Cincinnati, Ohio, USA: Man & Dog
At first Dog was happy. Usually during the week, Man was gone for hours, leaving in the morning and returning just in time for dinner. Sometimes he was a little late. Now, Man was home. The first couple days, Dog liked that Man was there all the time. Now Dog got more walks, and could play with Man all day. Man would even serve dinner at the right time.
But now, Dog wasn’t so sure. Man was kind of messing with his flow. He took up too much space on the couch. Man kept spraying the surfaces with bad smelling chemicals and vacuumed every day. He would yell at Dog when he protected the apartment, even though Dog had been doing that for months, and how many times had a bad guy got in? Zero.
Man did drop snacks every once in a while. Dog liked that. He even got a whole chunk of cheese, once.
Dog sat looking out the window. Man sat in his chair, reading. Man looked up and asked Dog, “Are you missing your friends?”
Dog knew it wouldn’t matter if he answered. Man had a joke all planned out. Dog didn’t turn around.
“You don’t even have friends,” Man said. “You’re a dog.” He laughed.
Dog didn’t think it was that funny. He wasn’t sure he was a dog. Plus, dogs can have friends, he thought. He stared out the window.
Man and Dog took longer walks than usual. They even went to the tennis courts, which Dog liked. Man would throw one of Dog’s balls against the wall, and Dog would leap after it, launching himself into the air. Man would throw two or three too fast for Dog, but then there’d be an easy one, and Dog would snatch it out of the air and race around the courts until Man would whistle.
Dog used to like that whistle. Sometimes it meant treats. More recently, it just meant that Man wanted to hook the leash to Dog’s collar, so Dog could lead him home. Dog would lead them into the park, through the flowers, and past the spot where Dog had caught a squirrel that one time.
Later that night, Man talked to a rectangle that sounded almost like one of Dog’s friends (but who hadn’t been over lately), and the rectangle asked what Dog’s favorite flower was. Man looked at Dog, and then told the rectangle, “Crocuses, because they’re purple.” Man laughed and laughed. “You’re colorblind,” Man chortled to Dog. “You can’t like purple.”
Dog sighed. He did like crocuses. Not because they’re purple, but because they are delicate.
“Hey!” Man woke up Dog with a shout. “You’re a dog.”
Dog closed his eyes. He’s not a dog, he’s an intellectual. At least that’s what Dog argued in his dissertation.
Dog noticed that Man was different. He was slower and wanted to play less. Man seemed to want to take more naps now. He spent a lot of time on his rectangle, talking to muted voices.
Dog spends most of his time on the balcony. There are fewer people to look at, and everyone seemed to be in a hurry. The neighbors, the birds, were still around. They flew into the hole in the roof above Dog’s balcony. Dog would watch them in safely, and then look back to the road below. He thinks he sees a tater tot.
Man cleaned out a closet that he’d ignored for a month, and found a bag of old tennis balls. Dog sat patiently, waiting for the balls to be released so he could play. But Man only pulled out two, and placed them on the carpet. Dog was perturbed, but not so much that he wouldn’t play with those two. He asked Man why he couldn’t have all of them, but Man ignored him and put the balls in another closet. Dog sighed.
Dog spent the afternoon testing the new balls. He decided he liked the old one better. He liked the balls a little squishier, with a little less fuzz. He pushed the new balls under the couch. Man pulled them out again, so Dog hid them under the bookshelf, where Man doesn’t check.
Man announced this morning that he is going to write about Man and Dog. He thinks he has funny ideas, and in times like these, he wants to share them. Dog isn’t so sure about that. He doesn’t think Man is that smart, generally. And Dog thinks all of Man’s jokes have the same punchline: Man and Dog are different. Dog admits that this is probably true, but not in the way Man thinks. But, Dog will humor him.
Make room on the couch, he says.
Liam McMillin is a writer, walker, and law student in Cincinnati, kept company in each endeavor by his dog, Lonán.