The original first chapter of my novel, Upchuck. Currently being rewritten.
| Kill or be killed.
Next door, Duffy has a dog that sounds like a fart when it barks. It's one of those dogs that's had its vocal chords chopped in two because neighbors - not me - complain about the high pitched squeaking. Now instead of squeaks, we get farts.
Sloppy, painful sounding butt whispers.
Coming from a dog's chopped up throat.
I can't sleep when the fart-barks start. I sleep through the night otherwise. But when the fart-barks start, I lay in bed and stare at my Garfield clock, with his eyes ticking back and forth and his tail pendulum swinging side to side, and I hope someone hits that dog with their car.
They wouldn't have to be going fast. Residential area means 25 mph. That'd be enough. Enough to leave a pancaked carcass on the side of the road. Or maybe right out there in the middle, an open target for every car that comes down the road.
There are two types of people when it comes to road kill.
First, there is the type that sees a dead thing in the road and swerves to avoid it. They may do this out of respect for the dead, they may do this out of fear for their car, or they may do this just because they don't want dead thing on their tires. Whatever their logic, they swerve. They go out of their way to avoid that spec of a glimpse into the dark side of the circle of life lying there in the middle of the asphalt.
I'm not that type.
I'm the second type.
I'm the type that sees a dead thing in the road and I make sure I hit it. I don't mind the awkward bump that jolts me in my seat or the fear of damage to my car. I don't get a kick out of spreading guts and fur or feathers around the road. There are some in this type that do. But maybe I'm set apart from even them.
Maybe I'm just different.
I hit the dead thing because I want to make sure it's dead. You'd think a dead thing in the road with its intestines decorating the pavement like cake frosting would actually be dead. But death isn't always instantaneous. Sometimes death is cruel and it decides it's your time.
Give or take a few minutes. A few hours. A few days.
Sometimes that dead thing in the road is alive for a few days and if it could talk, it would be begging for death. It would want the suffering to stop.
That's why I make sure to hit it. Just in case it's not really dead - even when it should be.
Duffy's dog should be a dead thing.
I watch Garfield pull shifty eyes, ticking away with the seconds.
It would be hypnotizing, lulling, maybe even enough to put me to sleep, if it weren't for the fart-barks from next door. What is it even barking at? Maybe it thinks it can get its voice back if it keeps trying. Sounds like a kids book. The Little Fart-Bark That Could. Wonder if it would sell.
The only reason Duffy has that dog is so there is something there to watch the house when he's away on "business" trips. If I were his wife, I'd be offended that he trusts a dog over me to watch the house. But if I were Duffy, I wouldn't trust that bitch either.
She's having an affair with a kid half her age named Ritchie.
I know this because the president of the neighborhood book club told me when I was helping her remove a stump from her yard. They call it a book club, but I doubt any of them have read a book in months. She offered me lemonade, cookies, and gossip. Gossip is their book of the week, all week, every week.
I bet they talk about that dog.
Maybe I should join the book club. It might be therapeutic.
The pendulum tail swings back and forth, back and forth and it becomes clear the fart-barks won't be stopping soon. In four hours, I need to be at work. In three hours is when I am supposed to wake up.
This dog is killing me.
I work in telesales. It's a company called Quinton Wholesale Pro.
We sell things nobody wants, but everybody needs. They just don't know it. Our best selling product is a mobile shed. 26 gauge steel, 350 cubic feet, 7 feet tall, 3/16 diamond plate flooring.
Everyone needs a little extra storage, I tell people over the phone.
Look around your house and you tell me there's not something you'd like to put away for later use.
Why waste money on storage facilities that charge a monthly rent?
Buy your own portable shed at one low cost and it's yours to keep!
It goes where you go.
Blah to the blah.
Only we have to stay happy and friendly on the phone. We are the face of the company, they say. We should lead by example, they say. We should know our product inside and out, they say. We're also the only people who buy the sheds. I have three of them in my back yard. They were discounted.
Garfield gives me the shifty eye and the dog fart-barks and I can't sleep. I go to the kitchen to get a glass of water because I will not be going back to sleep soon.
My house is old. It was a foreclosure that said, "make it your own" and in real estate terms, that translates to, "this house is shit." Only I don't talk real estate and I bought the house before the inspection and now it's mine.
The stairs creak like in the scary movies. The basement is rotted and moldy. The peeling wallpaper is from the sixties. I can tell because the colors remind me of the circus and the smell of marijuana has settled into the walls. Old house. Hippie house. Good backyard - with three sheds.
The water tastes like pennies and there's a wallet on the counter that isn't mine. Flipping it open, it belongs to a woman named Gina Brown. Bubbly smile, corn husk hair, pudgy because she takes medication for depression and the pills make her eat more than normal. But at least she's not trying to slit her wrists anymore.
Thirty dollars, two credit cards, a gas card, a student ID, and some coupons for half off toiler paper are the only things inside the wallet. I forgot it was here on the counter. I'll have to take care of it in the morning.
Morning is coming soon.
Three hours, forty five minutes until I have to be at work. Two hours and forty five minutes until I have to wake up.
That dog is killing me.
The water tastes like tin foil and I head outside to one of my sheds. Two deadbolts and a flip lock keep out intruders. Not that anyone would steal from me. This is a good neighborhood, even if the houses are old.
Mostly families and retirees. Duffy's wife is having an affair and up the street, the Herrington's son caught a DUI on his record, but it's mostly a good neighborhood.
People are flawed.
We should forgive them their faults.
Inside my middle shed, I've installed a light on the ceiling. I don't turn it on. I know this shed, inside and out. There are tools here. Gardening, woodworking, metal cutting - a man's shed. I would grunt like a caveman, but I don't want to scare Duffy's dog. The fart-barks are starting to slow down.
It's used to me. I give it sausage sometimes. I feel sorry for the chopped up dog. No dog should have its voice taken away. No matter how squeaky it gets.
I don my work gloves. The dog comes to the fence because it's used to me. Duffy and his wife are asleep in their bed. The neighborhood is dark and quiet, except for this dog. Except for the fart-barks.
There are two ways I can justify strangling Duffy's dog by catching its collar on the fence. There are two ways I can justify watching it squirm until it stills.
The first way is that it is road kill. The minute a dick vet with a knife cut up its vocal chords, this dog became road kill. Hit by a car called human vanity. I aim my tires at road kill. I take away its suffering by finishing what death had started.
It's out of compassion that I strangle Duffy's dog. That is the first way.
The second way to justify this, is that in three and a half hours, I need to be at work. In two and a half hours, I need to wake up. I need to be happy and friendly and not tired. If I'm tired, I am fired. If I am fired, I am dead.
Kill or be killed.
Duffy's dog needed to be killed because it was road kill still squirming on the street.
There is a lot of road kill in this world.
I return my work gloves to the shed in the middle and lock it behind me and inside the house there is a wallet on the counter that isn't mine. It belongs to Gina Brown.
Gina Brown is road kill.