I Know This Because It Told Me

At the end of the book the dog is dead. It doesn’t die unhappy, in fact, it’s the opposite. The dog is happy in its death. Well, it’s not happy that it’s dead, it’s just happy with the life it lived. Its final moment is a pleasurable one upon that realization. Still, after finishing the last page of the book, I cried. Sitting at the table in the diner with tears slowing working their way down my face, I noticed a small dog, a shrunken terrier type thing, looking at me. Its eyes full and black. Full with concern, I assumed. Could this creature tell I was mourning one of its own? Yes.

I know this because it told me.

Leaving the restaurant the creature approached, and in perfect English, asked me for food. I apologized, letting it know I had thoroughly finished my meal. It sighed in the way that dogs do, their heads lurching forward with the expulsion of air. Then it asked how I liked the book.

It was very touching, I said. Have you read it?

Yah, it was pretty good. Surprisingly accurate.

Really?

Yah.

Did you cry at the end?

I did. I also cried in the middle, it said, sniffing my pant leg.

When the black dog dies?

No, when its master dies.

Really?

Yah.

Why?

They just had a really nice connection. I wish my master was as, you know, with it like that.

Yeah.

Ah shit, here he comes.

A man in a white tank top carrying a Gatorade and brown paper bag whose bottom was damp with grease approached and untied the dog’s leash from the bike rack and they left. The small dog’s head lurching forward as it sighed.

Unfortunate Timing

After fifteen-or-so minutes of throwing rocks off of the roof it occurred to me that throwing rocks off of the roof maybe wasn’t a good idea. They weren’t big rocks. Not pebbles either, though. Pebble adjacent. Big enough to hear them plunk and skitter as they hit the asphalt of the alleyway below. We were throwing them blind. Not aiming, just tossing as if two-stories down wasn’t a street but a stream where cold glacial water caught the stones like a fireman’s blanket, cradling them as they floated gently down to the riverbed, the fish annoyed but able to get out of their way.

The rocks covered the roof of the building and we’d been casually lobbing them for so long that we’d dug a small moat around ourselves. It extended as far out as our arms could reach from our legs-splayed, sitting positions. One more went up, over the edge of the building and down without a sound of impact. I looked at you but you were looking ahead, thinking of other things I couldn’t quite decipher from your pursed lips and furrowed brow. I was thinking of the rock and where it had landed. What it could have landed on that would absorb the modest sound of it crashing to earth. An open dumpster? A rat with unfortunate timing, pausing to smell some trash? A person walking, their eyes closed but up towards the moon, cursing or praising it for its push or pull, quietly mouthing the words with just a bit too much enthusiasm, lips peeled wide as the stone swooshes between their netting of teeth, skimming the tongue, down the gullet and into the dank, squelching blackness of the human body where it lands on old bits of lunch and swallowed pride?

Why? (The Cashier Thinks)

“Where’s the sour cream? It’s not down there.” She points to the aisle down there and the cashier shakes her head.

“That’s because it’s over there.” The cashier points to the aisle over there and the woman looking for the sour cream grunts and starts walking.

They always ask ‘where’ things are. Never why. ’Where’ is surface level––it’s a nod to a stranger on the street. It doesn’t answer why you can find the sour cream in that aisle or the stranger on the street, it just acknowledges that they are there. Why are they going where they are going? Why is their hair mussed and eyes red? Are they okay? Why not? Did they talk to someone on the phone today? Or was it an email? Were italics used to highlight the importance of a particular word in the message––that word defining the emotional direction of the correspondence. Is that word now floating in the stranger’s head like a fly in a glass of water? Each time they try to take a sip, to think about anything else besides that word, the bug getting sucked towards their mouth and they have to stop before it gets pulled inside. Is the stranger emotionally dehydrated from not being able to think about anything besides the fly? All you did was nod so there’s no way to know. There’s so much more to know, the cashier thinks. And come on, the goddamn aisles are clearly alphabetical.

Chunk Barnley

They ask you to sign in. It’s not a membership thing. I don’t think it’s even a safety thing. They’re not keeping record in case the building goes up in flames and they need to confirm that you are not one of the charred lumps on the ground near the larger charred lump that used to be the pool table. They just want your name. A name. Any name. It’s to fill some weird self-validation quota like guest books at weddings––“See, people came.” I never put my real one. I’m not paranoid or anything, I just go out to places like this to luxuriate in my anonymity, not reveal it in the first forty-five seconds. The cashier at IKEA once asked for my area code and I nearly threw my RÅSKOG into the soft-serve machine.

Smirking, halfway finished scrawling my pseudonym in the bar’s book of collected names, is when the pen stopped working. I shook it, scratched into the margins and nearly through the page––dead. This pseudonym was near perfection, my best yet, and now it lay undone. I could’ve just left it and grabbed a beer, no one would’ve checked to make sure my book-name matched my life-name; but I needed this. I asked the bartender for a working pen. They had none. Neither did the women at the bar. My friends waited for me at the table in the back but I couldn’t get myself past coat check. I left. If couldn’t be someone else in here, I’d be no-one out there.

A Perfect ‘V’

If I wanted to be loved I would’ve said something. I would’ve brought it up at dinner. You would’ve known. There would’ve been strategically placed indicators. Now everything is tangled. Wet. Sticky with emotion and damp with, what is that? Desire? Ugh. Can we just not? Just do everything but, you know? It’s not unreasonable. I used to watch you watch me and I never assumed. It’s kind of embarrassing for me. And you, obviously. More so for you.

That’s why I brought you here today. To the gorge. This expanse is a metaphor. For something––not sure if it’s related to our situation, but it’s profound. Look around. See the birds? The shapes they form, carving the sky with a  synchronized instinct. That’s also profound. How do they know how to do that? Yeah, shrug your shoulders. I don’t know either, they just do it. I thought we were operating with that, too. Synchronized instinct. Then you went and pulled this. Love. We were flying in a perfect ‘V’ and then you took a hard left and drove your beak right into my side. Sure, we both want to go different directions, but now neither of us can fly.

Pure Electric Light

Move beyond the trees, The Director said. Wait, no. Move out of the trees. Beyond indicates, like, further away. Just come out of there, towards me, so we can see you.

The Model was tired of taking directions. He had been standing in the trees all goddamn morning waiting for their many, tightly spaced branches to divide the sunshine just so, so that it would lay on his pale, naked flesh like he had been lashed by Zeus’ flog of pure electric light. That was what The Director called the sunshine streaming through the trees: a flog of pure electric light. There were small brown ants crawling over The Model’s bare feet and every time they crawled between his toes it tickled and he’d flinch and then The Director would have to reposition him in the sunlight so that the lashes were just so again.

The Director asked The Model to adjust his penis. It wasn’t right. The Model tried but he wasn’t moving it correctly. His penis was all wrong. The Director asked The Assistant to fix The Model’s penis and The Assistant shuffled through the pine needles and grabbed The Model’s penis between his thumb and forefinger and the model grimaced because The Assistant’s fingers were quite cold. After a few moments of uncertainty The Assistant stepped back and looked at The Director who looked at the penis of The Model and nodded. The Director pointed The Photographer at The Model and screamed:

Shoot! Now! We are running out of time. The wounds of light on the body of The Model will not stay still. As night falls, they heal.

The Model could feel his penis begin to unstick from his thigh and he prayed that it wouldn’t flop free and that The Photographer would hurry up and take the goddamn photo so he could put his clothes back on. Then he wondered if praying for two-separate things at once devalued the overall efficacy of both, because asking for two things at once was kind of a selfish thing.

The sun warmed The Model’s penis and The Photographer hesitated as The Director shouted, Go! Go! Go!

Let’s Get Cake

Around here there isn’t much to do. There are horses in the field outside of town that we can look at. The last time I was in the field there was this really cute moment where the small baby-horse nuzzled against the bigger one, which I assume is its mother. Or father. I didn’t look for a penis or anything so I don’t actually know. If we went to the field outside of town we could look to see if the big horse has a penis and maybe they’ll do something cute again. There’s also the cake shop downtown. I don’t know if you’ve been there but it’s something else. People from other towns come to our cake shop just to look at its cakes. They made this one cake shaped like a battleship for memorial day. It had little frosting fighter jets on it and everything. On the mayor’s birthday the cake shop people made a life-size chocolate cake that looked just like him. We could also go to the hole behind McLaren’s Autobody. No-one knows when or how it got there, it just appeared one day. It’s been there as long as I’ve been alive. You can drop things in it and never hear them hit bottom. It’s pretty cool. A kid I went to high school with said he fell into it while walking home one night and when he fell out the other side he was in Cabo San Lucas and it took two-weeks to find his way back. I’m pretty sure his family just went on vacation, though.

Ear of Dog, Wing of Bird

Pigeons die in a multitude of ways everyday in the city. They’ve become too comfortable and trusting in a world that sees them as disposable. We put cute little spikes on windowsills and mesh on the undersides of awnings so they don’t perch and shit off of our things onto our surfaces. With no place to sit they wobble around the streets, getting run over by feet, bicycles, cars and eaten by creatures that use the nooks and shadows of the city better than they do. They fly into windows, power lines and the ocean where an octopus tears them into separate but surprisingly equal portions. This is why I didn’t find it surprising when I saw the pigeon wing beside the bike rack, I even gave it a little kick, because why not? The pigeon limb is almost ubiquitous, they’re everywhere, like the birds are just feathered Mr. Magoo’s, absentmindedly forgetting feet on ferris wheels or eyeballs in the alley behind the fish market. Then the wing rolled over from the force of my kick and it wasn’t a wing, it was an ear, the ear of a dog. I was shocked, I was sickened. How could this happen? How could this grotesque artifact of mutilation just be sitting here surrounded by all of this urbanity, feet away from my bike, my foot now an accidental bludgeon to its soft, precious fur.

Take this and run with it.

Take this and run with it, is what he had said to the boy. Well, something like that. He just wanted to get the boy out of the house so he pointed at the thing and said what he said and the boy took it and ran out the door. It wasn’t meant to be a real inspiring address or anything. He didn’t even expect the boy to make it as far as he did, the thing he’d pointed to was pretty damn heavy after all, but the boy plucked it off of the floor without even a grunt. It was like he had actually been inspired by the little speech-thing he’d been given and was imbued with a sort of power, one that he had seen stirring in him briefly a few times before. It would occasionally find its way to the surface to poke its nose out of the water and draw short breaths of confidence, but now it had fully emerged, the water gone, and with the pool drained its flesh dried and grew warm in the sun.

He watched the boy run out of the cul-de-sac, thing held over his head like a totem. A young girl on her stoop, also watching the boy run with the thing, picked up a thing from her yard and started to run after him. Another child with another thing joined. And another, until at least twenty children with twenty different things were running down the street towards an intersection where the traffic stopped on a green to let them pass, a few of their back doors springing open and children with things held over their heads spilled out into the street, running towards the others. At this distance he could no longer make out the boy, but he could still see what he carried, the thing now more silhouette than solid, a memory pushing into the horizon.

The Classic

 

The eggs and the bacon and the toast and the beans and the potato hash and the little $1.75 dollop of guacamole had no visible borders on his plate. The server laid down one solid mass in front of him, the individual parts that made up his breakfast that were listed as separate, distinct items on the menu, were here just one big compound word, one chunk of text in a nearly illegible font. The beans seeped into the hash, the eggs blanketed the bacon. It reminded him of learning human anatomy in school. The teacher made the class look at a diagram and name the illustrated organs within a thin-lined human frame. Lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, brain, intestines of varying sizes. They were all neatly contained in the human. In the drawing each organ had a few centimetres of breathing room between it and its neighbour; some real estate of its own inside the body. That was comforting to him as a child. It made him think of the human body as a purposefully neat and organized place, like the rows upon rows of houses with buffers of green grass and white fences in the new suburbs going up around the outskirts of the city or the eggs sitting cozy in the protective pocket of their styrofoam carton in the fridge. He thought the human body ran with this type of order for years until he watched a man get cut open from navel to sternum on TV. The doctors performing the surgery pulling open the fatty flesh until the lights above them illuminated the glistening, pulsing piles of brown and reddish-brown meat inside of the man. There was no order in there, just one pile of meat slopped on top of another. He poked at his mound of breakfast and started to eat.