The Paris Review

An Unspoken

ASHLEIGH BRYANT PHILLIPS

Hal Parker runs out to his wife’s hydrangea bushes. He’s trying to scare away the neighbor’s black Lab, Major. Hal claps his hands in front of him and shouts, but Major’s already peeing on the bush. It seems to Hal that lately the dog just won’t stay in his pen. Hal has watched him dig holes under it and even seen him climb over it once or twice.

Hal looks next door. His neighbor Corey Lane’s Camaro is in the yard. He decides to tell Corey about his dog. As he knocks on the door and waits, Hal looks over the front of the house and thinks he should have talked to Corey about Major weeks ago. He also thinks the bricks need to be washed and the shutters need to be repainted. He knocks again and hears the floorboards creak on the other side of the door. Major is back at the hydrangeas.

Hal doesn’t see Corey much. He doesn’t go to church, he doesn’t go uptown except to get gas, and, Hal thinks, he sure doesn’t spend enough time in his yard. Hal’s inspecting the overgrown boxwoods beside him when Corey opens the door.

The first thing Hal notices is that the young man looks rough, thinner than he’s been. But he goes ahead and asks him how he’s been doing.

“All right, I reckon,” Corey says. He scratches a scab on his wrist. His hair is greasy.

“Well, I hear you been doing good work at Johnny’s chicken houses. He’s told us about it at the café,” Hal lies.

“Really?” Corey straightens up a bit.

“Sure did. Johnny’s a good man, he’ll take good care of ya if you keep on doing good.”

Corey’s scab starts to bleed.

“Lord knows it ain’t the best-smelling work,” Hal laughs.

Corey smiles a little.

“But shoot, you’re probably used to

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