Hello everyone. I’m submitting a story called The Objective Dog. It’s 2,480 words long. I’d appreciate any feedback or criticism as it is my first serious story (i.e. not comedy (i.e. not taking the piss)). I’ve always liked darker material and this is my attempt at it. Once again, any feedback, witty banter or scathing cynicisms welcome.
The Objective Dog
The man came home and put a single plastic bag on the table while he removed his coat. “Anything for me?” asked an old scraggly dog, staring up at the bag sniffing the air. The man didn’t say anything. Just hung up his coat and scarf and began putting away groceries. “What’s wrong with you?” the dog asked looking stern. The man turned his back to the dog and opened the fridge. “Fine” said the dog, and made his way to an old graying pillow beside an unlit fire and lay with his head on his paws watching the man. At length the man sat on a large chair that looked about as aged and worn as the dog’s pillow. The whole room was graying and browning and aging. Though the floor was often swept, and the surfaces dusted, the lino showed its age in discoloured spots where spills and burns had occurred and no amount of dusting could remove the signs of wear.
The man eventually let out a long sigh and apologized to the dog for ignoring him earlier. There was no television in the room and they sat in silence for a long time. “What’s for food?” asked the dog at last. “There’s bread and milk there” said the man, staring at a seam in the wallpaper. “Bread and milk isn’t a dinner,” said the dog “what’s for dinner?”, “Sally made us up a dinner in the hotel” the man replied “it’s in the fridge in cling film.” “Sally does too much for you. You are ungrateful. You burden her.” Said the dog, plainly as if there was no way it could be taken as an insult. The man still did not made eye contact with the dog, he stared at the wall and tried not to show he didn’t like that last remark. “She’s my sister, she works in a hotel, she can get them to make me up a dinner. It’s no burden.” He explained calmly. “She got you this house. She got you your job. She brings you to her house on Sunday for dinner. You have done nothing on your own. You burden her.” The dog said again, now he yawned and stretched. The man bit the side of his mouth to stop the anger from showing on his face. He rose silently, left the room and closed the door so the dog could not follow.
He climbed the stairs slowly and walked into his bedroom. The room was filled with boxes of newspapers, bills, letters (sent, received and ones that would never be sent), ideas quickly set down on paper, and various other notes and articles. The man never kept a diary, but he would not throw away a piece of paper with his own handwriting on it. The door was held permanently open, fused to the foot of the bed by a stack of heavy boxes. In fact all floor space was filled with boxes, stacked three boxes high, save for a path to the bed and to the wardrobe, also permanently open.
The man sat upon his bed and looked through a gap in the boxes at himself in an unclean mirror.
He awoke to a loud shout. Was it his own? What had it said? He had been asleep. He started to doubt that he had heard anything, when he heard another shout “Hello?” That fucking dog. “Why is the door closed?” He had fallen asleep and forgotten about everything else. So what, it was his own house. It was his own dog. He could fall asleep if he wanted. The man had this horrible urge to try to please everyone and always felt guilty or ashamed if someone didn’t like him. This guilt made him drearily stand, walk to the kitchen, ignore the dog’s questions, take the dinner from the fridge, and put it in the microwave. He stared at the rotating timer for the full three minutes while the dog said nothing but stood near his leg in anticipation. The ping woke him up again. He divided half the dinner onto another plate, put one on the floor and left the room, closing the door once again. The dog didn’t even look up as he left.
The man sat at work the next day, his hands rested on the keyboard of a beige computer but did not move. He stared at a sellotape dispenser and thought about taping the dog’s conversations and showing them to people. He had done it before but he had never told anyone that it was a dog speaking. He had kept it his own little secret, but lately he found he could not put up with the dog’s remarks. The dog had always been blunt but after more than two years the novelty had definitely worn off. Maybe he could videotape the dog speaking; did he know anyone with a video camera? If he could show people he could sell the dog as some sort of astounding scientific discovery. Or a freak show. It didn’t matter too much. Maybe he should just fuck him out the door of a moving car. He snapped himself out of that thought, he could actually feel his face turning into a bitter snarl and he hated when he thought like that. He moved some things around on the screen in case anyone came by. He thought about the façade of working and how little he had accomplished. He thought about the façade of life and how little he had accomplished. He started playing conversations out in his head juxtaposing the two.
‘How’s the work coming along Mr. Lynnot?’, ‘Oh fine, working away, no problems so far, I should be finished with it soon enough’.
‘How’s life Gary?’, ‘Oh fine, working away, can’t complain…’ he stalled here then added ‘…it should be finished soon enough’.
All these façades and lies, everyone recognized them for what they were but never probed any deeper because of an unspoken mutual agreement. I won’t expose your pathetic unchanging life if you don’t expose mine. At this point someone walked by Gary and he moved his mouse around.
Gary came home that evening and went straight upstairs; he heard the jingle of the dog’s collar as he ascended. The noise had woken it up. In his room he collapsed on the bed. He had forgotten all about videoing the dog (He didn’t know anyone with a camera anyway) and decided he would drink some wine. Although he felt like an idiot he kept his alcohol in a press in the spare room. He did not like to let the dog see him drink. He had even toyed with the idea that that made him an alcoholic but it seemed a bit ridiculous and it didn’t matter much anyway, because he didn’t drink that often. If he has a drink at dinner with his sister or out on the town, his sister tells him to ‘slow down’ and ‘take it easy’ which he really doesn’t like because he is taking it easy, it’s just a glass of wine. He’s stopped drinking around her altogether too.
After a glass of wine he felt better. He relaxed a little and walked back into his room to change out of his work clothes. The dog had gotten under his skin so, as if to prove a point, he rang his sister and told her he wouldn’t be over for lunch this Sunday. She didn’t seem to mind.
After a few glasses of wine he made a toastie for himself and sat for a while watching his dog chew a piece of meat that was so dry it looked more like leather. One of the girls from the hotel sent it up for him. “If you’re that tired go to bed” said the dog. He awoke with a start, he had been so tired recently, falling asleep at 9 o’clock, often in this chair. “You’re right” he murmured, rising. “I just don’t know why I’m so tired lately” as he said this he stumbled and steadied himself against a table. “You’re drunk” laughed the dog. “Shut up” said the man angrily. The dog jumped to it’s feet and ran to his side as he turned away. “You’re properly drunk” said the dog smiling. “This is my house…” said the man dropping a glass that he didn’t realize he was holding. He was a little startled but decided to add it to his point “…and that was my glass, and I’ll do whatever I want with it.” He began to turn away but then quickly pointed at the dog and said “…and you are my dog…”, “What does that mean?” asked the dog, sounding jovial and unafraid. “It means I can do whatever I want with you so shut up.” Gary turned towards the stairs but the dog simply ran on ahead of him and turned to face him. Still smiling the dog persisted “What are you going to do Gary? You never do anything.” The dog was either trying to make him angry or was so simple he could not understand that these words were cutting him down as a person and mocking his life. Either way Gary got angry “It means I own you, I can throw you in a canvas bag with a few bricks and leave you in a pond, or just starve you if I feel like it”, “But you’re not like that” cried the dog, now worried. “Am I not-” Shouted Gary, kicking at the dog. He chased the dog back into the kitchen and slammed the door once it was inside. He caught one last glimpse of the dog standing defiantly upright in the middle of the kitchen floor before the door slammed. “You’re a shit person” the dog shouted immediately. “Shut up!” Gary shouted angrily “You’re a shit, unlovable person!”This time Gary didn’t reply “You’re shit and no one could ever want you as a friend.” Gary tried to stay silent. “You’re 38 and you’re a virgin and you’re going to die a virgin!” screamed a voice from the other side of the door. Gary felt his face get hot and his vision blurred as tears appeared in his eyes. Still he said nothing, he didn’t move from the doorway. The dog went silent. Gary was deciding whether do go in and try to kill the dog, or just call someone to take him away. He couldn’t decide right now so he turned the key in the door, locking the dog in, and turned to go upstairs where he knew there was another bottle. As soon as he took one step away the dog began again. “No one likes you Gary, It’s obvious! If you died tonight no one would miss you!”. ‘Let’s see how many people miss you’ Gary thought and walked up the stairs ignoring the shouts.
Gary could no longer hear the dog shouting and was just beginning to fall asleep yet again in the spare room when suddenly the curtain turned from white to red. Startled, Gary sat up and looked out the window. There was a car reversing into his driveway. He watched it as it sat there for a moment before driving off the way it came.
He sat there for another moment. Finally he got up and returned to the kitchen door, bottle in hand, to throw the dog out of the house once and for all. As he approached the door he heard the jingle of a collar. As he began turning the key a low voice said “You chickenshit bastard. ” Suddenly feelings of violence returned to Gary’s head. The voice continued “Guess what Gary, I called the police.” Gary froze, all violence was suddenly swept away by a wave of panic. The car earlier, was that the police? “They’ll take you away and no one will ever have to look at you again” the voice said, shouting now. Could he really have called the police? As his hand left the key, still locked, there was a knock on the front door. Gary stopped breathing. It felt as though he sobered in an instant. Finally he moved and squat-ran to the stairs and noiselessly ascended, avoiding the steps he knew would creak. He went to the bathroom and looked out the window at the flat roof of the kitchen. All the houses on the street had a flat roof here, some even had deck chairs and fencing making it into a balcony. Gary didn’t entertain that often. He always just figured it was the best route out in case of a fire. Looking out at the roof he wondered what he was running for. Stupidity? Drunken Panic? There really was nothing illegal in his house that they would want to arrest him for. Gradually, on top of the initial panic, a second horrible feeling revealed itself; What had the dog told them he had done? Drugs? There’s none in the house. What if it had told them he was a pedophile? Jesus. ‘You’re paranoid!’ he shouted internally, but it did no good, the seed was sown. The dog had told them he was a pedophile. The house overlooks a primary school. They’re going to look at his computer. They’re going to look at his computer and see all of the weird sites he has been on, looked at, even become a member of. Where would he run to? He had nowhere. Maybe he could just go out to a bar. Maybe it would be better if he just wasn’t home that night. Someone playing a sick prank, maybe. He climbed through the window onto the roof. He looked down. His back garden was paved with concrete. It would be better to get over the wall and drop in to his neighbour’s garden, theirs had grass. As he stood in the cold he could not do it. He was afraid. Afraid to go and afraid to turn back. He cursed himself internally, calling himself all of the things the dog had called him earlier. Finally he angered himself enough to reach out his hands and begin climbing over the wall.
Startled he fell backward. An angry voice had shouted his name. He fell through the cold air. He saw nothing but heard the sound of flesh hitting concrete. His shoulder had landed on a single brick and he could no longer move that arm. The back of his head was warm. His legs weakly turned but wouldn’t leave the ground. For hours he lay like that, unable to lift himself. If there had been police they must have left long ago. Nobody came searching for perverts ratted out by their pets. As the sky became darker, he felt tired. As he closed his eyes the dog appeared at the kitchen window, trapped and without food. The man fell asleep to the sound of barking.