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“Excavations,” by Emily Kiernan

ridiculous dog

In the news today was an article about a dog in Yuba City who dug up human bones in the backyard. There was a jaw bone and a skull. The police suspected religious rituals. My dog too has been digging. There is a spot up against the fence that is shady, where the grass never grew in thick, and he has been worrying at this for a week now. After he has loosened the dirt and cleared away the weeds, he will lie down for a minute or two, so maybe he is only trying to make a cool spot for himself, like flipping from one side of a pillow to another. But there is something frantic and mindless in the way he digs, and I don’t like it. He’s four years old, and he’s never done this before.

He woke up last night, growling and barking into the darkness. There was laughter out in the alley. Ryan got up and went through the house, flipping on lights and checking locks. He took a long time to return to bed, and the noises from the street sounded like they were coming from the kitchen. Really, it wasn’t the dog that woke me at all, but Ryan standing there beside the bed, looking and listening for something.

The owner of that dog in Yuba City was named Mr. Kind. In the quotes he gave to reporters, he said the word “kind” again and again. “It went from kind of cool to kind of serious,” he said, and I wondered what it must feel like, to say your own name so often. I had a boyfriend once named Rich. He was an asshole, and we wouldn’t be friends if I met him today, but sometimes I still see him on Facebook, and he lives in Yuba City, and he always has the same nice-teeth smirk, and he’s almost never wearing a shirt, and he always looks like he owns the place, wherever he is.

It occurs to me that the dog has been sticking close lately, subtly insinuating himself into my space. At night he jumps between Ryan and I, settles in slightly to one side. Ryan says, “Why does he only love you?”

Sometimes, when I take the dog for his walk in the evening, I will feel him shrinking away from some object or another that seems strange to him—bending into a c shape, crab-walking into my legs. Usually, I do not understand what it is that scares him, and I pull him along. Sometimes he will growl at the men who approach, and he does not show his teeth then, but his lips are pulled back tight. It is the same look he wears when he is digging: a look that says, “I don’t know what else I could do.”

About the Author:

Emily Kiernan is the author of a novel, Great Divide (Unsolicited Press, 2014). Her short fiction has appeared in PANK, The Collagist, Monkeybicycle, Redivider, JMWW, and other journals. She resides in Berkeley, California, with her man and her dog. More information can be found at emilykiernan.com.

Special Note:

This story was a finalist in The Conium Review‘s 2015 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Laura Ellen Joyce.

Image Credit: © asmakar / Dollar Photo Club

“Unbecoming Canine,” by Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb

Dog Walker Sketch

Confronting me fiercely, the old bitch screamed, “You hate dogs! You hate dogs! You hate dogs!” Her shiny, silver-gray hair, cut too short around her thick neck, bobbed absurdly up and down as she indignantly marched along side of me and continued yelling. Then the demented, old bag crossed directly in front of me and blocked my path with the leash. I was out for my morning stroll in the lush grass of Courtyard Park just down from my home on the hill, and I was in no mood for this nonsense.

Her loud accusations were an attempt to humiliate me, to draw attention to my preferences in public—which, of course, were different from hers. And she did turn heads. A number of people, some others with dogs, watched the spectacle with interest but kept their distance. This perceived audience further encouraged her. “She hate dogs!”

Purposely stepping on the leash of her so-called companion, I stopped to look her directly in the eye, knowing this would be most threatening. Suddenly she pulled away, looking around to find witnesses just in case I stooped to the level of honoring her attack—with one of my own. Rather, though, I turned my back to pick up my pace across the lawn. But I could feel the wetness—sniff, sniff, sniff, sniff on the backs of my heels.

I whirled around to growl at the elderly man because this unpleasantness was all his fault. He was stunned, immobilized by fear that if he dare moved, I might hurt the bitch he doted on. Finally, he yanked the retractable leash, and the harassment by the beast with the ridiculous haircut stopped. Even though irritated, I continued on my morning route. Keeping ears and tail high, I heard from somewhere behind me the now familiar cry, “Hey, look! There goes a coyote!”

About the Author:

Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb’s work has appeared in Dark Matter: A Journal of Speculative Writing, The Broken Plate, Kudzu House Quarterly (Kudzu Review), Split Rock Review, Epiphany Magazine, Blue Lyra Review, Foliate Oak, Terrain.org: A Journal of the Natural and Built Environments, Sierra Nevada Review, Concho River Review, Aji Magazine, Pedestal Magazine, The Blueline Anthology (Syracuse University Press), and other journals and online forums, with work forthcoming in the anthology Talking Back and Looking Forward: Poetry and Prose for Social Justice in Education (Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 2015), Sediments, Caesura, and others. A past Pushcart Prize nominee, she holds an interdisciplinary MA from Prescott College and is co-founder of Native West Press, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit natural history press (which attempts to raise positive public awareness of some of the less favored wildlife with whom we share the American West).

Image Credit: © asmakar / Dollar Photo Club