Flash fiction by Jessica Murphy
Prompt: Yellow scene-of-crime tape surrounded the area.
“Funny you should ask. This all goes back a ways.” Dr. Wilkins checked the animal’s chest with his stethoscope, nodded sadly, and made an entry in his log book.
“Four or five years ago there was a spate of injuries to donkeys at certain animal refuge centres in the U.K. The worst was the incident of over fifty stab wounds to one elderly female. Six of the wounds were to her eyes, which left her blind. That attack got a lot of press.” He replaced his needle kit and other paraphernalia in his aluminum case and closed it with a crash that surprised me. Doc Wilkins is usually a very quiet man.
“So, of course, there were copycat attacks. This sanctuary suffered three cases of donkey abuse. Then it set up security cameras.” He sighed. “Donkeys can be their own worst enemies. They are trusting of everyone. Until they are given a reason to be wary.”
The doctor gave one final pat to the head of his patient, then walked from the barn towards his SUV. I joined him.
“Some three years ago Lizzie there was living peacefully on a petting zoo farm. She used to pull a cart filled with kids, and sometimes, brave little ones would get on her back and go for a ride.” He laughed in remembrance. “Well. A walk really. She was always slow and gentle, seemed to know that children are fragile. Then one night she was attacked. Teenagers they thought. She was repeatedly struck in the eyes with a short knife. Thank god it was short or the blade would have entered her brain and killed her. As it was, she was blinded. Totally. She came to the sanctuary, for a well-deserved retirement and the care she needed.”
“Most people around here thought they knew who was responsible. There were some bad kids we all knew about. But nothing got done, no one got charged.” He was now striding quickly. “I guess giving out a speeding ticket is more important than investigating an animal’s mutilation,” he snarled.
We passed the corral that was marked with bright yellow ‘Scene of Crime Do Not Enter’ tape. Fresh sawdust had been strewn over what I knew to be a bloodstain of inhuman proportions.
“Have you ever looked into the eyes of a donkey? Or a horse?” He slowed a bit, in thought. “Any equine, I suppose. The eye is so large, when compared to ours. And so dark. It reflects what the animal is seeing, but the image is curved, like the eye. And the iris is dark and huge. Again in comparison with ours.” He looked off, at nothing. “It’s like looking into a black crystal ball.”
I had not known Dr. Wilkins to be so introspective. Or sensitive. Most veterinarians are not, at least publicly.
He shook himself, and continued to the parking lot. “Anyway, it’s a kind of poetic justice, I suppose. Except not for Lizzie. This sanctuary is a charity. As such, it’s on the list of local work sites to which magistrates can assign community service hours.”
“But?” I asked. I knew about community service, but what was that reference to poetic justice?
“Yeah. That kid—criminal really—got community service because he was only seventeen. Been in trouble forever, but still isn’t a grown up, in the eyes of the law. So, he got assigned here. Must have scared the hell out of him when he had to feed Lizzie.”
He continued. “So, you asked if I thought Lizzie recognized the little bastard as the kid who blinded her, three years ago?
“Well, yes.” I had not really asked in those words, but that was the gist of it.
He opened the hatch of his SUV, placed his case inside, turned and sat, his feet just touching the dust of the farmyard.
He smiled humourlessly. “Well. As described by at least three witnesses, all of whose statements have been sworn to, when the kid offered Lizzie her bucket of grain, she smelt the food, then, instead of eating, she began to nuzzle him. Pushed against his chest, moved her lips over his shirt, then pressed her chin in under his. Apparently, the kid was all smiles, happy to have the donkey accept him. When he patted her head, she bared her teeth and ripped out his jugular vein, in one quick bite. Ever notice the incisors of an equine?”
The vet nodded his head. “Yes. I think Lizzie recognized her torturer.” He got up, walked to the driver’s door and opened it. “And I think she knew what that attack would mean. For her. What the result would be. The sentence, so to speak. I swear, that as I gave her the injection, she smiled. A big, happy donkey smile.”
Tears glinted in his eyes.