Making Tomato Paste

Light rain danced on the empty sidewalk, dampening Ivie Lemmon's straight, dirty blond hair and shoulders of her red T-shirt as she took her morning walk. Dreadnought, a black mammoth of a mutt bounded beside his master, his woolly neck pulling taut the leash that held him back. The lack of circulation gave Ivie's working hand a tingly sensation that began where the leash cut into her skin and crawled outward until it encompassed her entire hand. At least he was pulling her home faster than she could walk on her own.

"Hey, now Dread, I thought you liked the rain."

Dreadnought halted, glancing back at his master when Ivie's hip collided with his haunches. He raised his muzzle into the air, nostrils pulsing with the beat of a drifting scent. The sound of his snuffling mixed with the whish of passing cars and the flap their wipers.

"What do you smell, boy?"

The dog cocked his ears and tensed his muscles. Ivie wrapped her numb hand around the leash and leaned back to weigh down the dog. Despite her small frame, Ivie managed to keep her grip on the leash as Dreadnought darted forward. Unfortunately, the collar was not as strong. Grumbling at the frayed nylon around the buckle of the collar, Ivie pushed herself off the ground and chased after her dog.

The black mammoth cut into an alleyway about one hundred yards down, and Ivie had almost reached it when her feet decided to tango with the rain. Her right knee jammed into the ground, and the rest of her body folded on top of it. Cursing, she rolled onto her left side, trying to stand and continue the chase. Her knee had other ideas, however, and she instead shifted her trembling frame to the curb.

Shredded denim dangled down her leg, sticking to the grated tomato that was her knee. Ivie examined the new hole, wincing as her fingers mingled with strands of skin.

Stupid dog probably smelled the garbage man.

Dreadnought was a gentle giant, one who when you pulled at his tail would turn around and lick your face. Two years ago, however, a new garbage man took up the route by Ivie's house, and since then, she has awaken every Tuesday morning to Dread's wall-vibrating snarls. The living room window, from which the dog plots the demise of the garbage man, has a permanent, nose-shaped fog.

The sudden sequence of squealing brakes, car horns, and shouting startled Ivie from her reverie. "Dreadnought!"

She stood, took one step, and collapsed back onto the sidewalk. Defeated, she propped her head against her left knee, allowing the rain to seep into her wound, mixing to make a runny tomato paste.

Oh, Dread. What would I do—

Ivie flinched as a cold nose pressed against her neck.

"Nice of you to return, Dread. It wasn't the garbage man, I take it."