The man had a dog, and the dog was sick. He did not know how the dog was sick, but he could tell the dog was sick because of how the dog was acting. The dog barked at him unprompted, and lunged at strangers on the leash. The dog scooted around the carpet in an agitated manner, with his paws wrapped around each other, until his rear end was raw, and his penis was, for some reason, erect. The dog seemed uncomfortable, and when he did not seem uncomfortable, he seemed angry, and when he did not seem angry, he was asleep.
The man typed many different combinations of words into search engines on the internet, and read many articles. He talked to dog owners and non-dog owners alike about the dog—about what he thought was wrong with the dog, and about what they thought was wrong with the dog too. The man consulted a veterinarian, and gave the dog medication. He read more articles. He read the first half of a book. The man tried home remedies for things he’d diagnosed the dog with on his own, and he talked to more people, and the same people again.
One day, while pouring olive oil on the dog’s food to prevent the dog’s skin from getting dry—something he’d read to do online—the man felt a pain in his stomach. He watched the dog eat greedily, and felt angry that the dog did not seem better. In some ways, and on some days, the dog did seem better, but on other days, he did not, and the man felt very frustrated. The man’s ex-wife called and the man answered the phone, irritated.
“What?” the man said, as a greeting.
The man’s ex-wife spoke, and the man spoke. The man’s ex-wife asked him why he was being so mean, and the man said that the dog had been sick and acting strangely.
Weeks passed, and the man woke up sweating. He was pale and his stomach made noises. His fingernails felt brittle. The dog, sensing something was wrong, jumped out of bed, where he and the man slept together, and ran toward the door. “Stupid dog,” the man said, in the fetal position, rocking back and forth. His mind raced with the dog’s problems, his solutions to them. He fell to the floor, shaking and sweating and crying, pointing his finger at the dog, wagging it aggressively. “You are always barking! You are horrible! There is something wrong inside of you that I cannot seem to fix!” The man continued. “If only you would listen to me. If only you would do as I say, you’d be better,” the man said, shivering. “You are sick! You are sick!” The man tried to yell, but it came out as a whisper.
The dog, confused, sat, then lay down, then sat, then lifted one paw off the ground, as though to offer the man a handshake. The man, who’d begun to disappear, reached out like he was going to accept the handshake, or pet the dog. Then, with what strength he could muster, the man grinned an evil grin and slapped the dog with his left hand. The man had never hit the dog before, but he was so weak now that when he struck the dog, the dog could not feel it—it was as though nothing had happened—and the man’s hand disappeared. “Change,” the man said. “Change.” But the dog did not change.
Jordan Castro is the editor of New York Tyrant Magazine, and the author of two poetry books. For links to more writing, visit http://www.jordancastro.com.