This neighborhood is going down the toilet, Sally screamed, then she
spit onto her burger to underline her point. A poodle had sauntered past our
wearing expensive high heels and a diamond tiara. Sally was a simple woman; she
wore sweater sets and slacks without zippers. The poodle enraged her. I tried
my damnedest not to look interested. I ate my dinner and washed the dishes. Sally
fell asleep on the couch watching a movie about a big tan man who saves a woman
from a wild group of assassins. In the end, the woman turns out to be an assassin
herself, and she blows up a school bus full of nuns. I covered her with a blanket
and crept upstairs. I took off my clothes and stared at myself in the mirror.
You are a good man, I said. Then I slid off my wedding ring and hid
it in my dresser drawer. I put on my navy-blue church suit. The one that makes
like a magic principal. I slapped on some cologne and brushed my teeth.
The doghouse was at the end of the cul-de-sac so I didn’t need the car.
As I approached the house, I could see there was a line of men coming out of
door. It wrapped around the house, twice. I took my place in line, careful not
to make eye contact with any of the other men. A small chihuahua came out of
the doggy door. Now, I don’t like to judge people, but he had the air
of an outright scoundrel. Plus, his ears and penis were pierced, so when he
down the porch steps, he sounded like a dinner bell. He had a food dish in
his paw. The men emptied their wallets into it as he made his way down the
One man asked if they accept Visa. The chihuahua yelped, Don’t be
ass, buddy! and bit the man on the ankle. The man fell to the ground in
pain, then crawled off into the darkness. I pulled two fifty-dollar bills from
and dropped them into the dish. Good boy, said the chihuahua, and I stood up
straighter, feeling very proud of myself.
I waited in line for three hours. When I finally got inside, I was instructed
by a massive German shepherd to take off all my clothes and leave them with the
coat-check bitch. I was led to the room by an old Rottweiler who walked with
a cane. He opened the door, then pointed to the chair beside the bed: Sit
over there. Buster will be right with you. As I waited, I could hear the
moans of men from down the hall mixed with a chorus of ghostly howls. It was
concentrate with all that racket. A velvet painting of men playing hopscotch
was hanging next to the door. I had a feeling, despite her initial reaction
to this place, that Sally would really appreciate the painting’s overall
message. After ten more minutes went by, I began to feel self-conscious. I
to floss my teeth after dinner, and my fingernails were still dirty from planting
rhododendrons in the front yard. Just as I decided to leave, Buster walked
into the room.
He undid his tie and tossed it onto the dresser. Hey there, he said, and every
muscle inside me became a bowl of hot soup.
He licked my face and shoulders, then picked me up and carried me to the bed.
We got under the covers and held each other. I told him about the son I haven’t
seen in six years. I confessed that it was me who stole that birthday cake
from the rec room last month and let my friend, Mike the Janitor, get fired
I admitted I never went to Harvard. Explained how I was too drunk to remember
the birth of my daughters, that it's me who prank calls my wife at work all
the time. As I pressed my face against Buster's chest and wept for my father
died thinking I was a war hero, Buster tilted his head back and released a
howl that seemed to want to escape the heat of itself, like a house held together
by emptiness. Like a raging kettle, full of sorrows.
Return to Archive