dogs, short fiction

Like Dog Bites

 

 

Preston rolled his shoulders back, stuck his chest out as he looked at the crowd. When the mayor handed him the key to the city, there were a few boos from people but nothing more. Preston’s security flanked him either side like pillars but these were events where he felt fragile. Hundreds of people still offering him their shame, and how he writhed against the offer.

 

Fucking dogs, he thought.

 

The starched collar of his shirt rubbed against the back of his neck as he squinted against the flashes until something etched the strain into his skull. He agreed he wouldn’t drink at these events and so Preston was already contemplating the first smooth burn of brandy when he got home.

 

He posed for photographs, noting there were fewer people eager to have their photograph with him. Still, it had been a tough road to get this far. Preston had a career, and he played the role of regret with a stoic enthusiasm but there was an ugliness to things which exhausted him. It was an endless drill under Georgia sun all the time. Preston’s soul begged for water, but what relief there was, came in small public sips and gluttonous private feeding.

 

When his assistant, Keiko came over to tell him his car was ready and he looked at her with gratitude. She was reporting back to Sharon, but she made herself scarce when it benefited her.

 

The bark wasn’t close but the hackles on the back of his neck rose, stinging where the collar burned into the skin as he looked up. Keiko was ushering him out to the car, and he convinced himself he imagined it as he got into the back of the car.

 

His hands shook when he reached for the vape pen and pressed the ignition button as he sucked down the smoke. The CBD kept his head straight and his knees from killing him every day. As the smoke settled into his synapses, he sank into the seat and looked out of the tinted window at the sun flashing off the windows.

 

Something caught his eye. Spry and aggressive as it leapt from the sidewalk, a loping shadow but he couldn’t make out the point of origin. His eyes burned as he pressed his fingers against the bridge of his nose.

 

Keiko woke him by saying his name. His chin was damp and his head hurt, but he staggered out of the car with gratitude to be home. Preston was relieved of the burden of performance.

 

Well, one kind, anyway.

 

Sharon was in the living room, feet up on the couch as she typed into her tablet.

 

‘What’s wrong with you?’ she said.

 

He grimaced and shook his head.

 

‘Tired.’

 

Her nose wrinkled with disappointment as she sniffed.

 

‘Stoned too. Shit, you got one hundred and thirty million dollars to burn, motherfucker?’

 

Preston swatted the air with one thick hand as he loosened his tie and staggered through to the master bedroom. He waved the air conditioning on and kicked his shoes off as he crawled onto the bed before he clapped his hands and switched the lights off.

 

In the cold dark, he laid there and breathed in, tried to let the tension which clung to his skin like second hand smoke.

 

The growl was soft. He sat up, clapped the lights on and found it stopped. Preston swore under his breath as he looked around him. No one heard him, and he sat there, heart thumping hard against his ribs as he wiped chill sweat from his forehead.

 

Preston checked under the bed and found there was nothing waiting for him. He laid back down, clapped the lights out but sleep was a long time coming.

 

2.

 

Preston had gone to church, grew up with the Bible stories.

 

His fear of dogs came from there, but he lacked the means to reach far enough inside himself to grasp it.

 

“For without [are] dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”

 

Revelation 22:15.

 

“And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.”

 

Luke 16:21.

 

It was close to whore in the amount of insults. His issues with women came later, but it was dogs which betrayed them.

 

Then, it was his brother.

 

The irony, like his sense of self-preservation, escaped him. His viciousness grew florid in line with his success. His status armoured him against any moral considerations.

 

No became why not?

 

Why not became

 

Why

 

The

 

Fuck

 

Not.

 

His brother Stanfield got picked up on a possession charge and gave them Preston’s house as his place of residence. The sheriff’s department sent a team out to search the house and grounds.

 

They found the kennels.

 

Truck axles dug into the ground with thick lengths of chain welded onto them.

 

The pit, laced with lime which grew so full they were debating another one before the police came.

 

Forensics found thirty dogs buried in the pit, but the process of decomposition made it difficult. Preston was unsure himself. People bought their dogs from all over, and some of them were left there. He enjoyed watching the dogs fight, and the money wasn’t even the point, just an excuse because everything he needed was in watching two animals fight until one of them was dead.

 

It was the same on the field, and it was something no one ever asked about.

 

Money made most of it go away. The shame was something he pretended to accept, and after some court-mandated therapy and the promise of season tickets, his agents returned his calls again.

 

When he walked into the kitchen for some water, he heard the clatter of claws on the kitchen tiles. A rapid tattoo played on his nerves as he turned away, crawling with unease. He opened the bottle and drank in a deep gulp as something moved in his peripheral vision. A blur of motion registered but when he looked in that direction, there was nothing.

 

Preston shook his head and whistled under his breath as he put the cap back on the bottle and replaced it in the fridge. He chuckled to himself as he walked out of the kitchen.

 

He heard the wet rasp of a dog panting.

 

Handsome Jimmy had been the only dog allowed in the house. His daughter and worse, his wife had taken to it and despite his protestations, it slept inside.

 

It meant Jimmy was never getting in the pit but Preston saw the utility in it.

 

It was his breathing Preston heard.

 

He ignored it, walking to the living room and sinking into the custom recliner, found the remote and switched the television on.

 

Sharon hadn’t left him. She wasn’t a ride or die bitch, but the prenuptial agreement would have put her out on her ass without a penny to her name. His daughter got everything and she got an allowance. Preston’s name meant something and Sharon swallowed her disgust before things went back to normal again.

 

His daughter knew better than to ask about Jimmy.

 

Preston swallowed and his head throbbed. He had some pills in the bathroom and he went upstairs to get them. His heart was thumping like he had been doing wind sprints but he figured it was just stress. He wanted to be out on the field where none of this shit could touch him.

 

A wave of sadness overwhelmed him and he sat on the stairs, fighting a thick, ugly impulse to cry and when he heard Jimmy’s panting as it came up the stairs, he gave in and wept.

 

He wondered if he would ever stop.

 

3.

 

Sharon pulled up at her sister’s house and turned to her daughter who sat in the back seat.

 

‘If she asks about your dad, he’s fine.’ she said.

 

Tanisha sneered without looking up from her phone.

 

‘She ain’t going to ask, momma.’ she said.

 

Sharon pouted and clicked her fingers at her daughter.

 

‘Bitch will eat out for a month on the news her brother-in-law’s a vegetable.’ she said.

 

Tanisha looked up, wounded and appalled but not surprised by her mother’s assessment.

 

She had found him on the stairs, weeping and inconsolable. He was three hundred pounds of breakdown. Keiko arranged for Preston to visit the hospital. Sharon had said the scans showed evidence of too many blows to the head, trauma which left scars on his brain which would never heal.

 

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

 

As they got out of the car, Tanisha agreed not to say anything and Sharon adjusted her hair one last time as she tried not to think about how the trauma in her husband’s brain had looked.

 

Like dog bites, she thought.

 

They looked like dog bites.

 

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animals, grief, poetry, Uncategorized

Good Dog

 

All dogs have a Buddha

Mind so you’ve

Barked your last mantra

And intellectually

As comforting as it is,

You’ve transcended

Your suffering,

It doesn’t make the

Silence when I walk into

My old house any easier

To bear, old friend,

And the paths we walked

Night and day,

Will miss us both,

But you’ve ran long enough,

And the pain is over,

And I will walk around,

Remembering how

You’d rush to greet me,

When I got home,

And now neither of us

Are there, are we?

Pieces perhaps,

But pieces are all we have

 

 

 

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beauty, dogs, love, short fiction, women

Chasing Crisp

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Crisp ran before I could put his lead on, his fur slick against my fingers, sprinting towards the back fence we never repaired. Its coarse, treated texture now looked like something infected. With his canine instinct for causing me upset, he went through the gap and out onto the field.

Leo had not wanted him neutered, and when he left, Crisp stayed with us. I cursed him when I had to drag him away from mounting the nearest bitch, including a traumatised Boston Terrier, all to a soundtrack of threats to call the police and aspersions on my character.

I would avert my eyes, mumble an apology and drag Crisp back inside, my face burning with shame and my hands slick with his drool. Mum called from upstairs, voice slurred from sleep and medication and I would tell her everything was fine.

No matter what she said.

Crisp would stare at me, panting until he had deposited a good puddle of drool on the uneven laminate flooring. He gazed at me with the adoration that my mum had spent her whole life chasing, giving more and getting less. Leo had broken her with a callous indifference which her in bed for days. The house held the echoes of raised voices, drunken giggles and fragile chirps of joy which made me feel sick to listen to. It was a horrible, valuable lesson to learn so young. Someone you love can break you by leaving.

I took care of her as best I could. I guessed she was asleep and it was a beautiful day. It was a dream of mine, one good, selfless act plucked from all the others which would make my mum recover from her bleakness and just be my mum.

Crisp knew. He loved us without guile or reserve but Mum pushed him away. She hated messes even when she became one.

I ran after him, my vision blurring at the edges as I flung open the gate with enough force to make it rattle on its rusted hinges. Bolting after him onto the fields behind our house.

The land was unused, scarred by the seasons. In winter, the soil would crack and harden like the broken scales of an ancient, giant lizard. This time of year, the poppies grew tall, tangled and twisted together. Crisp charged through them, making the heads lilt and sway.

I breathed rather than call him. He would stop when he found something interesting. Mum said I took after her, built for pleasure not speed and gave me a knowing wink. Those were glimpses of a womanhood irresistible to men but never enough to make them stay.

This was my world, much like hers, helpless and desperate to catch up with someone who would have been easier to manage without testicles.

Crisp yelped. It was a sharp, ugly sound which punched a bolt of nausea into the back of my throat.

A deep, chilling growl.

Tearing cloth.

A shout of surprise then a cry of pain.

I parted the poppies, breathed in the smell of recent sex and spilled blood.

‘Mum?’ I said.

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animals, creative writing, dogs, fiction, short fiction

Wet Dog

The pair of them sat in the flat, candles burning because they couldn’t shift anything until the morning and they had used the emergency on the meter a few days ago. The laptop had a password on it, but they used it’s glowing screen to provide further illumination.

Iain sat slumped against the wall, his grimy index finger dancing over the screen of the ipad, his heavy lidded eyes focused on the activity in front of him. He had taken some of the medication they grabbed, and it made his pupils dilate until it looked like his eyes were black. He scratched his head, and his pulse fluttered against the ornate, black tattoo on his neck, making it breathe.

Smurf glared at him, chain smoking until his fingers were glowing and his lungs burned, tight and angry as the rest of him.

Iain glanced up, sucking his chapped lips over his protruding, yellowed overbite.

‘Fucking what?’

Smurf was never one to hold someone’s eye for long. He was quick, smart but soft in the wrong places, Iain thought, but he had never appeared so angry as he did now.

‘You know what, you stupid fucking cunt.’

Iain set down the ipad and rolled a cigarette. He put his full attention into it, although that did not stop him from sacrificing most of what he had picked out to the thin, rough carpet that had turned the colour of fungus. Soon he managed something that would smoke, stuck it between his lips and patted himself down for a lighter. He stared at Smurf, who shook his head.

‘Give us a fucking light, Smurf.’

Smurf sat back, folded his arms and set his jaw in a hard line. Most of the time, his big eyes and shaved head made him look like a war orphan but the anger that coursed through him lent him a gravity that unnerved Iain.

Smurf drilled his eyes into Iain hard enough to cause internal bleeding. Iain glanced around him, knowing there was a lighter around there somewhere.

Iain patted the ground, then his pockets again before he got up and made his hands into fists.

He was about to launch at Smurf, although the pills had given him the reflexes of a slug on valium when they heard the thump from upstairs. Smurf got to his feet, his chest rising in panicked breaths.

‘Won’t be pigs.’ Iain said.

Smurf looked at him with disgust and fear.

‘You sure about that? Because you mate, have done something that will get us fucking cut.’

Iain rolled his eyes and tried to slip his hand into the pocket of Smurf’s jacket. Smurf darted backwards, losing his balance and falling over the chair to land on the base of his spine. He swore and rolled onto his side, rubbing his back before he sprung to his feet and closed the distance between the pair of them.

There was another thump from upstairs, then a splattering sound, like a million wet paintbrushes flicked into the air.

The pair of them looked up, then at each other.

‘It’s the boiler.’ Iain said.

Smurf squeezed his eyes shut.

‘We used the emergency on the gas before the fucking electric. Boiler’s got nothing in it.’ he said.

Another thump. Iain glanced around him and picked up the iron in the corner, from where Smurf had ironed a shirt for an interview at a care home. He was waiting to hear how it went, but inside the little imp of failure that used his life as a toilet had already predicted the outcome. Smurf watched him pick it up and stepped back.

‘Might as well get use out of it, eh?’ Iain said.

Smurf hid the impact of the comment by lowering his eyes and putting his hands into his pockets. Iain was already turning, with the cold grace of a shark sensing blood in the water.

‘There’s nothing up there.’ Smurf said.

Iain gave a single dry peal of laughter. It had no humour in it at all. He lifted the iron up and gestured it towards Smurf.

‘No, but if anyone is, they’re getting this in the fucking mush.’

He turned and walked away. Smurf stared at the back of his neck, aghast at his lack of courage, his complicity and his inability to voice how fucked up tonight had been. How he wanted to sell some of the stuff to get so fucking high he could pretend that it had never happened.

Smurf heard another thump then Iain making a retching sound.

‘Oh that fucking stinks up here, Smurf.’ Iain said.

Smurf figured that Iain was not referring to his own room. Smurf had gone in there once, to look for a tenner he was sure Iain had stashed in there. After seeing the yellow duvet and the mattress that looked like a child’s painting in the medium of bodily fluids decided that he could walk to the interview.

Smurf had little, but he looked after it, kept things clean. He would rather buy washing powder than eat sometimes, drinking endless glasses of water to keep the hunger pangs from hurting too much.

Smurf walked through to the stairs when he felt, rather than heard the growling insinuate through the floorboards. Iain fell silent.

The growl gained in volume and power. Smurf asked once if God had pets and got laughed at but he stood there and wondered if this was what one of them would sound like.

If it was angry.

Smurf’s stomach churned with acid. Iain was spurting a litany of curses and swear words before the growl shook the universe and a series of short thumps showed that whatever it was up there was advancing with power and momentum.

Smurf ran through the hallway just as Iain screamed in terror, his voice reaching a pitch that would shatter glass. Smurf heard the sounds of wet paper being ripped, a breathy series of exhalations, something breathing through its nose because it had something in its mouth, teeth sunk in and digging, tearing and sucking down whatever was there. Smurf pulled the door open and ran. He turned back and saw the mist of blood and Iain’s head sail through the air and roll down the stairs, his face forever cast in a final expression of disbelief and terror.

Smurf ran, skipping down the metal spiral staircase and taking off at a sprint. A shard of glass stabbed through the heel of his left foot but he kept going as he heard the wet thump of whatever had been in the house run out after him.

Each step made Smurf cry out in agony.

Something hit him between the shoulder blades and pushed him down to the ground with a brute ease. It kept him down and twin hot blasts of fetid air blasted against his neck. Smurf sobbed, bringing his hands to his face.

Whatever held him did not react. The pressure lessened and Smurf continued to cry, trying to say he was sorry but the words kept falling apart, bashed in by the force of his grief and his guilt.

‘I’m so fucking sorry. I didn’t know. I didn’t know.’

The weight came off and Smurf laid there, nose pressed to the path and continuing to weep for what he had been witness to, and what it had done to him.

The wet flat slap against his neck, muscles powerful as pistons left a thick slob of something hot and wet against his head but he let it happen. The stink made his eyes water, wet fur and dark earth, shit from a diet of hate and red meat but with each breath he noted how it had started to fade.

He turned around and saw that he was alone. He glanced back at the open door and how Danny from next door looked inside, swathed in the Star Wars dressing gown and onesie as Anna stood there, on tiptoes pushing him forward as a cigarette dangled from the corner of her mouth.

He sat there, looking up at the sky and pressed his hand against his mouth as the sound of sirens began to wail in the distance.

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beauty, blogging, creative writing, dogs, emotion, fiction, grief, loneliness, man, masculinity, men, passion, process, psychology, separation, stoicism, strength, Uncategorized, writing

The Walk

He did not know he was the topic of disparate bursts of conversation. Walking his dog, shaved head swathed in headphones, eyes red with tears and smoking fiercely made him stand out. He made the effort to smile whenever he caught someone’s eye. Dogs made you gregarious by nature, and he understood, even welcomed the opportunity to stop and do that.

He would walk for hours, even after a day on his feet, resenting his name badge, being patronised by people whose eyes would shine with that malign cunning, returning items without a receipt and threatening to get the manager. He mostly gave into them, lacking the energy to fight a cause that treated him as meat in the aisles, invisible to anyone who didn’t need something from him. His time with the dog was where he went to breathe.

The latest blow had been the last two years, watching his grandfather transform from a kindly, vibrant patriarch into a twitching, disorientated nerve, speaking in the glossolalia of morphine. A year after that, keeping vigil on Saturday evenings, anaesthetising his pain with the determination not to let his grandfather down. Then her death, awkward and sudden as a surprise wake. He wondered how much more he could take, and each evening, rain or shine, the walk with the dog would find him weeping for what had been, and what had been lost.

He spoke less to his family, even though the grief and pain had brought them closer. It was a form of survivor’s guilt and it needed silent avoidance to maintain. He would watch movies of vocal family reconciliation and confrontation, bitter at the camp ease with which people expressed their anger and joy. It was not that he lacked the words, but the words he knew were fragile vessels for something truly gargantuan, a black monster that needed an ocean to hunt in. A dinosaur, long thought extinct, trampling through the forest of his heart, looking for meat to sustain it.

He learned to manage. On the walks, he found songs that helped crack the carapace of his insect heart, let the light in and the poison out. He would walk to the point of exhaustion, littering the streets and alleyways with his tears until there were none to be shed any longer.  He would never listen to Sometimes It Snows In April the same way, once it had slipped a blade of grief between his ribs, cut away the straps that kept him bound inside.

Someone suggested counselling to him once. He was not leaden or unsentimental, but he could not pass this over to a stranger, no matter how capable. This was, in the end, how he would honour his grandparents. His pain was nothing compared to theirs, but if he gave it, piece by piece, then he would someday wake up wistful rather than craven.

If he knew he were the topic of conversation, he would shrug and smile. A walk at a time, it came to him that it was better to drink of deep grief than shallow pleasure. His feet ached, the dog would scamper to the waterbowl and lick in gulping, breathy motions but both of them would be renewed in ways that only dogs and their owners could ever know.

 

 

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animals, creative writing, dogs, friendship, nature, poetry, writing

canine gravity

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Stroking his scars

Head on my lap

As his carrion breath

Warms my thigh

His simplicity

Has always been constant

Through broken times

He’s borne witness to the worst

My angry tears when the pain

Was so great that only loneliness

Soothed and i could not articulate it

To anything more conscious

Than trees and sky

But the limp in his front paw

The quiet acceptance of time

And how grateful I am

For his kindnesses

We shelter one another

We feed one another

A dumb love

That I could no more

Doubt than gravity

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