Dog and Man
by Emmett Stinson
††††††††††† ďI believe that the Son of God became
††††††††††† †the Son of Man in such a way that one
††††††††††† †person is of two natures . . .Ē
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† --Peter Abelard, ďThe Confession of FaithĒ
Most people find water a symbol of peace or fear; I never feel better than when gazing on a still pond. Stopping at a serene, silver lakelet in the park, I viewed the unblinking eyes of the reflected stranger in front of me and only after did I realize in horror, Thatís me . . . thatís the apparition of my own face. It had been this way ever since Jesus disappeared.
Jesus was a gray mongrel bitch. I heard a rough hacking at the door, the shaggy gasp of a man with whooping cough. I opened the door to some mutt, tail erect and ears pointed, staring up at me, through me, as if she lacked that genetically preprogrammed sense of canine inferiority. Her sharp jaw, the regal snout, that silver coat cascading over rippling muscles, her taut sinewy hips. She was beautiful. I posted signs around our fair little city, with a picture of Jesus saying, Do I belong to you? If so call . . . but no one answered, so I thought, hey, itís a dog eat dog world out there . . . I named her Jesus, because she had been spurned like the Son of Man was at his birth. So I accepted Jesus into my house and my heart.
Then I returned one day to find Jesus gone, vanished like smoke diffused in air.
I made the signs again, but in reverse, saying, Have you seen me? Iím a gray mutt who answers to the name of Jesus . . . etc. I posted on telephone poles, store windows, bus stops, mailboxes, park benches . . . my neighbor, Josh Doppler, always knew how to get my hackles up. He said, You know George, youíre putting up so many of those signs youíd think that dog could read!!! I didnít laugh, but he said, That dog of yours just may have gone and gotten hit by a caróyou need to face that. He was right, Jesus may have passed to the realm of shadows, but there was a horrible demon pulling at my insides; only the motion of posting sign after sign soothed the savage force. I desired neither food nor sleep, posting until signs blurred, each page a thin withering rosary. I plastered concentric circles of signs. My neighbors thought I was mad, but I had faith. I believed I would find him.
I was pasting posters on posters. The city was a palimpsest of my search, saying Have you seen me . . . or Iím lost . . . or else Iíd pen them from Jesusí perspective saying Iím looking for my owner . . . I wrote them in the styles of famous authors, saying Out damned Spot! Out, I say! But everything changed when I discovered my plagiarist.
In a blind alley on a broken mirror was a sign scribbled in crayon or some other crude ink. Below a photocopy of my face the text said: Have you seen me? Iím a thirty-three year old Caucasian male who answers to the name of George. If found please contact Jesus R. Mutt.
The bottom half was gnawed, the ďrĒs written backwards in a kindergarten scrawl. It was a cruel joke, a parody by someone who knew the concentric circles of paper, the pictures polluting our city with Jesusí image, the rain-washed ink of Lost! running off the page into poisoned gutters. For the next week posters tailed me like an inverse-shadow; they followed by staying one step ahead. If I stopped at a barbershop on Main Street, my Xeroxed face stared back with a shit-eating grin. One particularly demeaning picture displayed me from the back, bent over with my head between my legs. I was smiling and only the word Curious? adorned the photo. As I looked at my smile and prominently displayed posterior, I realized I was quite literally chasing my own tail. I began to suspect that the picture was not me at all, but someone else entirely, an actor made up as my doppelganger, that the city was surrounding me with a prison of my own face, that I was lost in a labyrinth of my own image.
The invading signs displayed a marked improvement in the handwriting, childlike squiggles maturing into masculine slovenliness. I bore their queer invasion of my soul. I would let nothing, not even my face, obstruct my quest. Late one evening as I lay in that realm between dreams and the real, the sharp sting of the phone resonated in my eardrum like a clap of thunder. I picked up to a rough, gravely voice.
Itís me. Itís Jesus.
Jesus? Jesus, where are you?
Iíve been watching you George. Iíve been watching you and reading Bulgakov.
But Jesus, when did you learn to talk . . . ? When did you learn to read!?!
Iíve been watching you, George the voice snarled and you seem so lost . . . Youíre wasting your life. You donít even know who you are. Who are you George? Who are you?
I heard a click and the hollow drone of the dial tone. I lay dazed for seconds or hours when I heard the dull echo of a tapping next door. I leapt to my window, peering out to see a haggard Joshua Doppler, coated in sweaty guilt, open his door and slide through like a greasy piece of Jell-O. I had been barking up the wrong tree all along. Doppler hated Jesus ever since the day when he called Jesus a ďpretty widdle puppyĒ and she bit him right on the ass. You do not condescend to Jesus.
His shit-eating grin and backslapping hellos, his dry-witted jabs at my search were an act; Doppler had been patient and unrelenting in exacting his naked vengeance. I calmed my elastic nerves with a little whiskey. In reality, it may have been a little bit more than a little bit. I felt more whole, but I could not yield to the caresses of sleep, so I reached for some NyQuil, guzzling it down. As my eyes closed from drug-induced drowsiness, I thought of the last poster I had seen. It had my picture Xeroxed and in a travesty of my own handwriting was written:
Wanted: One Lost Little Dog.
Wanted: Joshua Dopplerís head on a platter.
I woke with lightness, perhaps the demon within had dissolved in a dream, perhaps it was the whiskey and NyQuil. Regardless, I grabbed a shaggy gray coat from the wall and bounded into the crispness of winter morning air.
I waited for Doppler at work. You see, I knew his routine. Doppler was a workaholic, always in the doghouse with his wifeóa real battle axeóa good old Freudian castrator; despite his black-slapping good-naturedness, he couldnít stand his kids or the eternal effluvium of meatloaf that hung in his house. He showed up at his pet store by 6 A.M. and often didnít leave until 8 or later. I saw a dim figure with unblinking eyes approach in the distance and my blood grew hot. My nails were sharpened to razors. I was going to decollate him. I was going to gouge out his eyes and neuter him with my teeth.
He was ten paces away with that shit-eating grin on his face. Passion reduced my voice to a snarl. Why are you following me!?! I asked. What do you have to gain by tormenting me this way? But it was as if I were speaking another language. Blood pounded in my head as I saw him smile and heard him utter in perfectly falsettoed condescension, Whatís wrong? Whatís wrong with my pretty little poochie?
That did it.
I lunged at him, but he ran screaming Whoa boy! Down! Calm Down! I leapt at his throat, clawing, and pulled him headlong and hellward into a confusion of arms and hands and legs. The demon inside me unleashed, I felt nails lacerating skin, the exhalation of a bestial snort of hot steam, the gnashed teeth that bit him. Fabric and skin yielding to the alkaline taste of blood and spongy, fatty flesh. I pulled back reviled, sated, orgasmic, drunk to my rage. I had bitten him right on the ass. He was still screaming Down boy! Down! Then I felt a heavy thwack against my back and my four legs almost gave way. The pounding came again and I saw some old lady wielding a broomstick.
Get off of him! Get off of him, you beast! She shouted. Thwack, the broom landed and pain spread down my spine. I turned my face and gnashed my teeth but the shaking old woman landed another furious blow and my face fell forward onto the concrete. How was my vengeance being foiled by a broom-wielding biddy? I turned back to Doppler just in time to feel him blindside me with the heavy inevitability of a brick and watch my world fade in the dim resolve of sunset.
I have lain here for almost two full cycles of the moon, treated to no humanity, no lawyer, no trial. Though I pray every day for some miracle, some deliverance, my history of calamities has taught me what I didnít know before: that we are all truly forsaken, truly lost. We live in a cage of bones, upholstered with a flesh dogged by the slow decay of time. There is no shelter from which to emerge, no other to become, and we remain adolescent grubs feeding on the decay in which we were born. I am naked, shivering with cold, locked in a small wire enclosure with no toilet but a storm drain. At the base of my penis are the scars, the lines of stitching where my testicles once were. On the first sight of this, my stomach unbuckled and I vomited profusely in a dark indigo which had been stained by the Nyquil until, on hands and knees, I gaped into a deep blue reflectionless puddle and as I looked up I saw the lines of cages stacked one upon the other all filled with naked men and women who howled, groaned and grunted in harsh Slavic tongues which I slowly came to realize was no language at all but the babble of insanity. In this weird insane asylum where I am kept, friend, I have only you, to whom I speak because you are possessed of a greater coherence than so many of those about here. I see from the necklace you wear that your name is Cerberusóa fine robust name that inspires my confidence, even if the large strand of drool stringing downward from your mouth does not. I tell you my tale for there is no else to whom I may tell it.
††††††††††† Ah, you say nothing, and that is fine, for by your example, I know the remedy; it is not to late for this old dog to learn a few new tricks. I too shall circle thrice and surrender myself to the nameless ocean of sleep.
Emmett Stinson is a writer in Washington DC.
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