Saturday, June 20, 2009

untitled short story

As I keep saying on here, when I do check in, I have been working pretty steadily on what I hope will be my first completed novel someday. However this short story idea leapt out of my head recently, so I let it do so. It's something that's been rattling around in there for some time, and it seemed like it was ready to charge forth into the world. here's the first few pages, rough draft style, so don't expect anything too great. :)

Above are my furkids, mena and sabi, short for wasabi. they aren't the dogs in this story, but they're pretty cute nonetheless. :)

this is a pic of a newfie i found online. i don't know why i picked this breed to write about. they're just so innocent and monstrously huge at the same time, i guess.

Max was walking through the rough field at the end of the cul-de-sac when he first encountered the boy. It was sunny for the moment, but a cool ozone smell drifting off the hills betrayed late spring storms brewing to the west. Max trudged through the knee-high growth, peeking occasionally at the dark clouds blooming over the mountains, wondering how long he had until the rain came. Walking with or at least near him--the only reason he was out there at all--were Massive Jack, a Newfoundland, and Stanley, an irritable Corgi with a bad case of short man’s disease.

Max would never admit it, not least of all because it was so pathetic, but at that point the walks were the closest thing to fun he had in his life. Despite his best efforts, and completely without his permission, the dogs cheered him up in the wake of Jeannie’s departure. Wading through the overgrown, oddly-shaped amoeba of land that had been left over after the housing boom fizzled, the dogs’ excitement inevitably rubbed off, even on Max’s worst days.

They would tear through the weeds and sporadic patches of hay that held on despite the landowner’s evident long-term disinterest in farming, chasing anything they could stir up. If nothing that lived there felt like participating, Stan would end up chasing Jack, or at least loop around behind him in semi-circles, barking occasionally, just to remind the bigger dog who was in charge.

There was a fenced-off, city-sanctioned dog park half a mile off to the south, a place of institutionalized merriment such as they were having here in the wilds, but it might as well have been on another planet. The one time Max and his dogs had set foot inside the fence, they had encountered a muddy caldron speckled with brightly-colored packs of yapping, over-privileged housewives, studiously ignoring their yapping, over-privileged dogs--invariably tiny, nervous creatures--as they ran through each other’s shit.

The dogs, not the housewives.

No, the rough meadow was more their speed. It dangled like an unflickable booger stuck to the finger of their cul-de-sac, perched between the trim houses and the chiseled, hoary edge of the foothills. It was quiet, with a sliver of a creek tributary running along one side--perfect for happy-dog-swimming-time--and a string of cottonwoods along the banks for shade in the summer.

And there were hardly ever any other people there, making it the perfect place for someone like Max to stroll.

He didn’t actually see the boy, at first. What Max saw was his dogs barking like mad and racing toward a spot on the edge of an overgrown irrigation ditch.

Max barely gave them a glance as he walked on, lost in thought. It was nothing new, these commotions canidae. Jack crashing through the tall weeds, chasing a real or imagined bird, chuffing out his basso profundo “howrouffs” as little Stan struggled to catch up, the periscope tip of his tail and his frustrated yippings the only evidence of his existence--this was a sight Max was used to.

It was only when the furry duo stopped cold at a spot twenty or thirty yards out that Max took notice.

“Hey! Leave it, you two,” he called out. “Whatever it is.”

They ignored him, as usual. Max could see Jack’s waggling black haunches, bedraggled with bits of chaff and burrs, the force of his tail’s enthusiasm nearly tipping him over.

Stan, as usual, just yipped and barked madly, occasionally hopping straight up like a stubby, mutant kangaroo, peeking back at Max over the top of the grass as if to say, “Ooh, wait till you see what the big, stupid one did this time! He’s gonna be in trouble!”

“I said LEAVE IT you guys!” Max picked up his pace to catch them before they rolled in something putrid. It wouldn’t be the first time they had discovered a rotting, unidentifiable carcass and proceeded to joyously squirm around in it, embedding the scent deep within their fur.

Lest any deer or wildebeest or mastodons they might end up stalking later smell them from afar.

At least he hadn’t let Her name the dogs. He would freely admit that Stanley and Jack were ridiculous names for dogs. They sounded like the first names of an accounting firm’s partners: “Offices of Liebowitz and Rothstein, just ask for Stan and Jack!”

But if She had named them, he’d be forever shouting after Sunflower and Chakra or some shit while she made pottery or painted irises or whatever it was she did with her former therapist Melanie--aka Moonshadow--in New Mexico.

Max hustled up to where the dogs were still going nuts over the discovery they had made.

“All right, that’s enough, guys,” he said, forcing his way into the weeds next to Jack. The big dog had his butt in the air, deadly tail thwapping back and forth, pulverizing Max’s internal organs as he stepped past. The beast was peering down into the main trunk of a drainage ditch, four or five feet wide, mostly dry this time of year, though with patches of mud showing through the growth in low spots. Jack was howrouffing frantically at a strip of dun-colored cloth that was woven into the strands of grass, and creeping forward down a shallow part of the slope.

“Jack, you’re an idiot,” Max sighed. He had long suspected that a bag of weed that had gone missing when Jack was a puppy was among the casualties of the gentle giant’s voracious appetite and curiosity. He had no solid evidence of Jack’s drug-related crime, but most anything imaginable had at some point turned up post-digestive tract in the back yard--from tiny bits of a brand-new pair of Nikes, to shredded strips of tennis ball, to very small rocks. The theoretical crime fit Jack’s M.O.

Plus the dog just wasn’t right in the head.

The big dog stared at the spot down below, growling and wagging. The dogs knew they weren’t supposed to go down into the ditch. Aside from mud, Max had seen rusted sheets of metal, snarls of barbed wire, palettes, old shoes, tires--not to mention numerous articles of clothing, perhaps blown there; perhaps left behind by amorous, thick-skinned kids with nowhere else to go.

He idly wondered, where do all those random bits of clothing you see everywhere come from? Do people still use clotheslines? Or maybe everyone in the world--besides me--is constantly going at it in cars, wildly tossing aside underwear, shirts and the odd shoe in the throes of--

And then something under the strands of long grass coughed.

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