“C’mon and do it already,” Tom barked.
“Shut the hell up. I’m almost ready,” murmured Paul, the knife in his trembling hand reflecting a strobe like effect in the afternoon shadows.
Max must have sensed something. He struck his best pointer pose, confident and proud, signaling the arrival of dinner. Max was delusional, but in a sweet lovable way. His form was sloppy, his body slouched, his head seemed to be looking at the ground five feet in front of him but his tail was the true giveaway. It was swaying, ever so slightly, but enough to notice.
“Whaddaya see boy,” Paul hopefully whispered.
“He sees where he pissed before and thinks it’s a friggin’ tennis ball,” bellowed Tom. “Look at his tail wagging”, he added, shaking his head disgustedly. “The only chance he’s got of catching anything is if a crippled rabbit crawls by disguised as a slice of pizza. He’s no hunter, he’s a friggin’ house cow and you made him that way.”
Tom had to get one more dig in. “You turned him into a complete waste. No wonder you two get along so well. I don’t understand how my sister puts up with you guys, but I did change my mind. Now I’m glad you brought him.”
Tom leered at Max, sneering “What’s up there, Supper?”
Paul could sense that Tom was still pissed off that Max had gotten an equal share of the jerky he had brought along, and the thought brought a slight smile to his face. At least Paul had brought some food. He felt guilty about getting Max into this situation. It was his selfish mistake not to leave him safely at home.
Paul hadn’t been sure about coming himself, but his wife had talked him into it. She desperately wanted Paul to get along with her brother and convinced him that this would be a good bonding experience. Tom had been her father figure since their dad died when she was only seven, but Paul couldn’t stand the way she blindly looked up to him, ignoring his faults.
Sure, Tom was successful, but he flaunted it relentlessly. Even worse than the bragging, Paul felt Tom was a pathological liar. Any story anyone told, well, Tom had done it bigger and better.
If you caught a marlin on a charter boat, vacationing in Florida, Tom had reeled in a larger one. But just as he got it next to the boat, which he owned, of course, a great white shark leapt from the water clutching Tom’s world record shattering marlin in his mouth.
If you climbed Mt. Everest, Tom had been there before you. Twice. Didn’t you see where he chiseled his autograph at the peak? The scary part was that Tom actually seemed to believe these tales.
Tom was delusional in a much darker way than Max. He was a megalomaniacal braggart whose ego knew no bounds. After a barrage of tales of the extraordinary feats of Tom on the flight up, Paul had joked that he should have his lawyer contact the Dos Equis people about their “most interesting man in the world” beer commercials. “You should be compensated for being the inspiration for their ad campaign,” Paul laughed. Tom looked at him and smiled, “Maybe I will.”
Paul had been skeptical about spending a week with Tom, but this was a great offer. He loved fishing and the Yukon Lodge looked like paradise found, providing everything from tackle to gourmet food. Best of all, they welcomed pets. Max was his safety valve. No matter how obnoxious Tom got, he would have his buddy.
“He should have learned how to fly the damn thing,” Paul whispered to Max.
The plane was Tom’s newest toy and he couldn’t wait to show it off. Paul had his doubts about Tom’s proficiency as a pilot but he rationalized that he couldn’t have gotten a license without completing the training. At least he had managed to keep them alive through the crash landing. Now Paul was almost sorry he had. Since he did Paul was going to have to do the unthinkable.
Now Max was going to die because of Paul’s decision. Hell, they were all going to die. It had been a week since the crash and Paul’s bag of jerky was gone by the third morning. They hadn’t brought any supplies, following the Lodge’s sales pitch of “just bring yourselves – we supply everything else.” The jerky was supposed to be for midnight munchies, not food for a week. Now they were starving and needed to eat.
They had been sure that search planes would see them but none ever came. Tom said he filed a flight plan but Paul wondered if he actually had and, if so, how accurate was it? Did Tom maintain an accurate course? Did anyone have any idea where the hell they were? While Tom swore help was on the way, Paul’s optimism was dwindling by the day.
Tom had never considered the prospect of dying out here. He was far too important to not be rescued. It was just a matter of time. To him, it was a no brainer that Max should be sacrificed and cooked to keep him alive. He would even share the food with Paul, at least for awhile. Tom was glaring at Paul now.
“You know we’re the only family she’s got. I’m not about to starve to death out here.”
“Don’t worry, you won’t,” Paul sobbed, his eyes welling with tears. It was time.
“You’re a good boy Max. You know I love you,” Paul whispered soothingly, tears dripping onto the dog’s head.
“Man up and do it or I will,” Tom bellowed.
“Alright,” screamed Paul.
One plunge of the knife to the heart, a whimper, and it was done.
They ate in silence for what seemed like an eternity before Paul finally spoke.
“Tastes like chicken.”
Max burped and wagged his tail.