned into his driveway and stopped the car. As he unfolded from the cramped seat and stretched his legs, he listened to the silent forest that surrounded him. Those dense and tangled trees stretched for miles in all directions, with less than a dozen homes scattered throughout, and another dozen abandoned. The dogs were silent.
Matt opened the trunk of his car and began to scoop up plastic bags of groceries, then stopped. He straightened again, struck by an impulse. It was one of those moments when he knew he was about to do something stupid, but he couldn't talk himself out of it.
He looked across the barrier of spindly trees at his neighbor's house. There was a soft, flickering light in one room, like a candle or a fireplace. Matt crossed the through the trees and walked to the door. He was cautious, expecting lunging dogs or at least another outbreak of howls and barks. There was nothing. Even when he wrapped in the door, there were only silence and shadows unstirred within.
It was not for several seconds, when Matt was about to turn away and make a relieved retreat, that he heard a soft shuffling on the other side of the door. The door swung open, and his neighbour’s hard, furrowed face parted the darkness behind. The man, showing no recognition, slid outside and closed the door behind him. He stared at Matt, a neutral expression, and said nothing.