She set the oven to three-fifty, sprinkling some with pepperoni, some without, keeping them separate. “These are for me,” she told her boyfriend Rex, pointing to the cheese ones. She took the dough and rolled them, each, as he sat there eating the stale Chex Mix that her mother had made for them at Christmas, feeding some to the Cocker Spaniel that he’d bought for her that day, bringing him in with a bow on his collar. “Ruff, ruff,” Rex had said, and she kissed him, then the puppy. That was days before and they were still trying to find a name that seemed to suit, one day calling the pup Beep, since, when he whined, he sounded like a car horn. But the next day, she said he didn’t look like a beep and what kind of name is that, for somebody’s puppy?
The puppy was like the one with her ex-husband, another all black Cocker that left trails of blood on the carpet, that the vet had said might make it—she’d shot syringes of Pedialite into this mouth—then at two a.m., she sensed something was wrong, and she got up and held him. Buster, she’d said, Buster, how she watched him twitch and finish. How, in her arms, dead, he didn’t feel much different, how that had surprised her, how she’d stayed there, rocking.
Pretzel, she said.
Rex was feeding the dog a pretzel.
We could call him Pretzel.
He said he didn’t look like a pretzel.
She put in the pinwheels she was making, sliding the sheet in. The puppy barked.
I shouldn’t be feeding him pretzels, Rex said. He always fed his own dog–a Golden Doodle named Moo who lived with his ex-wife on the weekday–stuff like popcorn, pizza.
He tossed the puppy a stuffed penguin with a squeaky. The dog bit, pawed, tearing an ear off.
She sat on Rex’s lap, reminding him that soon she’d have to leave him.
He said she’d be busy with the puppy–and she thought about going home again, the drive across six states, where she taught history at a college. He said to focus on the next time, in two months—they’d be seaside and sipping.
She remembered the dog, Buster, how he’d chewed up shoes and wallets, how he’d peed on papers, how her husband had bought her the dog to keep her company when, she finally learned, he was busy with his mistress.
When the oven alarmed, she got up, and this guy said she was cute, she was sweet, she was something. She’d heard that once, twice, a million times from a guy back in Chicago, a guy who she slept with when he wondered where his wife was.
The dog barked. She said the man was wrong. He held her from behind, and she said it was nothing.
Kim Chinquee is the author of the collections Pretty and Oh Baby. She
is an associate professor of English at Buffalo State College.