Believers Never Really Want to Know

To act could kill the promise and the promise was sweet enough to cling to because it was alive, revived and back from a long vacation.  He coughed to see if the shadow would flee.  Her head snapped to the side to put both ears on the sound.  The dog turned his head, looked at him, and asked, what are you doing?

The man speaks.  “If you’re going to steal it then just ask for the keys, I don’t want the ignition screwed up any more that it already is.”  Dog likes hearing the man’s voice and his tail wags reflexively.  The shadow breathes a startled breath, flexing on the door.  For a pregnant minute neither moves or speaks.  It’s s a dream to both and breaking the moment could break it and wake the nightmare.  Tug growls again, clicking like a ratchet. The man squeezes him and again he stops.  Her shadow climbs the door as Karrera steps into view blue and ghostly, the grey streaks in her hair neon and glowing.

“Hello.”  Says the man.

“Hello.” Say Karrera.

Wag, wag, wag, says Tug’s tail.

“This place is too cheap for chairs?”  says Karrera.

“Too cheap for working locks too.”  he says.  “Sit anywhere.  Should be clean…ish.”  He hopes for the edge of the bed.  Putting her back against the door Karrera slides down into a squat that turns into crossed legs on the floor.

“Yoga?” he asks, “Around here?”

“Find somewhere it isn’t”, she replies.

“True.”

Still wagging his tail Tug starts to crawl on his belly to the foot of the bed.  Rubbing his belly on the blanket he lets his back legs drag behind him because it feels good.  In the reflected moonlight his black spot looks like a hole in his side.  Stretched fully out he works himself to the end of the bed and drops his head down between his paws.  “Wow,” says Karrera, “somebody’s working it hard.”

The man rises up on an elbow to look at Tug.  “He’s a smart dog.  Really smart. I don’t know how he wound up here.” But, then again neither did he.  Life was the river and he had thrown himself in to be swept along, rolled, stranded in the eddy and now at least the dog drifts along with him.  The silence is awkward and safe.  You can’t say the wrong thing is you don’t say anything and they both didn’t want to take the wrong step.  Trapped in the minefield they simply waited.  Tug’s tail slows, stops but stays pointed at the ceiling as if to say to the man, “This is an asshole.  You’re being one too.”

The air isn’t pregnant, the scene is not waiting for crescendo, the thing is there and quiet; not poised or prepared but real and neither dares to point at it for fear it will either materialize or disappear.  It is the fear of ghosts, that they might be real or they might not.  Believers never really want to know.

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Not so Fast, Said the Dog

You probably need a drink, says the man gently setting him down and going into the bathroom.  Coming out with an awkwardly narrow glass full of the water he asks, wash it down pal; and still holding it for stability offers water.  No tadpoles or mosquito larvae.  No oil or scum.  Just water.  Just water.  Water water water.  Too fast but who cares?  The man can barely keep the glass from getting knocked over.  More, asks the man?  Sitting down patiently the dog says, yes please.  Looking down the man sees the dog is getting a little dog woody.  Put that chapstick back in the tube, he says and reaches into the bathroom.  The water flows violently for a second and the glass is back on the floor before the bubbles can all rise to the top.

He lets the dog drink its fill; not with pity but brotherhood.

Thanks, says the dog as it sits down.

You need to pee now don’t you?  The man slides open the patio door and the dog prances out onto the back lawn of the motel and searches from tree to bush for the right place.  Finding a small maple that smells right the dog hitches up a leg and lets it go.  Relief he didn’t know he needed.  Habit forces him to scratch the earth and flick tiny bits of dirt, leaves and grass.  Teach that tree a lesson says the man from the patio.  He clicks his tongue twice, the way you’d talk to a horse.  Coming, says the dog and dropping his head he kicks it down a gear and runs hard to the man.

Smart boy.  Good dog.  It going to piss you off I take a picture?  The man asks.

No, says the dog, sitting.  Just don’t steal my soul–I’m still using it.  The man scratches and folds the dog’s ears.  Wag, wag, wagging says his tail.  It’s embarrassing sometimes. It just happens.  He can’t control it.  Neither can the man.  He starts to baby-talk and work the dog’s skull over; scratching, rubbing, massaging.  Stopping he brings his hand to his nose.  The dog knows what the man smells, the individual scents bear a map of where and what, a nasal history of the last few months.

Woof, says the man. You need a bath.  Not so fast, said the dog.

Dammit and Cool at the Same Time

The door had slowly swung open slow, like it had when he pushed it and snuck in.  Jumping off the bed he crept over to see if it was the man.  It wasn’t.  Back on the bed he is curled on the pillow.  It smells good.  Like hair and sweat and oil.  Like people.  And soap.  Soft, he sank down into it and, divot-ed in he liked how it kept him warm.  The open door let in smells and sounds he has heard before.  Road, people, birds, planes, leaves…outside sounds.  Grass, cars, smoke, fresh cut wood, oil, diesel…outside smells.  Under the bed he had caught whiffs of food, mold and blood.  If the man doesn’t come back soon maybe he’d go out and pee on something.  A soft breeze pushed the door and it flexes open before gently swinging back; a wind-driven sigh.

His ears perk as he hears the sound of the motorcycle coming closer.  The bike coughs a backfire and his head comes off the pillow and he uncurls to sit sphinx-like on tense haunches.  Loose gravel crunches as it pulls up to the door.  A hard rev and then it shuts down.  A metal creak as the kickstand stretches it’s return spring and a thump as it hits the stop.  Boots. The right sound for the man.  His tag wags.  He doesn’t want it to but it just does…like when he’d piddle with excitement as a puppy.  The people go angry but it just happened.

Outside the door the man stops.   The dog can hear him putting keys in his pocket.  Waiting now.  The man is right there.  He smells right there now too.  A meat.  The man smell, the meat smell.  The wag, wag, wag smells.

You in here? Says the man.

Right here, says the dog, jumping off the bed and turning the corner around the door.  Right here.  Sitting. Wagging.

The man’s face says, dammit and cool at the same time.  A hamburger says, I’m in the bag.  His tail says, wagging like I really mean it.  Mouth watering he sits.  Looking good.  Steady and ready.

Wow, says the man.  What a mooch.  Reaching into the bag he retrieves a cooked hamburger in a wax wrapper.

No bun?  No bun!  The dog fidgets.  No bun.  All meat.  Best day ever.

Karrera with the gray hair since high school had looked at him like he was nuts when he ordered a hamburger “hold everything but the patty”.  She was cute when she was confused, wrinkled her nose like something smelled odd.  It was the hot engine look riders got when they smelled oil or coolant or hot electrics.  As metaphor a fire under your ass was great, but as a reality it was frightening.  Nobody wants that much heat that close to their gonads.

Hello?  Says the dog.  Whimper.  He doesn’t want to whimper but this was dammit and cool at the same time.  Drop the meat already!

Stepping fully into the room the man tears off a small piece of ground beef with his right hand.  He lowers the patty and holds out the chunk of meat.  This what you want, he asks and holds the small piece too high to reach.

Dummy, says the dog.  Jumping up he grabs a hold of the whole patty out of the man’s other hand.

Shit! Says the man.  He manages to hold on to half the patty.

I win, says the dog disappearing under the bed.  Now under the bed smells like hamburger, mold and blood.  The hamburger is juicy and after he finishes gulping it down he licks his paws a moment to get every drop of grease.

The dog stays under the bed.  You there? Asks the man after a moment.  Licking his chops the dog sticks just his head out from under the bed.

Am I in trouble? Asks the dog.

No, says the man as he squats and offers another chunk of burger.  Careful and slow the dog takes the meat.  Two gnashes of his molars and the meat is gone. Gulp.

The man asks, when was the last time you ate?  Chin on the ground and straining not to grab at the remaining hamburger the dog softly paws at the ground, crawling forward.  The man drops all the way down to his knees and slides back to give the dog room to get out from under the bed.

Right here buddy, he’s patting his thighs.

I’m in, answers the dog, jumping up.

Thinking dammit and cool at the same time he pets and loves on the dog feeding him the rest of the patty.

Been There. Done That.

Trepidation was in her as she shot an eye check to the old men.  They were worn. Time has slicked their surfaces and hidden their edges and corners.  You couldn’t get purchase on them–they were no longer individuals but things–all the special about them had been sanded off and they were just angry, opinionated old men now.  Different once, they must have been different once but no longer because they had embraced the cliche’ and burrowed into the accepting safety of prejudice and broken hearts.

Was there a worse death?  Occasionally they gently leer at her.  She knows this. No touching, they know this too.  Once a quintet they are now a quartet because Billy the Knife had heard about number 5.  Words collided in the parking lot.  Billy said everything without saying anything.  Tone, volume, and word choice; so perfect and menacing and so innocent, The Knife was an artist with food and with words.  Been there, done that, he had said to her.  Won’t let anyone get away with that shit.  No one, he said with a true hardness in his eyes.  Somewhere back there someone had failed him.  She could tell.  The Knife was sharp and ready.  Been there.  Done that.

The Dreamed Dream

Here is the dream he dreamed the night before the dog:

blood was in his mouth

feeling like warm milk

it did not choke him

he spat it out

but it was replaced too fast and he swallowed it

maybe his brain is leaking

pouring down his throat

not a torrent

not enough to drown

like wine gently poured down his throat

corpuscles tickled

red and white

his uvula dripped plasma

good God how much

blood can one head hold?

In his gut

clotting, filling, bloating

but he can’t force vomit

bad thanksgiving memories

swirl in his head

mom made candied yams

yam burlee

a burnt wasteland

of morning glory

not nightshade

in his gut

he wanted to throw it up

to expel

spew

regurgitate

but his body said,

no

his belly button

popped out

like a pregnant lady

but he had

no contraction, no expulsion

no desire

just the constant flow

Then he woke up.