James Whorton, Jr.
Man goes to dentist to get his teeth cleaned. He's rocked back in the chair so he can only see the ceiling, and when it's over and they jack him down he notices a dog in the corner of the room. It wasn't there before, or he didn't notice it. But the dentist and the dental hygienist don't mention the dog, and the man himself is groggy from the anesthetic, so he doesn't say anything either. He just leaves.
Next day the guy's getting a haircut and when the barber spins the chair around to show him his head in the mirror the guy notices the same dog sitting on the floor over by the door. Same dog. But nobody's looking at the dog, it doesn't seem to be with anyone, so the guy just pays for his haircut and leaves.
That night the guy is having sex with his wife. When it's finished he rolls over and there's the same dog, sitting on the floor by the closet, in the light from the bathroom. They guy jumps up out of bed. "What do you want from me? Why are you following me everywhere?" he screams at the dog.
The dog flashes its nice clean set of white teeth, and the freshly-trimmed hackles go up on its back. The man walks out of the bedroom and up the hall. "Where are you going?" the wife shouts after him.
"To the yard, I hope," says the dog as it jumps up onto the bed. "I'm a pretty quick study, but I still keep slipping into the toilet."
Dog comes into a barber shop and gets in the chair. "Just a little off the top," he says. Nobody else is in the shop, so the barber just kind of shrugs and he says, "OK." The dog is a Doberman pinscher with very fine and short hair, so it's hard to take a little off the top without completely shaving the dog's head, but he's a pretty good barber and he does a great job. He swings the dog around to look at itself in the mirror. The dog stares at itself for several seconds and then says, "That's the best haircut I've ever had. Take that ten out of my collar and have a nice day." The barber has already noticed the ten dollar bill folded over the dog's collar, and he takes it. The dog leaves.
Next day a poodle comes into the barber shop and sits in the chair. "Give me a trim. I've heard you're the best," the poodle says.
"You got it," says the barber, and he spends an hour on this poodle's head. When he spins the chair around to show the poodle what he's done, the poodle lets out a big joyous Lassie-style bark and then says "That's really nice, just what I wanted. Take the twenty out of my collar and get some lunch or something." So the barber takes the twenty and the poodle leaves.
The next day the barber's wife comes by the shop, and she and the barber have sex on the floor. After they're done they both get up, and the barber takes his talcum brush and starts brushing hair cuttings off his wife's naked body. Just then an Afghan hound walks in with a hundred dollar bill folded over its collar. "I'm next," the dog says, and the barber's wife runs screaming from the shop.
"Great cut," says the Afghan, "but where does she keep her cash?"
There's a lady in a grocery store looking at the air freshener, and after a few minutes not being able to decide she says, "Stock boy, I can't decide between Country Fresh and Sweet Persimmon. Can I open them and get a smell?"
The customer is always right, so the boy tells her to go ahead. She tears them both open, smells them, and puts the Country Fresh one in her buggy. "What should I do with this Sweet Persimmon?" she says.
"I'll take it to the manager," says the stock boy.
A little bit later the same woman is looking at the margarine and she says to this same kid, "Stock boy, I need to taste these different kinds of margarine. Will that be fine?"
So she opens two packages and takes a stick of margarine out of each and she unwraps each stick at the end and takes a little taste on the end of her finger. "Mmm," she says. Then she wraps the sticks back up and puts them back in their respective boxes, and she puts the Fresh Days Margarine in her buggy and she looks at the rejected box of Yellow King Lite Margarine and says, "What'll we do with this one, honey?"
And the stock boy says, "I'll take it to the manager."
A little bit later the very same woman is looking at the forty-pound bags of dog food. She is trying to choose between the Kennel Favor and the Gravymaking Favor brands, but she can't decide, so she says, "Stock boy, I'm just going to open both of these bags a little so I can see what shape the pieces are in, because my dog is particular."
"OK ma'am," says the kid.
After checking both she hoists the forty-pound bag of Kennel Favor into her cart, being careful not to spill it since it's open, and the stock boy lifts the other bag and carries it off down the aisle saying, "I'll take this one to the manager."
Right at that moment a tanker carrying forty tons of acetone crashes outside the grocery store. There's a panic, and looters crash the store windows and steal all of the food. The owner of the store boards up the windows and chains the doors shut, and then the whole neighborhood is evacuated for two weeks while a special team from Annapolis, Maryland cleans up the toxic spill.
After two weeks everyone returns, and they open up the grocery store. When they try to get in the manager's office they find it locked from the inside, so they have the stock boy break the door in. There is the manager sprawled out dead on the floor next to an empty bag of dog food, an empty margarine box, and four empty margarine wrappers.
"Thank Heaven for the Sweet Persimmon," says the stock boy.
This kid goes to the dentist because he's way overdue to get his teeth cleaned. He's in the chair and the dental hygienist puts the bib on him, and then the dentist comes in and says, "OK, before we start this, you've got to tell me something. Have you used any filthy language in the past week? Because if you have I'm not putting my hands in your mouth, and don't lie because I can tell."
Kid looks at the dental hygienist. "He can tell," she says.
"Well, sir, actually I did say--"
"DON'T say it!" the dentist yells. "Get up out of my chair and come back in a week." The dentist leaves the room and the hygienist takes the bib off the kid and he leaves.
Next week the kid comes back, and the dental hygienist gets him in the chair and puts the bib on him and so on, and the dentist comes in and says to the kid, "Well? Have you used any filthy language in the last week? Because if you have, these fingers are not going in that mouth."
"Well, sir, I tried very hard," says the kid. "But I work at Shop-n-Shop and one of the other guys dropped a case of tomato juice on my arm yesterday, and I think I said--"
"ALL RIGHT!" says the dentist. He throws his hands up in the air. "PLEASE don't repeat it! Just go on, please, and we'll try it again next week." And he marches out, and the hygienist unbibs the kid and the kid leaves.
So the next week the kid tries really hard, and he goes six days without using any filthy language. Then on the seventh day there's this riot in his grocery store, people busting the windows out and running rampant and things, and for a while he gets trapped in a walk-in freezer, but one of the rioters lets him out; and he gets hurt trying to break up a fight between two men over a case of frozen orange juice; and then when the best of the food is gone, another wave of pure trouble-makers comes in and they do some gratuitous and humiliating things to him like chasing him with a can of Pam. They don't hurt him, but just make him feel bad. But through all of this he holds his tongue and he doesn't use and bad or off-color language, even under his breath. By now he doesn't even think bad language.
So the next day he goes to the dentist, and the hygienist bibs him up and the dentist comes in. "OK kid, whattaya got?" says the dentist.
"I haven't used any bad language at all in the past week, sir." The kid looks at the hygienist. "It's true," he says. "I've been controlling my tongue."
"Open up, then," says the dentist, and he inserts a metal probe into the boy's mouth and starts scraping around. After a second he adjusts the light over the boy's face, and he takes off his glasses and wipes them on his coat, which is pale blue with his name, Dr. Jehosaphat, embroidered on the breast. He looks again, and then he steps back from the chair. "Holy hoppin spareribs" says the dentist. "Have a look in there, Mokie."
Mokie the hygienist looks in the boy's mouth. "Zimbabwe," says the hygienist. "Yucatan."
"Son of a butterstick," the dentist says. "I can't clean those ripsnortin teeth."
"What's wrong?" says the boy. "Why not?"
"Because someone's already cleaned them," the dentist says.
Mokie's in tears at the sight of it.
"That mouth is so clean," says the dentist, "it's an everloving thing of beauty."
This man is standing out in the backyard behind his house, and it's night time, and he's looking up into the heavens. He starts talking to himself. "I've noticed many coincidences," he says. "You expect a few. For instance when I was a kid we lived in Atlanta, Georgia, and now I'm married to a woman named Georgia, and the lady next door has a cat named Georgia, and we live in a town called Georgia, Tennessee. Sometimes there are these little patterns in life, and I don't know whether to feel comforted by that or scared by it."
Just then he feels something on his shoulder and he opens his eyes, and it's his wife. "Wake up, honey," she says. "It's time to get up."
"I must have been dreaming," thinks the guy, and he gets out of bed and starts his day.
He goes to work as usual, does his job, comes home, has dinner, watches some TV; then his wife goes to bed; then he finds himself standing out in his backyard holding half a can of beer, looking up at the stars in the sky. The streetlights are really bright in his neighborhood, causing this pinkish-orange haze around the horizon, and he can't really see very many stars.
"Life's a puzzle," the guy says to himself. "When I was in high school I had a crummy little Henry J and I rode Bob and Lonnie around in it and we thought we were real special, and now I have a much nicer new Ford Contour with a CD player and lots of CDs but it's not as much fun as the Henry J was with Lonnie and Bob. I guess you just go plop," he says.
Just then he feels a shaking on his shoulder and he opens his eyes and it's his wife. "Wake up, you," she says. "You'll be late. You must have been dreaming because your face was twitching."
"I was dreaming," he says. So he gets up and gets ready and goes to work.
This guy is manager of a plant in Kingsport that makes chemistry sets for boys, and also different chemistry sets for girls, and today is Wednesday, which is the day they are supposed to receive a shipment of acetone that they are in need of. But the acetone is running late, and they have to halt production while they wait for it; and they keep waiting, and waiting, but the acetone never arrives, and finally it's time to shut down and they all go out to their cars and they go home feeling sort of unsatisfied because they never got their truckload of acetone and thus weren't able to get done all that day that they had planned to do.
That night the guy eats dinner and talks with his wife some and tells her about his disappointing day, and feels a little better, and they watch a little television, and then around 10:30 she's tired and goes to bed, and he goes out into the backyard to finish his beer.
He looks up at where the stars are, but he can't see any, because there's this strange haze in the sky, and it's very bright, as if the haze is somehow reflecting all the light of the neighborhood and the town, and they're all sealed in hermetically by the weight of the atmosphere overhead. It's very oppressive. His beer is going warm and it's not a great beer--just "grocery store beer," as him and Lonnie and Bob used to call it when they were kids driving drunk. He smells the faint but unmistakable odor of acetone. He knows it must be his imagination, one of those olfactory hallucinations he's read about that come to some people in moments of intense feeling, but still it feels as if the world is organized against him some way, mocking him, watching him.
He hears movement from somewhere behind, a step in the grass, which needs cutting.
"Wake me up, Georgia, honey," he says. "I'm ready now."
Just then he feels this awful ripping sensation up the back of his leg, and then on his back, all the way up to his shoulder. He collapses into the grass in utter shock.
"Meow," says the cat.
This guy is strapped to a stone table, completely naked in the dungeon of a castle or something like that, and this huge woman wearing a corset made out of popped balloons in many colors is placing cold rubber spiders all over his body. The spiders are coated in petroleum jelly, and they're freezing cold. "Oh, baby," the guy says. "You're freezing me out."
"Hang on," says the woman, and her voice is like a foghorn.
The guy feels a nudge in his side, and suddenly he's lying in the sand on a beach, completely naked, and a naked woman is sitting in the sand next to him saying, "That was only a dream." The woman has skin like freshly baked bread-
-warm like that, and brown, and taut, and aromatic that way. And glowing, and buttery, and the whole beach is filling up with the delicious smell of this hot, salty, fresh bread, straight out of the oven. "I've got to have some bread," the guy says, and the woman says in a voice like steam rising, "This bread is for you." And he puts his hands all over her skin, and they start making love in the sand.
Then the guy feels a nudge in his side, and he looks up, and at first he can't see anything, it's like he's blind, and it's scary, but then he sees that he is floating in an ocean of pale blue light, and he hears a voice--it's not really a voice, because he can't hear it, but he understands--and it's a female voice saying "That was only a dream." And the guy looks around but he's not moving his head, but still he can see in all directions, and it's like he's floating in this blue terrain that is very soft, though he can't feel it, because he doesn't have a body at all, and the woman in front of him also doesn't have a body. But he can tell by the sound of her voice that she isn't wearing anything. She's just a naked soul. And the light is boiling around them and up between them, all different shades of blue, and then he hears the woman sigh, and out of what would be her mouth if she had one comes this roiling cloud of pale orange breath, billowing liquidly up between them and over what would be his body, and past him. And the cloud smells like cinnamon, only there isn't a smell, it's like the thought of cinnamon, pure electricity; and then he can feel that the woman's electromagnetic field is altering, and lines of force are arcing around him to include him, and he hears organ music from somewhere, only it's not like regular organ music because it isn't muddy and mucky-
sounding but just pure raspy pungent voices of music, and it's a fugue, and he can pick out the subject, which starts in the alto, and then comes in in the tenor, and he's still with it, like drops of glass tumbling before his eyes in every direction, and the woman's with him too, and he realizes it's her music, she is creating it somehow by improvisation only, and her name is Judith, and there's the counter-subject beginning, and he's with her, naked, with her through all of this in this amazing couch of light with his head on her pure naked bosom, hearing this perfectly fun and spontaneous brilliant music that is ticking so simply and rapidly from her heart straight into his.
Then he feels a nudge, and he blinks and looks around, and he's lying sprawled on his side on the floor of this supermarket, with a can of tomatoes in his hand, and this woman wearing a giant blue cloth overcoat has just run into him with the dirty front bumper of her shopping cart. "That was only a bump," she says.
He scrambles up off the floor, grabbing his throat, then heaves a big sigh of relief.
"Don't tell me--whiplash," says the lady, rolling her eyes.
"My neck's fine, ma'am," he says, "but for a second there I couldn't feel my bowtie."
The cat lady is at the Pearly Gates, and St. Peter looks in his book and says, "Well I see you caused property values in your neighborhood to plummet, by keeping old cars covered with plastic in your yard, and furthermore in 1964 it says here you shot a fourteen-year-old boy with rock salt."
"Yes," says the cat lady, "but over four decades I looked after hundreds of cats, most of them strays with no one to care about them in the world, and I paid out of my dead father's fortune to have them all spayed and neutered and none of them went hungry, and if not for me they would have lived suffering lives cut short by euthanasia."
"OK," St. Peter says, "you can go on in."
So then the reptile man comes up, and St. Peter flips to that section of the book, and he reads for a long time, tracking words with his fingertip across the page, and finally he looks up at the reptile man and says, "Well, sir, it says here that you frightened children all over the neighborhood. They were scared to go down the alley by your house because they could look in the basement window and see the shelves full of aquariums, and inside the aquariums awful reptiles that frightened them. And it says here a little further on that in 1979 an anaconda got loose from your house and it suffocated a very valuable police dog. Those dogs are not mere pets, and they cost a lot of money for a small community police department, as you well know. So I don't know about you, sir. What do you say for yourself?"
"Well," says the reptile man, "guilty as accused, but that's not the whole story. In 1975 it came to my attention that the Pet Ranch store at the mall was selling baby box turtles from a batch infected with salmonella. Selling them to little human kids that if they got infected by the turtles could become very sick. So I went to Pet Ranch and I bought out all of the box turtles and took them home and personally treated them with my own homemade sulfa drugs, eradicating the salmonella and saving I don't know how many human lives as well as the lives of the turtles."
St. Peter is quiet for a long moment, and then he shakes his hoary leonine head. "Go on in," he says, and the Pearly Gates roll open and the reptile man goes on into Heaven.
Then this guy is coming up towards St. Peter and he's wearing brown slacks and a dirty white short-sleeved shirt with a necktie with diagonal blue stripes, and black leather tennis shoes on his feet, and he's a bit on the heavy side, and walks in such a way that it has caused his shoes to lose their shape and to tend to spill his feet out to the outsides. And he has a thin mustache, and St. Peter can tell that the climb up the stairs has taken a lot out of him, because he's heaving and his face is all blotchy. He has a plastic nametag on his shirt that says, "Mr. Wesley, Asst. Manager." So St. Peter looks him up in the book and says, "Oh yes, Mr. Wesley. Well, you have led a mostly quiet life. In eleventh grade one Saturday night you spray painted the name of a boy on the wall of your school gym, along with vulgar epithets. The reason you did this was that the previous Friday in the cafeteria while you were carrying your tray to the disposal line this boy, who was sitting with many of his popular friends, both girls and boys, had asked you to get him a glass of water; and you were so surprised that he had even spoken to you that without being able to think you went and got him the glass of water. When you brought it back to him he took it and smiled politely, but everyone else at the table laughed at you derisively, and you were badly humiliated. And then you did nothing very bad for almost ten years; but then two weeks ago I see there was a riot in your grocery store, and some tough kids were chasing one of the stock boys around the store, and rather than go to help the stock boy you barricaded yourself into your office. Not good, Mr. Wesley--this is not good at all."
"But what about my Venus flytraps?" says Mr. Wesley. "We ordered them for the floral department, but no one would buy them for weeks, and they were languishing in the store, and the owner said get rid of them, and he wanted them thrown out into the dumpster--but I took them all home to my apartment, every one of them, and I nursed them under Gro-
Lights, and I fed them bits of tubifex worms, and all of them thrived. I tried to do my part in that way."
"Oh, gee. Go on in, Mr. Wesley," says St. Peter.
Just then a bunch of sirens go off everywhere and there's a huge commotion from away in the distance. "Uh-
oh," says St. Peter, and he picks up his extension. "Listen Chief, I guess I've been letting too many people into Heaven, and I want you to know I'm sorry and it's going to stop."
"Never mind that, Peter--I need you down in Receiving on the double. We've got five hundred cats chasing five hundred garter snakes down there, and the turtles are eating the Venus flytraps."
"Oh," St. Peter says. "Well, I'm an angel. What do you want me to do about a riot in Receiving?"
"I want you to get the darn police dog down there, that's what."
Man's lying in bed next to his wife. "How do I know you love me?" he asks her.
"Because I keep coming home," she says.
"OK," he says. He lies there for a couple minutes then gets out of bed and kneels on the floor. "Lord, how do I know you love me?" he prays.
The phone rings, and the man picks up the phone. "Mr. Marks? This is Alphonse from Hazardous Portages. I'm just calling to tell you your son Steven has been involved in an accident in which 40 tons of deadly acetone were spilled. Miraculously Steven emerged without a scrape, and he is now sitting here in my office eating a candy bar. That's all, good night." Click.
"OK," says the man. He gets up and walks out into the backyard, into the high, cool grass, which feels sharp like slivers of shredded documents on his feet. He looks up into the night sky, black in the middle, pinkish-orange around the edges. The dog is standing next to him, and he looks down at the dog. "How do I know you love me?" he says.
The dog does not like being stared at. It starts to whine, then lies down and rolls over onto its back, exposing its belly.
Four dogs are in the park, playing Smear the Queer with an old lost softball. The softball rolls out into the road. "I'll get it," says one of the dogs. He runs out into the road and gets hit by a 1976 Volkswagen Rabbit, pickle green, which does not stop.
"Well, I'll get it," says another one of the dogs, and runs out into the road, where he gets hit by a 1993 Mercedes convertible, cream-colored, driven by the owner of a supermarket. The supermarket owner does not stop or even slow down.
"Well, I'll get it then," says a third dog, and runs out into the road to be hit by a bright red 1995 Peterbilt tractor trailer rig pulling 40 tons of acetone. The truck flops over onto its side like a tired fish on a hot dock, and the clear, strong-smelling liquid gushes from its side, covering the roadway and poisoning the air.
"Game," says the fourth dog.
"Dog Court will now come to order," says the Magistrate Dog. "Bailiff Dog, our first case."
"Brown Lady Dog Jenny vs. Stud Dog Philco, Your Honor."
"Jenny, what's your beef?" says the Magistrate.
"Philco forcibly impregnated me and now I have seven hungry mouths to feed, papers on none of them, and no support," says Jenny.
"Philco?" says the Magistrate.
"Your Honor, none of those pups are mine. I seen Jenny with Stud Dog Bosc the very night she says I mounted her. But, Your Honor, I love the pups as if they were my own, and if Jenny will drop the charges I'd be proud to help rear them."
"Jenny?" says the Magistrate.
Jenny bounds across the courtroom to Philco and assumes the "let's play" position, facing him with her snout down against the floor and her back end up in the air. Philco rolls an avid eye at her, then dashes off out the courtroom door, and Jenny dashes after him.
"Not a very pleasant display," says the Magistrate, "but I guess that one ended happily. Next case, Bailiff Dog."
"Stud Dog Henry vs. Neuter Bud."
"Henry," says the Magistrate, "what complaint do you bring before the Court against Neuter Bud?"
"Bud ate my coffee grounds. Every day I eat the coffee grounds, but then Bud ate the coffee grounds."
"Bud," says the Magistrate, "did you eat Henry's coffee grounds?"
"Yes I did, Your Honor," says Bud.
"Court finds for the plaintiff. Sentencing will be held six days from this day at one thirty o'clock post meridiem, same bat-channel. Bailiff Dog, my next case please. We are taking care of business in a flash today, Bailiff Dog."
"Yes we are, Your Honor. Your Honor, the State of Tennessee vs. Lady Dog Jane Doe."
"Your Honor," says the prosecutor, "the state charges Lady Dog Jane Doe with three counts of Reckless Disregard of Lawfully Marked Boundaries. At the time she was apprehended this Jane Doe had run through three backyards and was attempting to climb a five-foot Hurricane Fence to gain access to a fourth. In addition this Jane Doe drank without leave from the water bowl of Lady Dog Muffin, leaving bits of an unidentifiable substance in the bottom of the bowl, which has since had to be discarded. Lady Dog Muffin is present in the courtroom today to testify on this matter, if it please the Court."
"Why is this dog a Jane Doe?" says the Magistrate. "What is your name, dog?"
The Jane Doe doesn't answer. She just sits there in her funny awkward way, looking around her stupidly.
"The defendant has refused to give her name or to speak at all since arrest, Your Honor," says the prosecutor.
"She is a strange dog. Have her stand, Bailiff." The Bailiff prods her into standing. "Have her turn. There. No tail," says the Magistrate. "And mostly bald. This is no dog, prosecutor! This is a human lady! See how she stands on the rear legs! See how the mouth is located on the front of the face, and does not extend around the sides of the head! The Court is angry, prosecutor--" The Magistrate's voice trembles, and all of the dogs in the courtroom are awed. "In four years on the bench I have seen many shocking things, prosecutor, but a human lady brought into Dog Court as a defendant I thought I should never see! Did you even bother to smell the defendant? Do not answer! Court is in recess for twenty minutes!" The Magistrate bolts out of the courtroom into his chambers.
A moment later the Magistrate hears a knock on his door. "What is it?" he calls out, not bothering to mask his deep annoyance.
The Dog Bailiff pokes his head in at the door. "The Jane Doe would like to see you, Your Honor," says the Bailiff.
"Let her in," says the Magistrate. "I haven't the vaguest idea what I can do for her, but--"
The Jane Doe enters the Magistrate's chambers with her head low. She steps quietly around his desk and up to his side, kneels, and presses her head against his shoulder. When he backs away slightly she crawls past him under his desk, and he can feel her circling awkwardly down there before she settles onto the floor in a curled-up lump against his feet.
This trucker looks in his rearview mirror and notices a gray Crown Victoria behind him, and it appears as if it is being driven by a dog wearing a pink cloche hat from the 1920's. This strikes the man as somewhat odd, but what can he do about it? Is a law being broken? Still it makes him nervous so he gets off the interstate and takes a few circuitous and redundant turns until he has lost the dog. Then he gets back on the interstate.
A minute later however he checks his rearview again and there is the same gray Crown Victoria, driven by the same dog only now the dog is wearing a ball cap. Like that's going to fool somebody! The trucker takes the next exit; more circuitous and redundant maneuverings until the Crown Victoria is thoroughly shaken. Then he gets back on the freeway.
Driving, driving, driving. But sure enough when the trucker checks again there is that same gray Crown Victoria and behind the wheel a dog wearing dark aviator glasses and a hooded sweatshirt. And this time the dog has a small blond mustache taped to the end of its snout, just under its nose. The trucker is getting really anxious now. He takes the next exit, which feeds north on US 11-W into Georgia, Tennessee, past the self-service car washes and all-you-can-
eat buffet restaurants and discount opticians' galleries that line the road into town. This time he's going to lose that dog. He's catching all the red lights, though, and now here's a kid passing him in a Volkswagen Rabbit diesel, on the right. This kind of stuff is a mess to drive through in a big rig.
Then the trucker starts to thinking. Why is he scared of a dog? After all, he's a human man. This dog doesn't even appear especially large. In a fight, he thinks he could probably take the dog.
He picks up his CB mike. "Breaker one nine," says the trucker. "Anybody. What's the worst thing a dog could do to a man?"
There is crisp static, and then a response.
"Talk back," says the dog.
For about one and a half seconds the trucker forgets everything about who he is and what he is supposed to be doing: forgets his shoe on the pedal, forgets the song ("Jamie's Other Baby") that he's been hummming mentally all morning; forgets the 40 tons of acetone; forgets the Packard Bell computer with a 166-megahertz Pentium that he and his wife are planning to buy at Wal-Mart that night, if he gets home in time; forgets the eyes in his head, forgets everything except for one memory of a dog he saw on television years ago that could say "I love you." It said it so clearly, over and over. Or maybe it said it once, and they played it over and over. He thinks it was a Chihuahua.
By the time he remembers where he is it is too late, and the truck is out of control.
This kid wearing a red apron and a bowtie is wading through three inches of acetone in the street. He has tomatoes in his hair and tears are streaming down his face from the fumes of the acetone. The tears are beading up on his cheeks because his face is coated with oily cooking spray. He comes to a dog in the road. The dog has been hit but it's still alive and trying to get up. One of its legs appears broken. So the kid kneels down and touches the dog on the side, and the dog gets up as fit as ever and runs away.
The kid comes to another dog, also down in the road. Little waves of acetone wash up over its deep but narrow dog chest. The chest is faintly pulsing. This one is worse off than the first. Its eyes are glassy and vacant. There is major head trauma. The boy stoops down and touches the dog's side, and the dog shuts its eyes and then gets up a little crankily--it's not a young dog--and it walks away.
Then the kid sees a third dog in the road. This one isn't badly crushed and doesn't seem to have bled any, but apparently it was unfortunate enough to have landed right in the spot where the acetone first gushed out violently onto the pavement. It is soaked to the skin and doesn't seem to be breathing. The kid stoops down, and his jeans because they're damp with sweat and acetone and tomato juice are clinging to him, and they rip right up the seat. But disregarding this the boy touches the dog on its side. "Come on, dog. Get up," says the boy. "I'm on a roll."
But it's no use---the dog doesn't respond.
A policeman comes up and puts his hand on the boy's shoulder. "I lost a dog once," he says. "Things happen, and you let them go."
"It worked on the first two dogs," says the boy.
"In this world," says the police officer, "things don't always work out like you think they will." He lifts his cap, revealing a purple birthmark on his bald scalp. The birthmark is in the shape of a police badge. "Funny thing is, I didn't know it was there until my hair fell out, and by that time I'd been on the force seven years."
The officer and the boy walk off to where the people are climbing onto the buses to be evacuated from the neighborhood.
The dog begins to twitch and whine. It is dreaming.