The man feels fingered into a wet knot by his own municipal culture. The Beagle and the Labrador follow a carrot. Their leash, disappeared inside his jacket, is cutting him. Sleeves down over chapped skin, he shucks a sweater from each dog’s wagging ass. They wobble themselves stood. Only crumbs for treats remain. Fingers pressed into the pain in his temple, fishing for relief, he can’t decide how to divide the dregs between them. It is the kind of suburb often stunned silent by digestible lives. A neon witch horizon traverses the garage on an infinite loop.
The dogs yip Pig Latin all night. The man washes, lights off, avoiding eye contact with the mirror. In bed, he picks his nose and wipes the waxy ball against the scar tissue of others. Wind rips leaves from the branches, as if loosening their way through layers of rabbit cadaver, crackling sticky beneath fur. Yellow light, crowded on his face, breathes in and out. He reaches up, into the darkness, and taps the machine awake, moving through YouTube clips and webpages that exist only for themselves. Then the gelatin of sleep.
Lack of breakfast stabs his stomach more than pills. Halfway to starvation, the dogs gnaw flea-ridden hides. They no longer have enough energy to run in their dreams. Rubber boots laced, whispering snouts shoved indoors, he stomps the bent step, cutting edge shot into soil, and rediscovers a cheesecloth after three shovelfuls of earth. Every piece of the sack is accounted for, seasons later, seams split on all sides, brown and bloated.
The Bone Home
337 Madrugada Dr
Hell, MI 48169
He awaits a payment, refreshing the page. His wrists ache. His teeth feel rotted to the gum. Soon he’ll be forced to drink synovial fluid. Flies pick open a scab on the Labrador’s unflinching head. Feelers pinch vanquishing skin. Soon there won’t be an inch of dog visible. A cracked latticework has bloomed fungal in the cobwebs of its bowl. The man limps back outside, collar in one hand, shotgun in the other, the black mass dragged and whining. The flies resettle on their meal at the noise. The man adds a bit of burying room to the hole.
Palms together above the heat of the monitor, he mumbles an exclamation when a payment arrives. Included is a short message from the dealer: Hard to keep domestic cat bones in stock. We appreciate doing business. Even as money returns to the household and the pantry shelf begins to sag from the weight of white rice and biscuits, the Beagle ignores him, missing its friends. An afternoon walk is their only shared experience. The man strokes his computer, whispering, “kitty cat, kitty cat, where have you gone.” The Beagle eats because it enjoys the sensation of its long tongue following into its stomach. Axial skeleton grinding through malnutrition, it starts sneaking into the cabinet when the man sleeps. After a month, they’re both scratching their fleas again. The Beagle muzzles open National Geographic magazines, making sure that pages filled with starfish, short-tailed crickets, rat snakes, and other self-cannibalizing creatures, catch the morning light.
The man is busy trying to figure out what roadkill is most lucrative, and how many domestic dog bones are stocked but not sold. He owns one more shotgun shell. But he gets another idea. Working through the night, sterilizing equipment, he fashions a contraption with an axe, loads of string, and a large weight. Lidocaine particles tickle the air, but it’s not enough. Biting a rolled-up tee-shirt, the man screams, shaking the foundation of the house. The first drop of the blade runs halfway guillotined. The inside of the man’s wrist looks like marmalade. The Beagle crosses its paws, head atop them, exhaling deeply.