The Stairwell

It’s very early and very cold, and she’s pulling her leash tight around the landing to the final steps. Suddenly, she stops.

A man is lying there. A few burned out candles by his face.

She growls.

He’s startled and sits up. He’s young, with a scraggly beard and weary eyes, and lights the cigarette he already has pressed in his lips.

“We used to sit here and smoke,” he says. “But now, she’s gone.”

Gone? As in, dead? Or has she left him? I can’t think of what to say.

“Can I get by? My dog has to pee.”

The Grass

Her favorite thing was to lie in the grass, out past the barn where the hills sloped away. It was best in the evening when the air blew cool and the earth was still warm. It felt like lying on the belly of a sleeping beast, where she felt small and safe. The grass whispered around her and she’d melt away, until Crowley found her and licked her cheeks. Between licks, he’d sniff her face in quick, wet bursts, then stop licking mid-lick, and when her eyes opened and found his big eyes fixed on her —

It was perfect.

Dog Butt

My Vet opened this book to a full color illustration. The title: Canine Anal Glands. So I was paying her to show me drawings of dog butts.

“These are normal glands,” she explains, then laid a plastic page over it. “and this is what happens when they rupture.”

Geez. Didn’t hear much more. Words like “raw” and “puss” jumped out. Looking at the highly detailed illustration, all I could think was, how many hours did the illustrator put into this? Were reference photos provided? Did the editor know it was finished when they saw the final version and passed out?