Today’s offering is the antepenultimate one-page story in a weekly series of fifty-two stories. Thank you for reading.
Tim was trying to take a nap and his housemate’s dog, Frank, was howling by the front door. Tim’s bedroom was just to the right of the front door. He was tired and the dog’s howling was preventing him from getting his rest before his eight-hour afternoon shift at the convenience store. Frank had only three legs because he’d run out into the middle of the road as a car was approaching and had been hit by it. Typical Frank move. Frank was stupid, and now that he had three legs, he was also pathetic. And Frank’s bladder, which was the cause of his current howling, was the responsibility of his owner, Tim’s housemate Annie. Tim had his own problems and some gimpy idiot dog’s bladder shouldn’t have been one of them. Frank emitted cries of a higher and higher pitch, mournful and infantile. Frank must have had some trauma as a puppy and was emotionally stuck at the puppy stage and went around continually acting like a puppy in his adult dog body. Tim got out of bed and threw open his door. There was Frank looking up at him with sad and urgent eyes. Tim would open the front door for Frank but not before he gave him a piece of his mind. “Bad dog!” were the words that occurred to him to say. “Bad, bad, bad, bad dog!” Each time he said “bad,” Tim slapped the front door above where Frank was standing. Frank emptied his bladder onto the floor and ran away to hide from Tim. Tim cleaned up the dog’s urine with a mop and took the hour-long bus trip to his job. He would have to talk to Annie about taking care of her own dog but she was nine years younger than he was and self-assured and a lesbian and he wouldn’t be able to say what he wanted, which was not to be burdened with her dog and its needs. Tim arrived at the convenience store. His first task was to load fresh hot dogs into the steamer. The steamer sat next to the cash register and was also a glass display case that allowed the customers to see the moist, tired hot dogs rotating and revolving like oblong meat planets in a solar system with no star. Customers came in throughout the afternoon and bought cigarettes, coffee, milk, ice cream, potato chips, gum. Tim sold maybe one hot dog a month. He was 32 and hated his job. The store emptied out and he was alone. He stared at the hot dogs spinning, spinning. He saw the pig they had come from, miserable and living in a crush of other pigs, being slaughtered, hung up to bleed out, ground up, shoved in casings made of his brothers and sisters. He took the bus home, watching the stars and planets in the black sky out the window. In the communal kitchen, Annie and Tim’s other housemates were having a drink before bed, talking and laughing. They all were one another’s friends and none of them was his friend. “Annie?” he said. She looked up at him indifferently. “May I take Frank for his late night walk?” he asked. She stared at him, then shrugged. “Where is he?” Annie indicated her bedroom with a slight gesture of her head. Tim opened the door to Annie’s bedroom. It was dark in there and he could see nothing except, faintly, Frank’s two frightened eyes staring at him from the corner. “Frank?” Tim said. “I’m here to take you for a walk.” The dog whimpered quietly. “I’m sorry I yelled at you today.” Stillness and silence. “I promise I’ll never say an unkind word to you again.” Frank wouldn’t budge. Tim got down on his hands and knees and waited by the door.