He spent the night in a vacant lot, cowering under a profusion of weedy growths and pinprick stars, barely able to keep his eyes shut for more than five unbroken minutes. Bad as the day had been, the night was even worse, for this was the first night he had ever spent alone, and Willy’s absence was so strong, so palpable in the air around him, that Mr. Bones did little else but lie there on his patch of ground and long for the closeness of his master’s body. By the time he finally drifted off into something that resembled true sleep, it was almost morning, and three quarters of an hour later the first rays of the rising sun forced his eyes open again. He stood up and shook himself, and at that moment a terrible heaviness swept through him. It was as if everything had suddenly gone dark, as if an eclipse were taking place inside his soul, and while it was never clear to him exactly how he knew it, he was certain that the moment had come for Willy to leave this world. It was just as the dream had foretold. His master was about to die, and in another minute Sister Margaret would come into the room and put the mirror to his mouth, and then Mrs. Swanson would cover her face with her hands and start to weep.
When the fatal moment arrived, his legs buckled and he dropped to the ground. It was as if the very air had flattened him, and for the next few minutes he lay there among the bottle caps and empty beer cans, unable to move. He felt that his body was about to disintegrate, that his vital fluids were going to spill out of him, and once he had been sucked dry, he would be turned into a stiffening carcass, a lump of former dog rotting in the Maryland sun. Then, as unexpectedly as it had come on, the heaviness began to lift, and he felt his life stirring inside him again. But Mr. Bones longed for annihilation now, and rather than stand up and leave the spot where he had experienced Willy’s death, he rolled onto his back and spread his legs wide open—exposing his throat, belly, and genitals to the sky. He was utterly vulnerable to attack in that position. Splayed out in puppylike innocence, he waited for God to strike him dead, fully prepared to offer himself up as a sacrifice now that his master was gone. A few more minutes went by. Mr. Bones closed his eyes, steeling himself for the bright, ecstatic blow from above, but God paid no attention to him—or else could not find him—and little by little, as the sun burned through the clouds overhead, Mr. Bones understood that he was not destined to die that morning. He rolled over and climbed to his feet. Then, tilting his head toward the sky, he filled his lungs with air and let out a long, mighty howl.