Bring Me Your Saddest Arizona by Ryan Harty

The following is an excerpt from "What Can I Tell You About My Brother?" It is the first story in Bring Me Your Saddest Arizona by Ryan Harty, to be published by University of Iowa Press in October 2003.

On his first night home from marine boot camp, my brother killed Rob Dawson's German shepherd with a Phillips screwdriver. Rob was the captain of my football team at Arcadia High School. He was an all-league quarterback and a popular guy, and since the end of the summer he'd been seeing a girl named Jessica Lynn Armstrong, who'd gone out with my brother before he joined the marines. She and Victor had been together for a year and a half, and they'd been serious enough to talk about getting married after he finished boot camp. But during his tenth week of training, she called to say she was seeing Rob, and it must have made my brother crazy. He killed the dog in the backyard of the Dawsons' house, a three-story Spanish villa overlooking the whole sleeping valley. He left the body floating on the lighted blue pool, disappeared over a row of yuccas, and didn't come home until the next afternoon.


Late that night, as I lay in bed, I heard the chirp of tires through my open window. A car door slammed, and then Rob Dawson was screaming at my dad through the screen door, banging his head against the jamb. My dad's voice was thick with sleep or drink. I lay in my dark room, ten feet away, listening through the open window.

"You let me talk to Victor!" Rob yelled, his voice high pitched and loud. His shoes squeaked on the cement porch floor.

"Victor's not home," my dad said. "What the hell is this about?"

"He fucking killed my dog!" Rob said, and threw a fist at the screen. I thought he'd try to burst into the house.

"Settle down," my dad said. "You've made a mistake. Victor wouldn't do anything like that."

"It was him," Rob said. "I know he's back in town."

I pressed my cheek against the window. In the glow of the porch lamp, Rob's face was pale and drawn. I didn't know him well. Though we played on the same team, I was two years younger and had spoken to him only once or twice.

"Just tell me where he is," he said.

"He's gone," my dad said. "He's not here."

"I swear I'll kill the son of a bitch."

My dad said something I couldn't make out, and then Rob stopped shouting and stared into the house, his mouth falling open. It took me a few seconds to realize my dad was crying.

"Oh, Victor" he cried--not near the door, but somewhere inside the house now, close to my room. "What the hell has he done?"

Rob ran to the Jeep, which was still idling at the curb. He got inside and laid a strip of rubber down the blacktop.

I listened to my father sobbing, a muted noise almost like laughter. The screen door opened, and he stepped onto the lawn, dressed in a pale blue robe and corduroy slippers. He stared at the end of the street for a while before going back inside, and then I heard him moving from room to room, talking to himself in a low, troubled voice. There was a time when he would have waited for Victor to come home and then beat the hell out of him. But he was old now; his heart was bad. There wasn't much he could do.


—Reprinted from Bring Me Your Saddest Arizona by Ryan Harty. © 2003 by Ryan Harty. Published by the University of Iowa Press. Reprinted with permission from the University of Iowa Press. For more information visit