Death Comes for the County Auctioneer
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Kenny Bond Shot My Dog
“Well. Kenny Bond is dead,” Mom says over pie. “And I, for one, am not sorry.” She lays her fork down in a satisfied way.
Kenny Bond was a celebrity in our town. He owned the biggest auction pavilion in Green County. When someone in your family died, Kenny Bond auctioned off their furniture.
He looked like a news anchor. He was tall and blonde, and when all the other men in Green County were hard-pressed to produce a decent-fitting suit even for a funeral, Kenny Bond wore one every day, looking down from his billboard on State Road 47.
Our family had a long-standing feud with Kenny Bond. He shot our dog.
Personally, I didn’t really even like the dog all that much. He was fat and mean and he never would play with you. But he was our dog anyway, so everyone was bent out of shape. Especially Owen.
Kenny Bond’s step-grandkids told us on the playground, “Our stepgrampa shot your dirty old dog.”
Owen was only in the first grade, and he took the news badly. When Dad came home from his shift at the hospital lab, Owen had wedged his head under the cushions of the sofa and wouldn’t let up crying till supper.
The dog had been let run, and he ended up on Kenny’s perfectly green lawn chasing one of his prized peacocks. I’m guessing I don’t have to mention that Kenny Bond is the only person in Green County who owns peacocks.
So Dad comes up with what he calls his Plan of Ultimate Retribution. Owen asks what that means—retribution, and Dad says, “Never mind what's retribution. Are you sad?”
Owen doesn’t answer, but that doesn’t matter to Dad, who keeps talking. “Your dog’s dead—of course you’re sad. Well, you just stay sad till Saturday, you hear?”
Saturdays were auction nights. Back then, on auction nights, you could hardly back out of the driveway for the traffic, everyone parking their vehicles along the side of the road. Kenny Bond had built his auction pavilion smack between his house and ours. We’d run off to play after dinner, and Mom would call after us, “You kids be careful—it’s auction night!”
Saturday night was going to be Kenny Bond’s auction of old Ms. Kerrick’s estate. Kenny Bond always called it an estate sale, even when everyone knew you’d lived your whole life in a run-down three-room trailer at the end of East Southwest Pike.
Mom knew all about the Kerricks, as they had come into the emergency room under what she called “suspicious circumstances.” She said they were trash. But the whole county would probably show up to the auction anyway to see what was what. Folks would line up outside the refreshment stand Kenny Bond had built just off the side of the auction pavilion, where his mom sold chocolate pie and hot dogs. She was a mean old lady who pretended not to hear kids when they spilled their change out on the counter and asked what they could get for it.
Saturday at 4 p.m. prompt, Dad put Owen in the car and drove him just down the road to the entrance of Kenny Bond’s auction pavilion.
“Son, here’s where you get out,” he said. “Remember. Your dog’s gone. And he ain’t never coming back.” Dad patted Owen hard on the back once and said, “I’ll be waiting right over there.” Then he hammered a big wooden sign into the ground beside Owen. Kenny Bond Shot My Dog, it read.
Owen was pretty much over the dog by then, but upset enough about having to stand in the hot sun as a steady stream of cars kicked up the dust and gravel of Stop 11 Road that he started right back up with the crying. The line of cars slowed down as they passed. Dad, across the road, leaned against his car, nodding in satisfaction.
Kenny Bond did poorly that day, though really it was the Kerricks’ “estate” that took the beating. Everyone underbid. Kenny Bond made only a hundred and fifty bucks in commission that weekend, and everyone knew it. Dad felt victorious. “You see, kids,” he told us, putting his feet up on the coffee table and opening a beer with his pocketknife, “that’s what you do when people are assholes to you.”
Later, Dad, never one to waste good lumber, used the sign as a lid for the toy box he built for Owen. Poor kid—every time he got told to put away his basketball, he’d open up the toy box and there’d be that sign: Kenny Bond Shot My Dog.
Mom tells me three different stories about how Kenny Bond died.
“It was hot out and he come in for a cold drink. Tia, his third wife, was right there in the kitchen handing him the glass, and damned if he didn’t up and die right there in her kitchen.”
“Mom. That’s not true,” I say.
“I know,” she says. “It was because of the booze. He was a drinker, you know.”
“No, he wasn’t.”
And all she says is: “Well.”
In the end, the story she settles on, and which is mostly true as far as I can make out, is this: Kenny Bond went into the hospital with chest pains. He sat down in the ER waiting room while Tia filled out the paperwork, and right there, before she could even finish, he was dead.
We know this is true because Dad said he heard it over the intercom in the lab that someone was coding in the ER. He just didn’t know it was Kenny Bond.
“Which is a good thing,” he says later, “cause I would have gone in there and given him something to tangle with."
“But, Dad,” I say. “He was already—”
It's not long before Kenny Bond’s house, the auction pavilion, even the refreshment stand, all go up for sale.
“Looks like his wife is fixing to hightail it out of here about as quick as she can,” Mom says, as though this is to be expected.
The last auction will be for all the stuff Tia doesn't want in her new condominium up in Indianapolis. I picture a tall, shiny skyscraper looking out over the city.
On Saturday, the traffic is busier than ever. Everyone’s comes out to see this—Kenny Bond’s estate auctioned off at his own pavilion. After supper, Dad trots us all over to have a look, Owen slow-poking behind us. Dad shouts over his shoulder, “Let’s see some hustle, son!” and Owen reluctantly picks up the pace.
The pavilion’s filled with people, but no one’s bidding. Up on stage there’s a six-foot-tall oil painting of Kenny Bond. The auctioneer’s standing at the podium, holding his gavel like any minute now someone’s going to jump in with a decent bid.
Over at the refreshment stand, Kenny Bond’s mom looks heartbroken. She leans over the counter, feeding chocolate pie and hot dogs to the peacocks, who probably don’t know they’re about to be auctioned off just like everything else.
“All right,” Dad says after a while, and we head back home, Owen racing ahead, jumping up and over the spot at the property line Dad marks out with a can of orange spray paint every time it fades out. He doesn't really need to, though. From here you can see plain as day where Kenny Bond’s perfect green lawn stops and our patchy scrub-grass takes over.