A dog named Little Mountain Music and a harmonica was all Mig’s father left him before leaving. He headed towards better chances of finding gigs.
Mom wasn’t around. She lived two towns over in Deadwood. She was working. He wasn’t old enough to know what kind of work, but old enough to know it was better not to know. She’d promised to come for him before winter.
Mig sat on the porch, howling along with his pup. Mamahouse, his grandmother and landlord of his temporary residence, was coming up over the hill.
“You keep that flea bag quiet!”
Mig did almost everything with his puppy. He loved how he’d curl into a crooked letter, butt to the sky. He’d bath with him and loved the way he’d shake the droplets off from his floppy ears and letting it radiate all the way down to the tip of its coiled tail. He would not, however, ever let it go to the outhouse with him. But, he loved when he would tap the door until he was done.
He also shared dried beef that his grandmother kept in the ground cooler. If she’d known, she’d let them both starve. She didn’t like animals that didn’t provide food and hated ones that chased food away.
Each night Mig would practice his harmonica. The dog would bellow along. Romping at Mig’s tapping feet. The boy giggled every time because it looked like he was dancing.
One day Mamahouse was riled up because the door was left open on her icebox. A raccoon climbed in and was eating to its content. Chaos ensued. She hustled to the shed to get her rifle, hollering and screaming all the way. Her boots were torn, stained and loose. When she ran, she’d wobble back and forth, which made her look like an angry grizzly bear.
Little Mountain Music started growling toward the wretched old lady. Then he turned and barked rampantly where the coon dared to eat his snacks.
“Shut that damn tail wagging mongrel up!” She hollered, stomping towards the cabin and preparing for the shot.
Mig panicked. His grandmother had killing on the brain and who knows if she’d stop with the fridge thief.
The boy swooped his pooch up and put his hands over its mouth. He whispered, “Quiet little buddy. Keep it down now.”
The rifle fired. The pup yelped. The boy held Little Mountain Music’s snout even tighter. Everything got quiet. Not the comfortable kind, but the kind of quiet that happens just after one sees a lightning bolt strike.
Mamahouse turned the rifle from the dead raccoon to the boy and his dog.
“Let him down. I should’ve done this sooner.”
The boy let go and pulled his hand away from the its mouth. Little Mountain Music slumped over like a blanket on his lap.
Grandmother set down the rifle gently at her feet. She approached the child and chuckled. “That’s the best kind of dog. A dead one.” She walked past the porch and into the house. Before the door shut, she turned back and snickered, “thanks for doing the job for me.”
Mig stayed in his room for days. Mamahouse left him alone for a time.
When snow set in, the boy continued to do his chores and kept his head down with his hair hung over his eyes. At night he’d pull out his harmonica. No more giggling. He wrote a song, in a style his daddy called “a little mountain music.” It was a tune meant for waiting. It was written for people to never hear.
– John Maurer