There’s a wild animal in the house
A rank dog
Have your meal but don’t offend the rank dog
Don’t look it in the face
Be careful where you step
Don’t make any sudden moves
It shows its teeth
The rank dog is king
The rank dog eats first
You are the outsider
This house belongs to the rank dog
The Night is Dark
The night is dark. I watch the dogs run down the back steps and disappear into the black garden, the way a swimmer disappears into a lake. It is a perfect night for hiding. If I lay in the grass, I would disappear into the black like the dogs.
I am waiting. A man I have never met is coming to pick me up in a car. I let the dogs back in the house and give them a treat so they will keep my secret.
When I get his message, I go around to the front of the house and get in. Hello, he says. He kisses me once. The second time he kisses me, his tongue is in my mouth, long and muscular, like it is looking for nectar. I think about getting out.
It’s nice to finally meet you, he says, stroking my leg. We are driving now. I drank a beer on the way over to calm my nerves, he says. Which way should I go? Right, I say. It’s nice to finally meet you.
I tell him where to turn until we are in the parking lot of my elementary school and my church. He kisses me again and I am not so afraid of his tongue anymore. I like the song on the radio.
We get out of the car and walk into the field. The grass is long and it is dark in the shadows. He lays me down and I disappear into the black.
It does not last long. He stands up and I watch him throw the condom. This surprises me. I think he should have at least tied a knot in it. I think of myself as a child, playing in the grass and shrubs along the fence.
He drives me home and I notice a beer bottle on the road. I know it is his but I do not pick it up. I go in the back door because it is quieter.
In my bed, I can’t sleep. The house creaks like a ship. Doors blow open and closed in the breeze from the windows. A car drives by outside and I hear the beer bottle explode.
In the morning, I take the dogs out and look for the beer bottle. The neck is exploded off. I pick up what is left of it and put it in the recycling bin. I take the dogs to the school and the parking lot is full of cars for Sunday mass. I take them past the playground, which in daylight is full of garbage, and into the field to look for the condom.
I can’t find it. The dogs are impatient. I keep looking but I can’t find it, so I take the dogs to the playground and fill a bag with garbage. I take the dogs back to the school and put the bag in the recycling bin.
I watch the old women coming out of the church and wonder which is safer: day or night?
I’m mad at dad still. Usually I’d be over it by now but, because of the panic attack, I’m not. I don’t even want to be near him.
I pretend I’m in a game. Dad is a guard who will lock me in the dungeon if he catches me. He’s in the kitchen right now, and he isn’t moving. Mom is in the living room, texting. I go in there because I’m not afraid of her. She doesn’t look up. I stand still in the doorway. The whole house is still and quiet. I’m waiting for the guard to move so I can go in the kitchen, but he doesn’t. He must know that I’m waiting.
It’s late, and I haven’t eaten anything because I’ve just been lying in bed, because of the panic attack. Mom is done texting. I tell her. She says we should make deviled eggs. Before the panic attack, we weren’t getting along very well, but now I pretend that she is my protector. I follow her into the kitchen and I make sure that she stays between me and the guard so that he can’t get me. I mash eggs and mom adds mayonnaise and ketchup. She sprays a mountain of ketchup. I would have added little bits at a time, but she is braver than me.
The guard is making soup. While I’m eating deviled eggs, mom says we can each have three. I realize that she’s included the guard, which makes me mad, but she says I can have the extra one because I’m the hungriest. When the guard asks me if I want soup, I say no because it’s probably poison. He comes to sit with us, so I leave.
One of the dogs is up on the landing of the stairs, so I go and lay with him. The other one comes to join us and together we are a pile of grey. I pretend that I am a dog, too. We watch the guard go out the front door with a bag of garbage. He doesn’t notice me because I am just another dog.
Once, I saw the guard try to kiss my mom and she moved out of the way of it. He tried again and so I looked away, but even though I didn’t see it, I heard it.
When the guard comes back in, I imagine that I am mom’s protector. I run down the stairs with the other dogs flanking me. We take him down and tear him into pieces. I sink my teeth into his intestine and pull, like the wolf did to the dead beaver at the Wolf Centre in Haliburton, while we all watched through the glass.
A dog barks, “FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!”