The Dog

Pero Molesto

The only thing that was left to do was kill the dog. It was a particularly ugly dog so that wasn’t a problem. I don’t know why but I’ve always felt that creatures that are ugly are much easier to take out. When you look them in the eye, you can justify it. You can feel like you’re almost doing them a favor.

I entered the room and glanced around quickly. Everything else was in place. A breeze blew in from the open window and I wiped the sweat from my brow. It was hot, very hot. The weatherman had said it was the hottest October day on record in nearly ten years. A real Indian summer, he had called it. I could feel sweat collecting under my armpits, clinging to my shirt. I peeled off my leather jacket and hung it on the door. Very slightly the door swayed and I gently steadied it. As I did I gave pause to admire my jacket. It was a good jacket, made from fine leather. My wife had bought it for me the week before as an early anniversary present. It looked really nice swinging on the hook on the door. I was proud of it.

I walked further into the apartment and the telephone began to ring. I watched it for a moment and then went to find a drink. By the time I got back with a glass of cheap whiskey I had found hiding in a cabinet, the ringing had stopped. A red light blinked signifying a new message. As I had been instructed, I deleted it without listening. I then took a sip of the whiskey, choked it down, picked up the phone and started to dial my wife’s number. Just as I finished putting in the second to last digit I decided against it and hung up. Better finish the job first, I thought. I get distracted easily and it would be a shame to let something come up before everything was finished.

What was to be finished was a small thing with beady eyes and a floppy tail and it lay nestled on a sort of makeshift bed made from a pillow in the corner of the room. It was sleeping. The sun was starting to go down and the light from the window had started to dim, casting only the smallest sliver of orange onto the beast. Its stomach moved up and down and with it came the rest of its body. From this I could see that the thing was breathing very quickly, almost as if it was having trouble. Perhaps it was having a nightmare. I thought about how easy it would be to just strangle it. My hands are big and beefy and I would have had no problem enclosing the animal’s neck in them. This would have been against protocol though, of course. Without making a sound I drained the rest of my glass and turned on the light.

The liquid felt warm in my throat. It was like a wave of relief washing over me and I paused for a second to enjoy it. It was nice whiskey, even if it was cheap. Then I looked up. I noticed the same could not be said of the paint job. It was white. Bright white. Painfully white. I hate white. It hurts my eyes. Usually I try not to have more than one drink but right there, seeing that white, I decided I needed two. I went back to the cabinet and cautiously refilled my glass. I was careful to give myself half what I had the first time. At this point though, all the commotion had woken the sleeping creature at my feet and he was shaking his head around, dazed and confused just like a person would after they’ve woken up from a nap. It finally seemed to regain its senses and got up, stretched its legs and began to try to move. This disappointed me. I was hoping I could kill it in its sleep and not have to worry about anyone hearing any barking. I took a sip of my whiskey.

As the dog started to move I noticed that its back right leg was very stiff and that walking essentially surmounted to trying to drag it along with the other three good legs, which quivered under the extra responsibility. I watched it struggle for a moment and reflected on how ugly it actually was. Its eyes were dark and looked balanced precipitously on its face in such a way that it would seem that a simple gust of wind, at the right angle, could knock them out. Its fur was prickly and blotchy and peppered with dandruff which fell out when it walked, leaving a faint trail behind the beast. Its snout looked flattened and awkward and its nose, an oddly elongated and wrinkled smudge, seemingly glued on haphazardly. To this day I have no idea how it could have smelled anything with such a hideous and poorly placed proboscis. In fact, I imagine it probably couldn’t. The one majestic trait the creature had though was its ears, which were tall and pointy and spun around like they were carefully surveying everything that was going on in the room. They jumped and danced and directed the dog as it stumbled about.

I finished my second drink, bent down and picked up the creature with one arm. As I gazed at it, it started to whimper. Only then did I notice the bowl next to its bed divided into two sections, one labeled food and the other water.

“Are you hungry little fella? Thirsty, maybe?”

My voice creaked in a high pitch squeal like I was talking to a baby and I recoiled in disgust at my own sentimentality. I saw that while the “food” side was still half full the “water“ side was empty. I picked up the bowl, brought it to the sink, filled it up, then went to the cabinet and put a drop of whiskey in it before refilling my glass and setting it back down. All the while the animal followed me, yapping at my feet.

A quarter of an hour passed in almost silence with the exception of the low growls the beast made as it ate. All the while we sat, I, with my drink, and the dog with its meal, and we watched each other. I fingered the keys to the apartment in my pocket. I thought about how good it would feel to be done with them, done with this place. I would leave, lock the door for the last time and throw them in the river. The only thing left to do was kill the dog. That was it. I began to feel somewhat annoyed. This thing was taking my time. I had to kill it. I had to clean up afterwards too. All the while it just had to sit and let things come to it. I felt like I was supposed to feel sorry for the thing. It was a puppy, clearly, and had not lived very long. Try as I might though, I couldn’t make myself care. Maybe at some point though I would have minded more. I also wouldn’t have stalled in the same way. I would have gone in, done the deed, and rushed home to my wife. Maybe I was waiting to care. Maybe I felt like I couldn’t kill the thing till I was going to feel a little bad about it. Without that the whole job was pointless. Just then the dog let out a high-pitched yap and piss spilled out onto the floor. I stared at it for a minute and finished my third drink. I wasn’t going to clean that up. The sun had long since set and night had begun to spread. Somewhere not too far away church bells chimed eight times. It was getting late. The room started to feel oppressive. I needed air. Being inside for that long was starting to make me feel uncomfortable. The chair I had been sitting on, which was old and wooden had started to sag, the armrests were long since coated in sweat. I got up, went to the telephone, picked it up and started to dial.

“Hey honey sorry I’m running late. Save me some dinner”

“Okay”

“Yeah, I love you too”.

Click.

I wiped off the phone and the armchair, put away the whiskey bottle, cleaned the glass, stuck it back on the cabinet, rinsed out the bowl, closed the window and put my jacket back on. The door began to rock and I closed it firmly. The only thing that was left to do was kill the dog. It was a particularly ugly dog so that wasn’t a problem.

Corey Switzer

Corey received a 2014 Pushcart Prize nomination for his short story, "The Dog."

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