The sun never shone on the house with the three-legged dog. Maybe it was the trees that enveloped the premises, though the neighborhood elected to believe the darkness emanated from somewhere within the greening walls. The white window shudders bared teeth at passersby, warning of danger. The children never listened. They gathered their courage outside and dared each other onwards to the doorway. Later, they told tall tales of the nothingness that ensued. They ding dong ditched their way into adulthood and forgot about the house and the dogs. I was a child at heart, and I could not forget.
It was a Friday. Not the thirteenth, but dates were irrelevant in this particular setting. I wandered the road outside for a while, unsure of what to do with a head full of problems and a circulatory system full of drugs. If it wasn’t the uppers it was the depressants. If it wasn’t the depressants, I was already in a sorry sort of way. Today it was both. Prescriptions are a funny thing. When you are in a sorry sort of way, you can convince yourself you need almost anything.
I had contemplated breaking and entering on multiple occasions, all of which had ended in my inevitable retreat, tail between my legs. One bark and my weak will had all but shattered. It had haunted me since childhood. I wanted internal knowledge. Something in my head told me that to get inside was the answer. To play out the song to the end, to carry out my compulsion. So many years of breathing and I could not tell you what it was like to live. The dog would not let me. He was already inside me. I needed to make him real.
I didn’t believe anyone lived in that house. Not now, not yesterday. There were no lights, no sounds of cooking, no scent of laundry. There were no cars, no lawnmowers, no signs of modernity. Only the perpetual bark of what appeared to be an ageless specimen of canine. No one knew how or why he was missing a leg, only that he was. The neighborhood didn’t even know how they knew this, only that it was true. No one had ever seen the dog. Yet there he was, barking at the morning hours to ward off the coming day. Now I stood outside and heard nothing. It was my turn.
The wait was over. I stood over the ruins of what had once been the front door. Some time between uncertainty and desperation, my hands had taken it down. The drugs did not let me remember. The dog did not let me stop. I hesitated on my own merit.
I peered into the dusty darkness as if the strain would make it clearer. I couldn’t tell what was internal and what was external; there was only dust and darkness. Then red. Flashes of white and red. Nothing hurt, but the feelings were all confused. My mind was blank and full of beautiful things. The dog, luxuriously shining fur and three legs. He was real, he was there. I couldn’t see him, but he was healthy, he was there. I couldn’t handle the beauty, my eyes betrayed me and leaked tears across the filthy floor. Not tears, warm, beautiful blood. I cried at the sight of the blood, but I couldn’t see it, so I slept. I thought I might never wake. The dog, the filth, the blood, the beautiful blood. It was Friday.
Some time later, I made my way home and passed out on my bed. When I woke up all I could think about was what had happened the night before. I was sure that if I could find the dog again, something might click. Everything would make sense if I could only make this one night coherent again. Piece back together the pieces of a broken memory. I threw on some old clothes and noticed the Kinks were on repeat. “Big Sky.” I thought of stopping to listen. My mind had not yet caught up with my body. I needed to play out the song of the dog first. I couldn’t stop, so I ran instead.
My sprinting legs led me the familiar route to the old house, vital functions on autopilot. I slowed my sprint as I passed through the downtown. It was early. The sun still crouched behind the hills. No one followed me. The world asleep with the promise of Saturday stuck in their minds. Saturday had not begun for anyone but me.
I took a moment to light up a cigarette and I saw him. He lay in a puddle by the dumpster, unnoticed by most, and ignored by any who did see him for fear of taking a second look and being required to do something about it. Three paws gone limp with the embrace of weakness. He called to me, crying out to the last soul he had seen. I knew immediately it was my doing. I had left the door open and the world was not for him. He was breathing, but he was not living.
For the first time, the dog was not in my head. The dog was before me.
For the first time, I stopped. I went to him, hoping for forgiveness. Instead, he stuck his head into the shallow puddle, counted to fifty and floated away.