There was a dog on the road. A mangy thing with grey fur falling out in tufts showing its wrecked body. I saw him one night limping up the road as I smoked my cigarette and did nothing. I watched it limp towards the side of the road snout burrowing deep into the dewy grass looking for anything to eat. He found the mouse whose body I had thrown there earlier in the day. I didn’t kill the mouse. Something else did. The mangy thing found the mouse and eyed it suspiciously for a moment, natural suspicion overriding starvation for an instant, and then ate the mouse. The mangy thing limped away just as I finished my cigarette and went inside.
Inside my place there wasn’t much for me to do aside from waiting for the next acceptable time to have a cigarette. I made a pot of coffee that I really didn’t want and drank it. I stared at a spider crawling up along a wall. Then later I stared at the kitchen faucet and imagined that it was leaking. I imagined the yellow sink filling up, the tiles whose color was indistinguishable from the cake of dirt covering it, finally getting a wash as the water spilled over onto the floor. Then hours or days or years later the water filling up the rest of my place until I was engulfed in it all.
I got up out of my daze cause my hands told me that I was cold and I turned on the stove to place them over the fire. I held them there until I heard my hairs singe and I smelt the burnt hair mixing in with whatever else I smelled like. Until my hands told me that I was warm again. Then I laid on my bed after taking off my boots. Then I turned my body to one side then the other before putting my boots again on to go out and have a cigarette. I smoked looking at out nothing until the cigarette let me know it was done by burning my thumb and finger.
The next day passed and I couldn’t think of anything that happened, though not because nothing happened. That night I imagined living a different sort of life but I couldn’t imagine anything other than the life I had.
I stepped out for a cigarette and saw that the mangy thing had come back reminding me of his existence. I watched him go to the same spot he had found the old mouse and watched his hope die as he realized he wasn’t going to eat. I went back inside, forgot I had a cigarette in my hand and quickly stepped back outside to take one last drag and put it out, then went inside to my fridge looking for the food I had gotten but never ate. I walked up to the mangy thing whose tail sprang up and whose fur stood up on end. Even now the thing was ready to spring into action should he feel threatened. Perhaps had he been healthier he would have, but smelling the food swallowed a bit of his caution; shivering from what I thought to be rage and fear and hunger. I walked around to the mouse’s place and opened the container and left it there for him. He regarded me from afar throughout my actions and only neared the food as I retreated, never turning his back to me. On my apartment landing lighting another cigarette I saw the dog regard the food for a moment, as he did with the mouse, then ate slowly. The dog spun around in a circle. Once. Twice. Then again. Then laid down with his snout touching his tail and his back away towards the road. I watched him as he slept.
I had fallen asleep on the stoop with an overflowing ashtray next to me and woke with a headache and drenched in a morning shower. I noticed that the dog was not there anymore. I went inside and decided to shower, shave, drink coffee even felt tempted to eat something until I realize that I hadn’t anymore food than the dog did. I stepped out to walk along the road.
There wasn’t much else around this part of town aside from the one building in whose basement I inhabited. The road was long and unkempt with trash building up along the side as some sort of accidental guardrail. The end of the road dropped off to a plateau that sat behind an abandoned factory on the other side of town. Nothing was tenacious enough to survive here as even grass had even away to dirt and when it rained the mud sucked anything living into it. That’s where I found the mangy thing. His ears twitched showing me he was alive as I neared. I laid alongside him, felt myself sucked in the mud, but the dog somehow laid on top of it. The dog’s eye turned to me and looked at me with something akin to pity. I laid my hand confidently on his ribs and felt his ragged breathing and slowing heart and so desperately wanted to be like him. He seemed to be doing alright with everything, and I thought there was a lot I could learn from him if only he stayed around for a little while longer.
I laid there watching the cloudless sky wishing there was something else to watch. I felt the mud seep into my boots and pockets destroying my cigarettes, but I didn’t feel the need to smoke anymore. I turned my head and stared at the dog who was staring at me unblinkingly cause he couldn’t blink anymore. An hour later the mud had dried and caked my body into the ground but I didn’t noticed much of a difference or that I’d changed at all. I didn’t want to move my head if I could and so I stared at the dog happy to be looking at something other than the sky. Happy to be looking at something beautiful. Happy to see some sort of beginning.
Image – Pixabay.com