I wanted to drop the box and leave, but the many warnings we received about stolen packages made me think twice. Nobody answered the door, but a dog barked from the backyard, and I walked around the house.
“Hey, delivery girl. I wouldn’t go back there,” someone called out. A man was standing on the sidewalk holding empty boxes.
“It can be dangerous.” He put the boxes down. “What’s with the purple streaks in your hair?”
“I like purple.”
“Is there a delivery for me?”
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Jacob. I live down the street.” He pointed at a house. “Not for long, though.”
“I’m Jenna. I’ll check.”
A dog yelped. I stopped and headed for the fence. I pulled myself up and looked into the backyard, then gasped.
“What do you see?” Jacob asked.
“A small dog running in circles. Also, crates holding larger dogs.”
“I hear them all the time.”
“Who lives here?” I pointed at the house.
“I don’t know.”
I gestured to the boxes. “I hope you’re not the one stealing the packages around here.”
“No, these are empty. I’m moving out of this town.”
I got back in the truck. He was probably a porch pirate. A loser. Alone. I stopped the truck. Was I so different? I was stuck in neutral. Broken.
The little dog haunted me that night, so I called the police. They mentioned trespassing, so I hung up. I submitted an online form for Animal Control, but it didn’t give a date when they would investigate it.
The next day, I brought an empty box to the house. Inside the box was a step stool I used to climb into the backyard. The small dog paced back and forth while the larger ones slept. When I tripped over a chain, the dogs went crazy. I got the small dog and saw the name “Mouse” written on the collar. I paused. In high school, they called me Mouse. A loud bark snapped me to the present. I picked up Mouse, then heard one crate door open. A large dog stepped out.
There was no escape.
“Jenna.” A voice called out. Jacob kicked the gate open.
The big dog charged. I turned, but the dog tackled me before I took a step, and Mouse flew out of my arms. I landed on my hand and pain seared through me. The small dog darted out of the open gate. The large dog bit my pants and dragged me backward. The door opened, and a man came out, yelling, “What are you doing?” He held something in his hand.
Jacob threw his coat over the dog and ran toward the open gate.
“Stop,” the man yelled.
We kept going and slammed the gate shut.
“Let’s get out here. He’s got a gun.”
He looked down the street. “I don’t know.”
“Oh no.” I sobbed. “They used to call me Mouse in high school.”
“I was small and a loner. Some popular girls once tricked me into the woods and poured paint on me. Purple paint.”
“That’s the reason for the purple streaks in the hair?”
“But I can’t stand porch pirates and animal abusers.”
“I’m glad I’m not one.” We walked down the street. “This was like a Mousetrap,” he said.
It made me smile for a minute.
He drove me to the nearest Urgent Care, where I got a brace for my sprained wrist.
“Thank you for saving me.”
“You saved the dog.”
“I hope so.”
The next day, I knocked on Jacob’s door, but nobody answered. Did he move without saying goodbye? It seemed like it was all for nothing. Tears fell down my cheek for the loneliness I faced every day and my failure to save a dog or find a friend.
I saw a sign asking for help, so I volunteered at the local shelter. Whenever someone brought in a dog, I would be the first to know if it was Mouse. I did laundry and cleaned cages with one hand. The delivery company suspended me for missing packages and my off-the-job injury.
On my second day at the animal shelter, I saw Jacob.
“What are you doing here?”
“I came to see you.”
I looked down. “Aren’t you moving?”
“No, staying.” He smiled.
“I thought you hated this town.”
“Now it seems more exciting.”
“How come?” I folded blankets with one hand.
“Because a delivery girl named Mouse became a hero.”
“I don’t feel like one.”
“You’re a superhero.” He paused. “I mean that.”
I smiled but couldn’t speak, fearing my voice would tremble.
“Do you want to look for Mouse and any other animal cruelty going on in the neighborhood tonight?” Jacob said.
“Yes.” I smiled.
The door opened, and a dog barked. It sounded like a small dog.
“Mouse,” Jacob said.
I didn’t mind the name Mouse because I knew it wasn’t a trap. I picked up little Mouse. The dog version of me without the purple streaks. Together, we were moving forward one step at a time. We planned to drive around to search for other dogfighting operations. It was a long shot, even futile, but what if they were there? Who is looking for them hidden in plain sight? Maybe we can catch a monster, maybe we can save some dogs. I found a great friend and maybe more just by delivering a package. I let the purple in my hair fade away.
I made Jacob stop by the now-vacant house, and I climbed the fence again. When I looked down, I saw crimson stains on the grass and knew other dogs suffered here. A small bark came from the car, and I knew Mouse was waiting for me and she might remember what happened here. I wiped my eyes and headed back to my friends.