Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I hated my next door neighbors. I had a small apartment in the top of a duplex that had been quartered off into 4 units. The building next to mine was an old Victorian with a bunch young mid twenty year olds. The house was a constant den of comings and goings. It was a beehive of idiots. I had nicknames for the 6 inhabitants that resided there for that one irritating year. The one with the red hair was "Queen Bee," and her boyfriend was "Drone number 1." Another woman lived I nicknamed the "Mediocre Mare." I mused about how many times she visited the clinic for clap medication, considering her hordes of bestial men that came to see her, no doubt dates from craigslist. The other three boys were identical, one young shitbag looked the same as another. I just entitled them by number "2," "3," and "4." The prefix of shitbag was added when I was feeling particularly sour towards my three male neighbors. Without them though I would never have had Sam come into my life. That's why I hate them so much now.

I was sitting on my balcony one evening as I overheard them speak. They'd been in the building next door for ten months, and I desperately prayed that their lease would be up. My hopes were for a nice geriatric couple to take over so that I might get a night of sleep without wafting marijuana. Most of the time I was able to ignore their inane dialogues but tonight I ended up eavesdropping, much to my ear's chagrin.

"Do you know how LSD was invented," Queen Bee asked Drone number 1.

"Didn't it have to do with some guy in the CIA," he replied.

"Yeah, they were attempting to create a truth serum to use on prisoners of war. This guy Albert Hofman created LSD and took a big hit of it one day while he was riding his bicycle."

"Wow, I didn't know that, what happened,"

"Well obviously it exploded his consciousness, he started to realize how vast the fucking universe really is. He tripped balls. He started taking it all the time."

"Did the truth serum idea ever work out?"

"I don't think so. Do you know where we can score any? Do your coworkers have some?"

"I don't know, let me call Nick."

A few minutes later the Drone resumed the conversation.

"Nick doesn't have any acid but they did find a dog recently."

"A dog?"

"Yeah, isn't that sweet?"

"Next time Nick comes by he should bring the dog."

"We can get the dog high," they both laughed and I became so vexed that I went back inside. The nice evening had been spoiled by my foolishness in listening to those assholes.

A few weeks passed and I began to see more of Nick, and more of the dog. The dog was a small brown and white pit/mutt. She ran rampant in the streets as Nick engaged in narcotic practices with my neighbors. When the dog was tired from scurrying about the street she would sleep on the stoop of my apartment. I began to leave small bits of food for the dog, and even kept a small bowl of water for her when she was thirsty. After a month Nick swiped away the queen bee from the number one drone and the dog was a live in resident. The dog was often ignored left to her own devices outside in the world.

I worked late nights as a bartender at a local dive bar. The bar called the Bank was located in east Oakland, most of the clientele were local drunks and they kept me serving til the end of the night. I would take a late night bus home up San Pablo to my place on Prince and Martin Luther King. I'd walk the few blocks from San Pablo to Prince. Often I would see the dog sitting outside, usually on my stoop. When she was out there for a week I bought her one of those dog pillows. My constant attention to her, while initially out of a sense of duty, turned into a real desire for her companionship. She seemed a little happier when I was with her. I bought a leash and would take her on late night walks after work. We would walk to the water front park and I'd let her off the leash to run by the water. She'd run for a few minutes then mellow out and walk next to me as I followed the water line. It was one of those late night walks when I named her. I named her Sam.

I decided that my next door neighbors wouldn't notice her disappearance so I'd let her into my apartment when I got home from work, or after our walks. I started feeding her regularly and she filled out. Her coat started to shine. It was two weeks before I overheard my neighbors talking to each other about her vanishing. I decided to move to Derby and Grant. It was a few streets away, the rent was a little higher but I could keep Sam and not worry about my neighbors finding her. I didn't have much besides my job going for me, and I didn't much care about that. When I was home I felt like I had someone to talk to, albeit she couldn't talk back, but there was a way in which I felt she really listened to me.

I started taking Sam to the bank with me. That meant leaving for work earlier, and coming home a bit later but I didn't mind it. I didn't want her staying at home alone. It took about 40 minutes to walk to work. She made me feel safe walking down the streets of Oakland late at night, although truthfully she was a coward. When an unknown drunk would bend over to pet her at the bar she'd scuttle away.

It was a thursday night and Frank was sitting in front of me. Frank had been coming into the bar regularly for the last few months. A former straight edge vegan kid, he now eats meat and is an incorrugible alcoholic. I don't cut him off ever. If he knew how to control himself from drinking when he was straight edge, he should be able to now. He started babbling to me about his bicycle and then his cell phone.

"Look at this new cell phone. I can get the internet on it, I can text, I can take pictures..." his ramble trailed off as he became absorbed in his phone. He pushed his meaty fingers on the screen and then took a slug of his beer.

"How much does it cost," I asked. I was bored and it was another 15 minutes til last call.

"The phone was $150, then the service is $60 a month."

"Oh." I thought momentarily about acquiring a cell phone then decided once more against it. I got one for two months but no one ever called. The lack of calls just made me more depressed. I would look at the phone and wait for it to ring. I would think about all the people walking in downtown Berkeley gabbing away endlessly on their phones and then my phone, dead, silent. I switched back to a landline and hooked my answering machine to it. I get the same amount of telephone calls, which is still very few.

"Where's Sam," Frank asked.

"She's over here," I replied, pointing to her body at the end of the bar. Frank got up from his bar stool and wobbled over towards the bar. Sam hated Frank. Frank has a mustache and Sam hated men with facial hair. She'd nipped at Frank a few times, but when Frank got drunk he always tried to pet her.

"You should probably leave her alone," I told Frank.

I wouldn't do anything to Sam if she bit him. Frank doesn't tip well, and he's a loser. It's one thing to be a loser, its quite another to be a loser who doesn't tip. I'd probably let Sam rip his intenstines out and be halfway through digesting his liver before I bothered calling the 911.

Frank continued to stagger towards Sam despite my warnings, and their past relationship of pain.

"Here doggy, come here doggy," Frank said as he clapped his fingers together. He looked like an ape, a particularly stupid and drunk ape. Sam started growling as he got closer. "Come on, come on." Sam's growling got louder as Frank's sausage fingers came at her.

"Frank, she's growling, she's going to bite you and its going to be your fault."

Frank doesn't listen to me and inches his fingers closer to Sam's face. Her teeth were bared and she lashed out at Franks' digits. She bit hard and blood was drawn. She scuttled back into the bar and knocked into my leg. Frank let out a howl that was followed by patrons' laughter. Most of the regulars had seen this scene acted out before, and it still had a comical appeal to them. An idiot who slipped on a banana peel that he saw before him. Frank pulled his fingers into his mouth and began to suck on them.

"She bit me," he garbled, between his fingers.

"She always does. You need to keep your mitts away from her. She bites you every time. She doesn't like you much."

"I'll have a shot of JD." I nod and pour him his drink.

"Last call," I yell. A few patrons get more drinks but most of them were either plastered already or too poor to buy another drink. The patrons sulked in their seats for another 10 minutes before I announced the closing of the bar.

The drunks shuffled out ushered by my lackadaisical arm waving. They knew the routine. The smart ones had already left a few minutes ago to walk to Black and White liquor. They'd buy some malt liquor, a fifth of vodka, or maybe some bacardi breezers that they'd spike with rum to keep them going til their eyes closed on them or their livers gave out.

It took about fifteen minutes to close up the bar. I counted my money before I left. It was a slow night and I'd only made $150. The money had never mattered to me. Even with taking care of Sam I still had plenty of money. I would buy her dog pillows, endless amounts of dog biscuits, bones, and squeaky toys. She'd gnaw at the annoying squeaky balls that I got her for a day and then discard them, totally uninterested. She liked to spend most of her time sitting by my feat while I sat on my recliner watching tv. She was a bit of a lazy dog.

"Come on Sam," I said as I shut off the lights. She came up from her position at the end of the bar and walked to the door. She wagged her tail. I bent down and patted her head. I pushed in the code for the alarm, unlocked the front door, and then let myself out. Sam followed. I locked the door from the outside and we started up the street. I didn't bother having her on a leash. This late at night there were only a few crackheads around, whom we'd both avoid. She was pretty good about not hopping into the middle of the street so I didn't have her on a rope. We made it home. I checked my messages on my answering machine. There was one from a telemarketer. I listened the whole way through. I got a bottle of cola from my fridge, filled Sam's bowl with water and sat down on the recliner. I stared off in the distance for a while then flipped on the tube to watch the Cotto and Margarito fight.

Cotto was a fast, technical fighter. The first few rounds he dominated the less savvy Margarito. Cotto bobbed, weaved, and threw a variety of uppercuts into the taller boxer's mug. Margarito had a look of determination on his face as he relentlessly pushed Cotto up against the ropes, throwing straight punches at Cotto relentlessly. Most bouts the boys aren't boxing the whole time. They're sizing each other up, they're dancing about, they're waiting and picking their placement. This bout was a never ending push. Margarito kept pushing, like Sisyphus pushing that rock up the hill. Unlike Sisyphus Margarito's efforts weren't in vain. He won the bout with his determination, not with his skill. Everyone knew that Cotto was a better boxer, but Margarito had the legs and the heart. That's what mattered. I watched the after bout report and drank some water.

It was 4 o'clock. The sun would start to rise soon I thought. I went and laid down in my bed. I patted the bed and Sam hopped up next to me. She sniffed at my face and walked around the bed. She setteled at the bottom of the bed where she fell asleep. I could hear her light snores as I stared up at the ceiling. Thinking of the boxers, thinking about Franks' bloody fingers, and thinking about what would happen when I awoke. My eyes dropped off and I fell into a dreamless slumber.

Sam woke me up around noon. She had to piss. I hauled my body out of bed and put on my slippers. We walked outside and she urinated on the brief patch of lawn out front. We strolled around the block and she dumped on a some lawn. I didn't bother picking up the crap. We went back to the house and I fed her. She got dry food in the mornings, and then a mix at a night of wet food and dry. Sometimes I'd pick up a steak for her and feed it to her. When I'd look at my bookshelf the Jack London story would come to my attention. Then I'd go out and buy her steak. London wrote about an old boxer who fought a young guy. It was an age versus youth story. The old boxer tried to hold out but he didn't have the wherewithal. He didn't have the energy because he hadn't eaten well, he hadn't eaten his steak. I wanted to make sure that Sam would have the constitution if she ever needed it, so I would feed her steak.

I ate cereal for breakfast and sat on the recliner. I watched the noon news and looked at the weather channel for a bit. After a few hours of sitting on my duff I took Sam out for a walk. We were walking by Ashby and Martin Luther King when she got sight of a cat. Sam didn't have much ado about felines but it was the neighborhood Tom. The Tom pissed her off good. Tom would sit and wait for Sam to come out for her morning moments of relief (on her bladder) and would take a cheap swipe at her face then run off. Sam was always too confused to do much about it. When Sam saw Tom she ran off though. She broke out of her leash, which was a flimsy piece of twine, and went like Margarito after Cotto.

She almost had Tom, just like the taller boxer, the one with the heart and the legs, had the smaller, when the car hit her. She was 3/4ths through the intersection and the blue subaru clipped her. She fell with a whine to the sidewalk. She was breathing real heavy. Her chest heaved. Blood poured out from her back quarters. It looked like her ribs had gotten crushed. She whimpered for a moment and then that was it. I closed her eyes and picked her up. The subaru hadn't seen anything and was long gone. I carried her back to my apartment and set her down on her dog pillow. I looked at her for two hours. The clothes I was wearing had blood on them so I threw them in the laundry and then showered for work. I let the warm water hit my body. I hoped that the water would wash away my skin. With a new skin maybe I'd be a new person, like a snake, or a grasshopper. My skin didn't come off and I toweled off. I walked to work in a daze.

Work passed. It was like being half awake. Somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, where the sounds of the world come through and you reply but your mind isn't focused. The mind is still lost in the fog of sleep. I walked back home. Her body made the apartment stink. I got a few blankets together and wrapped her in them. I tied the blankets with some twine, twine left over from when I'd made her leash. I carried her in the blankets to the Aquatic park. It was still dark out when I got to the bridge over the highway. The bridge also overlooked a bit of water that sat next to the park. I stood on the bridge and looked out towards the bay. I could see the lights of the bay bridge. I looked west and saw the lights of the city. Berkeley was lit up. I set Sam's body down and thought about how she came into my life. I decided that I hated my neighbors for my loss. Without any conduit for my emotions I put my feelings on those kids. I picked up her body and swung it back and forth a few times to get a feeling of her weight. Time turned to gel as I let her body go. It sailed forward and down into the water. It made a small splash as it hit the water. I looked down and was slightly relieved that her body sank. I walked home.


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