Joyland

The South |

Dog

by Tasha Coryell

The dog did not bark or play fetch. Instead the dog liked to climb on things. The dining room table, the kitchen counter, the mantel of the fireplace. Alex had never realized the similarities of his home to a mountain until the dog started climbing.

Alex already had three chickens, two cats, and a parakeet when he acquired the dog. His lease said no animals, but Alex didn’t know this because he hadn’t read his lease. When Alex moved in he didn’t have any animals, but he did have a hobby of reading the pet section of Craigslist. Alex was smart enough not to go looking for love on the internet. It never occurred to him that animals could be emotionally deceptive the same as humans.

All of Alex’s animals were deformed in some way. One cat was half-blind with a licking habit. The cat licked itself, the furniture, Alex, the walls, and the carpet. The cat licked the kitchen floor clean. The other cat was deaf and missing most of its tail, which caused her to fall constantly and yowl at an unbearable decibel. It was not a meow. The deaf cat did not know what it meant to meow. The parakeet had some disease that made him lose his feathers in patches and thus resembled a balding middle aged man. Alex named him baldy and all day long the bird sat on his perch saying “baldly, baldy, baldy,” over and over again. Alex’s parakeet had a very strong sense of self. There was nothing especially wrong with the chickens besides what is wrong with all chicken, being birds that are unable to fly. The parakeet couldn’t fly either, but that’s because his wings were clipped. When Alex saw the ad for the three legged Jack Russell Terrier he knew that he had to have him. Alex wasn’t missing any limbs. It was impossible to tell where this compulsion came from.

Alex and the terrier’s owner agreed to meet in the Walmart parking lot to exchange the animal. The owner said that Alex would know him because he would be the one with the dog.

Alex arrived early to pick up his new pet. While he was waiting he went inside the Walmart to buy dog food and acquired a fish that he would later find out carried a parasite called ichthyophthirius multifiliis that was nicknamed “ick” for short.

The terrier’s owner pulled into the parking lot in a rusty pickup truck, the bottom of which was so filled with holes that Alex was worried the seats would fall through to the ground.

A man got out of the truck and shook Alex’s hand.

“You’re a good man,” he said and set a large dog crate on the ground.

As Alex peered through the wire door of the crate, the man got back into his truck and drove away. Alex felt defensive, if only for the dog, that the man did not say goodbye.

The dog peeked out through the bars. He looked like he was smiling the way that dogs do, though Alex couldn’t see if his tail was wagging.

“Hi, little buddy,” Alex said. He called all of his animals little buddy.

Alex carefully placed the dog in the back of his car. The previous owner hadn’t told him the dog’s name and so Alex just called him “dog,” while introducing himself on the ride home. He named the fish Wally so he would always remember where he came from.

Alex laid out some water and a bowl of food for the dog, but the dog seemed disinterested. Alex tried to let the dog outside to use the bathroom, but the dog only wanted to poop on the carpet. Alex tried to throw a tennis ball for the dog to catch, but the dog ate the ball instead. Alex had never own a Jack Russell Terrier. He thought that maybe that was just how Jack Russell Terriers behaved.

Alex’s friend Lisa came over for board game night. Board game night was difficult because Alex’s animals kept stealing all of the pieces of the games. Alex and Lisa had been forced replace the pieces with bits of tape, Lisa’s earrings, and an assortment of beads from a bracelet that one of the cats had broken on a previous visit.

“That doesn’t look like a dog,” Lisa said.

“He’s a Jack Russell Terrier,” Alex explained.

Dog, the Jack Russell Terrier, was currently standing on the back of the couch.

“I think he’s a goat,” Lisa said. “Look, he has hooves.”

Alex examined Dog’s feet and discovered that instead of paws, he had a very distinct set of hooves, except of course for his right front leg which was missing entirely.

“And look,” Lisa said. “He has horns.”

Up until that point, Alex had thought that Dog just merely had two sets of misshapen ears. Alex had found the misshapen ears to be an endearing trait of Dog.

“Oh, Dog,” Alex sighed. “What am I going to do with you?”

Alex found a vacation in the mountains on sale on Craigslist. It had originally been intended as a honeymoon. Two weeks before the wedding the bride had announced to her husband that she was moving to Europe without him and the husband was left with an all-expenses paid romantic vacation for two. Alex figured that his goat, two cats, three chickens, one fish, and a parakeet were about the size of a human person.

“Finally,” he said to Dog. “You are free to climb wherever you want.”

Dog wagged his goat tail, climbed on the desk, and ate Alex’s wallet. It made Alex feel good that Dog was so happy. It made his heart hurt how much he wanted Dog to be happy. He had never wanted to make someone happy so badly in his life.

Alex went to the furniture section of Craigslist. He needed a new kitchen table. Dog had eaten the last one.