Old Josiah had raised Lu himself. He’d found her as a pup, half-dead on the side of the highway that cut through the bloody orange hills. Her fur stuck up in tufts and was riddled with fleas. He had thought she was a jack-rabbit at first; her ears had been several sizes too big for her. She had looked all triangles, bones, and hopelessness—not a dignified wild thing, not a trickster like her ancestors.
Under Josiah’s care, she grew up strong, gilded and black, slippery as crude oil and true as fool’s gold. Her ears were still a little too big, and her mouth was pulled into a constant crocodile grin. Every night she sang for him, her head thrown back and eyes closed. With a laugh, she’d bound into the night to cause mischief on neighboring farms. Josiah would fall asleep on his creaky couch with a smile on his face, wondering if old Lu would bring him back a chicken or a squirrel.
One day the neighbors came to the door with the Sheriff, a cage, and a puffed up man from animal control from a neighboring county. A row of scruffy kids, clutching old pet tags, looked on from the driveway with fear and excitement. They found Josiah on the couch, cold as October, no sign of Lu, and no identifiable cause of death.
Later that day, the coroner’s car ran off the road trying to avoid a lanky, gold blur that ran into traffic. When the driver came to, the body was gone; the black bag it had been sealed in had been left in a heap a few feet from the car.
From time to time, the neighbors lose a few chickens, and a sad, howling song can be heard in the hills east of the highway.