A Bit of Uncle Virgil: Today’s Edits

This bit of Uncle Virgil is based on a true story. The dog came out of the ordeal no worse for wear, so don’t get your panties in a wad over animal cruelty. Brownie truly did run too fast to catch so all’s we could do was watch.


Virgil didn’t notice the aerosol can wrapped in old newspapers at the bottom of the trash box filled with the remnants of a Saturday afternoon cleaning frenzy. The box sat next to the circle of wire mesh containing the burning Monday morning trash. Virgil stood, coffee in one hand, rake in the other, a cigarette dangling from his lips, and watched the fire. Sunday’s chicken bones and a week’s worth of moldy left-overs created a smell that reminded him of KP in the Army. Virgil watched the grey-green smoke curl around the top of the sweet gum trees.

He half-smiled, smoke blinded him as his Winston temporarily shifted position. Flicking his cigarette toward the burning trash, he dumped out the rest of his coffee and added the Styrofoam cup to the fire. Burning pieces of napkin began floating up from the trash as the wind picked up and Virgil tightened his grip on the rake, poised for escaping fire. The wind calmed and he began adding the contents of the box of trash. Hearing the phone ring, he threw the half-empty box on top of the fire, pushed it down into the mesh enclosure to secure it and went into the house.

Phone conversation over, Virgil stood at the kitchen sink and looked out the window toward the fire. Standing near the fire, Brownie, his daughter’s dog, found a Burger King bag that managed to escape the trash box. The essence of french fries must have remained and Brownie began to happily eat the bag. Virgil lit another cigarette, watching the dog out of the window as he poured himself another cup of coffee.

The trash at the bottom of the wire enclosure gave way and the box settled in to burn. It took a while to catch fire. A small flame shot up when fire took hold of the newspapers. Virgil continued to watch from the window as he began to fill the sink with water. He squirted detergent over four days worth of plates, pots and pans and silverware. Momentarily distracted from the burning trash, he began washing glasses. Nestled in the papers, the aerosol can had erupted. Startled by the noise, Virgil dropped a glass onto the floor and it shattered. He continued to stare out the window, unsure how to react. The Fourth of July display created a pleasant effect as he watched burning pieces of food and paper shoot high into the air. He watched the debris slowly descend, parachutes of garbage fluttering all over the yard. The trash appeared to be no longer burning by the time it reached the ground. Virgil wasn’t overly concerned about the yard catching on fire at this point. His thoughts centered on cleaning up the debris.

The other witness to the explosion, Brownie, yelped as part of the Sunday Food Supplement, still burning, landed on his back.

Virgil stood looking out the window in silent wonder as the dog begin to run. Brownie headed toward the front yard and began a counter-clockwise rotation around the house. Each time the dog passed the kitchen window, he picked up speed. Two… three… four laps… the dog was Secretariat and the jockey’s name was Fire. By the fifth lap nothing remained of the Sunday supplement but Brownie still felt its weight. The sixth lap and the dog began to tire. When the dog slammed by the window the seventh time, Virgil stepped out onto the porch and called him. It took another lap before Brownie responded. He wasn’t surprised, he didn’t expect the dog to be a good listener under the circumstances. Tongue hanging, head bowed, the dog skulked up to Virgil. He reached down to smother a small patch of smoldering fur just in front of the dog’s tail. Only the dog’s fur was damaged. Virgil patted Brownie on the head. “You don’t have a lick of sense, you know that, right?” he said. Brownie wagged his tail in agreement.

Picking up the rake, he leaned it against shed door. Walking into the house, he found a broom and began to sweep up the broken glass.


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