by Yeji Lee
The view of the streets in New York City is definitely a great one. Waiting for Jen is the hardest part because she’s working at the bank full-time now. I exhale a sigh – she’s never home. A growl escapes my stomach. It must be past 6:00. I wait patiently but on the intersection down below I can see smoke arousing from a sausage roll vendor. Actually, I can almost smell it. I’ve been home all day; I should reward myself a treat. I can’t help myself and I run out.
I make sure to watch out at every approaching curb. The sidewalks are dark with flattened gum pieces and every corner reeks with garbage overflowing from its’ cans. I cannot slip into a puddle of juiced down debris; Jen will freak if she knew I was out alone.
I still haven’t gotten used to the sounds of the cars rushing past me. Or even how they look. At least they’re hysterical to stare at.
Oh! Danny, a friend passes by and I smirk coolly. But instead of returning the smirk, he seems confused. “What are you doing out here alone?”
“Grabbing a snack” I say nonchalantly. Actually though, my stomach is writhing, screaming for nourishment.
“Danny!” a lady calls, tugging at him.
“See you later” he says and resumes back to her. A man in a white apron stands behind the cart with a portable stove dutifully cooking.
“Sir, I would like a sausage roll” I say. He must not have heard me because he smiles, and resumes. “Uhm sir?”
“Okay, fine, here you go” he says. I should be offended he only gives me half, but I should get going anyways. Savoring the goodness, I make my way back home.
“Mommy, look” I hear as a hand pats my back. Swiftly I turn around to see a child smiling and drooling with wonder.
“What do you want? Me to play with you or something?” I ask, confused at the child’s gesture. Walking proves to be distracting so I start to jog a light pace. Among the passerby, a group of businessmen and women direct my attention. They stand in front of a large building about twice the size of our apartment. Right there I see Jen with my sense of smell. She’s inside the building. I can spot her from anywhere. “What…” my gasp trails off. A wave of jealously crash over me when I see Jen cradled under an arm of another man. They both sit on one of the couches laid out all over the room. Is this why Jen always told me to stay home? Is it really dangerous outside, or is it that she has things to hide outside? He whispers into her ear and she giggles. He moves his face, planting a kiss on her forehead. Oh. No.
“You better get off your back and leave!” I shout furiously. They both look shocked when they turn to see me.
“Woah there, calm down”, he tries to soothe. Jen runs towards me in disbelief.
“What are you doing all the way out here?” she giggles and smiles warmly, embracing me into her arms. “His name is Taffy, isn’t he the cutest?” she squeals and hugs me tighter, sticking her face into mine, “Awh, I missed you too, Who’s a good boy?”
by Josh Rank
People got mad at Jason when he compared his dog to their kids. He never understood what they meant when they said their love for their child was different. Sure, a child is born from you, but you adopt a dog. You choose it. Maybe you want a son that plays hockey and likes to go fast but you end up with a daughter that likes novelty soaps and spends her time posting under aliases on message boards. However, you can walk through a room of dogs and choose the best fit. After that, you teach the dog how to become your best friend and if it’s a good dog, it complies. Kids grow up to be teenagers that invariably tell you to piss off. He couldn’t see how they could love their kid more than he loved his dog.
And that’s why he fell into a deep depression the day Sandwich went missing.
Meatball Sandwich was three or four years old with short hair, black and white. She spent her days in the backyard. That’s why they moved. Jason felt bad about keeping Sandwich in his apartment all day so he upgraded. There was a large backyard with a fence around it and Jason could go to work at the insurance company and leave Sandwich home. If anything popped its head inside the fence, Sandwich would chase it like she was on the greyhound track.
One day, Jason came home and Meatball Sandwich was nowhere to be found. There must have been one son-of-a-bitch squirrel that riled her up and convinced her to launch herself over the fence, Jason figured. Being new to the neighborhood, the dog wouldn’t know her way back home. He called out the dog’s name until his throat was sore.
He immediately fell into a great depression. He printed out pictures from his computer with the dog’s name and his phone number. He wrote LOST in 120 point font at the top and spackled the pages with moist dots from his tears. He printed out forty pages and posted them every fifty feet or so around his neighborhood until the stack of sheets was gone. After that, he waited. There was always the chance Sandwich would come back and he waited at the front window every night hoping he would hear the click of the dog’s toes coming up the driveway. But he didn’t.
Four months passed.
Jason thought about getting a new dog, but he couldn’t bring himself to give up on Sandwich. He put in three years with that dog. Countless hours were spent training her to whack the door stopper when she wanted to go out, how to slap her water dish when it was empty, and when to shut the hell up. Sandwich was attentive, smart, and loyal. Jason couldn’t simply run down to the store and pick up a new best friend on his way home from work.
His days were spent in the shell of his home. He called into work a few times each month when the pain became too much. He’d look through old pictures and ignore phone calls from his friends. Jason’s family was worried that he had gotten into hard drugs. He became emaciated and pale. He didn’t care about gingivitis.
One day at dusk, he decided to walk to the grocery store to get some matches. He ordered a bunch of candles that he found on the internet from some lady in Ohio. The candles were supposed to project your aura and he thought it might help Sandwich find his way back home. He still hadn’t given up hope. He vowed never to do so.
He rounded the corner after walking two blocks from his house and saw a woman walking a mid-sized dog on a leash. The dog was walking one foot to the right of the woman, exactly how he had taught Sandwich. Jason’s heart rate sped up. His blood pressure spiked and his mouth went dry. He glanced to his right and saw one of his faded posters barely clinging to a light post. Somebody had pasted a flyer for a concert over half of it but he could see the top half of Sandwich’s face peaking out from behind. He looked back to the woman with the dog slowly approaching him.
“Sandwich?” he called out.
“No thanks. I’m gonna get sushi later!” replied the woman.
But Jason wasn’t paying attention to her. He was watching the dog at her side as it started to whimper.
“Bitsy! Bitsy settle down!” said the woman. She was ten feet away from Jason and closing in.
Jason fell to his knees and started crying. The woman pulled back on the leash as the dog rushed towards him.
“Bitsy! Leave the nice man alone.”
“This…this is my dog,” Jason said. He was on the ground supporting his weight on his hands as he kneeled in front of her. Tears of joy ran down his face and he didn’t bother wiping his nose.
“No,” she said, drawing out the vowel like a passing car horn. “She’s on my leash, isn’t she?”
“That doesn’t matter.” Jason stood up. “This is my dog. This is Meatball Sandwich and I taught her how to dance. Watch.” He turned to the dog. “Dance, Sandwich. C’mon girl.” He twirled a finger in front of her. “It’s party time, let’s go.”
The dog stood on her hind legs and spun in a circle. Jason clapped and cried freely. “See? Do you see? She likes to party.” He doubled over and put his hands on his knees. He still hadn’t touched the dog because the woman pulled it back behind her. “Dear god she still likes to party.”
“Actually, sir.” She put a lot of stank on the “sir” as if she didn’t mean to be polite at all. “Lots of dogs like to, well, they like to party. Okay? That doesn’t make my dog yours.”
“You don’t get it.” He turned towards the light post and pointed at the poster he taped there four months earlier. “This is her.” He pointed to the dog. “I put this here.” He pointed to himself.
“Just because you posted a picture of my dog doesn’t make it yours.”
“No. But the records at the Humane Society do. By the way,” he crossed his arms, “where did you get your dog?”
The woman paused and looked at the dog. “I got her from stick-it-up-your-ass. Whaddya think about that?”
Jason opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out. He only succeeded in making frustrated grunts until he finally gave up on finding words. He swiped at the leash but missed.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m taking the Sandwich home with me.”
“Get your own sandwich,” she said.
He swiped at the leash again and took a step towards her. “Hand the dog over.”
Jason lunged at her. He grabbed the leash from her hand but immediately dropped it when the boot hit him in the side of the head. He fell to the ground and looked above him. The woman was standing in a full martial arts stance. She bent over to grab the leash off the sidewalk. Meatball Sandwich had more important matters and was sniffing something in the grass to the right. She only focused on a seemingly meaningless spot for one reason.
He tried to get up but she planted another foot in his chest, taking the breath out of him.
“You want some more?” she asked. “Why don’t you just get some spaghetti or something? Why do you need to put the meatballs in a sandwich? It’s just so messy.”
“Please, please shut up.” He couldn’t bring himself to hit a woman. Beyond that, he wasn’t sure if he could hit her even if he tried. Even if she were blindfolded. Even if he had an extra arm and a couple baseball bats.
To the right, Sandwich did what dogs do and looked towards Jason. Fully humped up, the dog stared directly into Jason’s eyes.
He felt time stop. There was no woman on the sidewalk. There was no sun setting at the end of the street behind the trees. There was no Sandwich and there was no Jason. There was only this moment existing between two emotional entities in a formless world inhabited by greedless love. Jason felt himself and the dog meld together and knew that even if the universe contracted back into itself and demolished all existing life, he and the dog would remain entwined. Sound disappeared. Thoughts came to him all at once in flashes. There was no reason. Only understanding.
And then the colors from the sunset and sound of the woman breathing and the scent of the defecation rushed back to him and he lunged, not towards the woman but away from her. Before she could deliver another kick, he stretched his body like a snake jumping to eat a bird and grabbed, full-fisted, the fresh pile of feces sitting on the grass. In one continuous motion he swung his arm back toward the sidewalk and released the payload, delivering it directly into her mouth.
She tried to scream but the effort caused the feces to become lodged deeper within her. She instinctively moved her hands toward her mouth and dropped the leash. Jason jumped to his feet.
“C’mon Sandwich! Let’s get the heck outta here!”
He started running down the sidewalk, leaving the leash to flap in the wind behind the dog as it followed. He didn’t need to lead the dog. It knew to follow him. And even if she wasn’t able to find her way home on her own, Jason knew she would follow him back to his house and he could know the sweet touch of happiness once again.