Jerry rose, ashen, when he saw what he'd unearthed. The shovel slipped from his hand. He stared uneasily down into the hole, and gaped at the root fragment left from whatever had grown in his backyard before the grassed-in dwarf plum he was clearing a bed for. It was as if he'd fallen into one of the surreal worlds that hung, framed, on the walls of his house, because the root insisted on looking back, peering unblinkingly up at him through the inexplicable agency of a chipped glass eyeball.
"Something wrong, Jerry?" his neighbor Sam called as he approached the rail fence, his chocolate retriever, Mousse a few steps behind.
"Yeah." He nodded, gesturing earthward.
Sam straddled the fence and joined him by the hole. "Bizarre. How do you suppose that got there?"
"I'm not sure I want to know." He bent to grab the shovel, rose, and drove the blade into the pile of freshly dug soil. "In fact, I don't think I really want to finish opening this bed any more."
"Because of this?" His neighbor knelt beside the hole, wrestled the root fragment free, and aimed the trapped glass sphere up at him like it was some kind of flashlight. "Come on, Jerry. Your plum needs better irrigation more than your yard needs a buried eyeball." He pivoted as he rose, whistled for his dog, and tossed the root to the far corner of his own yard. Mousse tore off after it. "There. Consider it taken care of."
Mousse died about a week later. Jerry found him in late afternoon. Sam hadn't yet returned from work, and his wife, who does contract editing through the Internet, was off on an errand somewhere with their daughter, so Jerry was the first to spot him, inert, on the back porch. The eyeball was a few feet away, staring at the late chocolate lab from under a bush. Jerry might not have noticed it, except that when he knelt to examine the dog, he absently followed Mousse's glazed stare.
The eye somehow looked pleased with itself.
+ ----- + ----- +
When the phone started ringing again, Jerry just turned up the stereo and poured himself another drink. The reprieve gave him a chance to fade back into the surrealistic alcohol haze he'd been husbanding ever since he'd staggered back from Sam's yard, until the banging on his back door started, anyway.
"I know you're home!" Sam yelled during a break in the noise. "You dropped your mail on my back deck, so I know you've seen my dog. What are you hiding from?"
Jerry opened the door and inched warily past his neighbor. He turned towards Sam's deck and pointed at the bush where the eyeball lay. "That thing I found. I think it may have killed your dog."
"Don't be ridiculous. It's just a hunk of glass. Besides, Mousse made a pretty sloppy mess of the thing --." He stopped himself, and looked Jerry in the eye. "Look. Do you know what happened to him? He was fine when I left this morning."
"All I know is that they were staring at each other when I found them. Staring at each other from beyond the grave."
"That's a bit melodramatic, don't you think?"
Jerry grabbed his wrist. "You know what it is, don't you! I remember what you said."