AUGUST 2009

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Insane Barker
By Steven J. McDermott, Jun 12, 2009

In my defense, the neighbor’s dog Buster—part dingo, part mastiff—was a barker. A serious barker. A speaking in tongues barker. An all-night long barker. Bark bark bark bark bark. An insane barker.

* * *

Callie didn’t tell me our marriage was over until being together was no longer part of the question, which was “Maybe you should just go fuck yourself?” And which, strictly speaking, wasn’t even a question. So I felt within my right to not respond, but she was way ahead of me. “Knock yourself out,” she said, and threw me a tube of Astroglide. “You don’t realize it now, but I’m being charitable—you are long overdue for a hard dry fucking.”

* * *

Curiously, Buster didn’t bark once while I drove him ninety miles north in the car. He sat contentedly in the seat next to me with his long dingo ears pointed up, hearing the secret sounds, the hum of the world I couldn’t hear. He didn’t even bark when, talking to Callie on the cell, I told her I was taking the barker to the pound. After I hung up on her, I had to turn the phone off because the ringing was as annoying as the dingo’s bark. At the animal shelter, they thanked me for bringing in the stray, fawned over him, hoped they’d find a home for him, then told me about the three-day policy, after which he’d get the needle.

The dog collar I tossed into a patch of briars from the car window on the way back south. Mid-distance home. Kept the cell off until I parked in the garage. Nineteen missed calls from Callie. Five voice mails, which I deleted. Telling her what I’d done was a dumb mistake.

* * *

The next couple of days were rough. I’d hear from Callie that the Johnson kids were distraught over losing Buster. I’d see them out with their dad stapling flyers to the telephone poles. Callie was stomping around saying things like: “Who the fuck are you?” “We can’t live next to them after what you’ve done.” “Don’t you have a fucking conscience?” And then, with the insistence of Buster’s bark, she kept repeating “I don’t know you.”

On the third day Callie was calling the police to turn me in and I finally relented, told her where I’d taken Buster. She went and rescued him, got the hero’s welcome. That dingo barked its ass off when he saw the kids.

* * *

In my defense, I was sleep deprived and the barking was making me insane. Callie can sleep through anything. Not me. It’s typed right on that list of irreconcilable differences, in the middle of that stack of documents she expects me to sign.

Steven J. McDermott’s short fiction has appeared in journals such as Aethlon: The Journal of Sports Literature, Carve, Passages North, Red Wheelbarrow, The Rockford Review, Timbercreek Review, Westview, Scarecrow, Thieves Jargon, Word Riot, elimae, mud luscious, DOGZPLOT, SmokeLong Quarterly, Keyhole Magazine, and Night Train Magazine. He’s the author of the story collection Winter of Different Directions and the editor of the online journal Storyglossia.

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