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I have my dogs by my side and they will follow me without question, without doubt or hesitation until our end which may be tomorrow or the day after, which may be while we are sleeping or watching TV. You just never know.

I trust my dogs without question, without doubt or hesitation. I trust my dogs like no other.

I stand with them in front of the building in which I live. I have a room on the second floor beside the stairs. It is not a fancy building. It is not a building for fancy people. I can hear the footsteps of the other tenants as they climb up and down but I do not mind. Their footsteps and voices do not bother me. The other tenants do not bother me. They see my dogs. They know my dogs. They know I trust my dogs like no other.

My building is three floors with eight rooms per floor. It is one of six buildings which are red brick veneer over cinder block and flat tar rooftops and rusty, shaky balcony railings and small aluminum framed windows and these buildings are set in two rows of three spread equally over a city block and this city block is repeated a dozen times in a matrix of three by four and there are no libraries, parks or bus stops, no hospitals, stores or schools. There is nothing to disrupt the steady thrum of ventilation equipment and the sound of tires on the road. There is nothing to disrupt my balance.

Here I am with my dogs in front of my building but there is more. There is the parking lot. There is the sandbox. There is the cell phone tower. And nature, too, is in abundance. Why here comes the bluish sky. Here comes the yellowish sun.

In the courtyard, two of them are lying on their pink lawn-chairs in their bikinis, reading romance novels, soaking up the rays as they say. They are pretty women. Everyone talks about them, about the clothes they shared, the songs they sang to each other. They have not done that in a while. Now they just mostly tan. It cannot be that healthy but what do I know about current fashion trends? The women are young. They do what they need to do to succeed in life. Who am I to judge but I remember them when they were still pale. I much preferred them that way.

It has not rained in sixty seven days. It is so dry and hot now that if you take a piss, it will evaporate before it hits the ground, or so they say. Ha ha. I do not know. I am not the kind of man who pisses outdoors. That would be immoral and God does not like an immoral man. My dogs piss outdoors but they are soulless so it does not matter and now their piss wets the dirt where once it burned the grass but I am not worried about the weather even though it has not rained in three hundred and twenty eight days. I have my air conditioning units and my tap water. I do not need your weather. I do not believe in your weather. Your weather is a lie and a conspiracy. If it does not rain for eight hundred and sixty four days, why should I worry? If it does not rain for one thousand four hundred twenty three days, why should I worry?

So do not talk to me about your weather. I am tired of hearing about your weather. I do not care about your weather and I do not trust it.

Here is my list:

I trust my dogs. I do not trust your politicians. I trust my dogs. I do not trust your police. I trust my dogs. I do not trust your lawyers. I trust my dogs. I do not trust your scientists. I trust my dogs. I do not trust your teachers. I trust my dogs. I do not trust your children. I trust my dogs. I do not trust your ...

Here comes a man now. Here comes a man with long fine fingers and small pebble eyes. He will be my friend until he becomes my enemy. He holds out his right hand for a shake but it is clenched like a fist. In his left hand is meat.

The dogs sit.

"How ya doin', Bud?" he asks.

"Not bad," I say.

"Good, good," he says.

"Yes," I say.

"Nice dogs," he says but does not unclench his fists, does not offer them any of his meat.

The man bends over, looks down at my dogs. His smile is full of teeth and nothing else. His ears lay flat against his head. I can hardly see them. They are very smooth against his head.

"Nice dogs," he says again. "What's their breeding?"

"They are both Americans," I say.

"Good, good," the man says. "Americans ... good stock?"

"Only the best," I say.

"Pure?" he asks.

"Only the purest," I say.

"Good, good," he says.

The man is sweating in his dark blue suit. Sweat shines like baby oil on top of his nearly bald head. Each short strand of his stubble cut hair is glistening. He is sweating so much, I can see sweat flowing out from his pores, each bead pushed out like a bubble from beneath the skin. The sweat flows down and pools at the upper edge of a deep thick furrow on his forehead. It pools until the bead gets too large and the surface tension breaks and the rivulet runs down the furrow towards the left, my left, and travels over his brow, just about clears the brow but hits a large dark pink protuberance in the skin and is diverted downwards. The rivulet gathers speed as it descends, enough speed to clear the eyebrow and it lands on the eyelid. The man feels this and blinks but the blink does not stop the descent and instead adds energy to it and the stream of sweat hits the eyelashes, is sliced by the eyelashes and flies in all different directions.

He says, "Hey if you don't mind me asking cuz I am new round here and all but what's with those chicks out there?"

He points over at the sunbathers. I look over to them to see if they have overheard his question but I do not think they have. At least they have not reacted. At least they have not moved. I cannot remember the last time I have seen them move.

"They are ..." I begin and he waits for me to finish but I do not know what to say.

Then, "How long they been out there?" he asks.

I do not know what to say.

"I mean, they look over done. You know what I mean? It's like they're ... I mean, are they really old or ...?" he asks.

I look over at them, at the sun's work: dark brown, almost black skin, shriveled and shrink wrapped around bone. Their feet look clenched. Their fingers look brittle. Their mouths are open but they are quiet. I cannot remember the last time they spoke. Not a whisper. Not a sound. Books in their hands, pages unturned. Dry plastic party cups on the ground beside them. Eyes unblinking, staring into the sky. I cannot remember the last time they moved. How do they do that, remain so still. How long has it been? Unmoving, unbreathing, unliving. But their hair looks great so how could he possibly think they are old?

"... or are they sorta just dead?" he asks.

Still, I do not know what to say.

The man is sweating in his dark blue suit and he rubs the sweat out of his eyes with his elegant hands.

"Cuz if they're dead, someone should think about calling disposal," he says.

The dogs and I eat the same meal most nights. We are creatures of routine if nothing else. There is comfort in routine. Safety. Some people say nothing new, nothing gained. I say nothing new, nothing lost. There is much to lose these days, much to protect against from the pilfering of others. They will nickel and dime you to death, they say. You give a man an inch, he will take a mile, they say and I believe it. You give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. You teach a man to fish and he will fish the oceans dry. Not that I care. I do not eat fish but you know what I mean. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and more knowledge is a catastrophe.

We eat the same meal most nights but tonight we have something special. I scoop out some of the ground meat from the plastic bag and put it in the fry pan. I put the pan on the stove. I turn the heat on. I watch it as it sizzles. The dogs sit beside me, waiting. One dog lies down but sits up again every time I make a move towards the pan.

When the meat is almost done, I throw in some rice, some carrots, some lettuce, a beef flavoured soup cube. I turn the heat down, wait another ten minutes and that is enough. I do not need to look at it to see if it is cooked. I know by heart now how long it takes. I know by heart now what it tastes like.

After dinner is finished, I take the dogs for a walk.

The man sweating in the blue suit is standing in front of my building when I return from my walk. I do not know what he is doing there but he waves at me so I stop.

"Hey, I called about those two women out there," he says.

"Oh yes," I say. "The women."

"Yeah," he says. "I called the number but when the guys came, they said the women were gone."

"Huh," I say.

"Yeah, exactly," he says.

"Huh," I say.

"You don't happen to know what happened to them do you?"

"No, I do not think so," I say.

"Funny thing all that," he says.

"Yes," I say. "Funny."

Over in the courtyard, the lawn chairs are still there but one is turned over. The plastic cups, the books still there on the ground. The women are gone.

There are days when I walk through my life and it feels like I have barely a hold left on reality. I do not know where it has gone, into hiding or perhaps just away, like when you throw something away, flush something away, that kind of away, hidden by a garbage bag or plastic plumbing, not away at all, just out of sight where I can choose not to see it.

TV talks about this sense of detachment all the time now, this new equilibrium most likely brought on by liberal attitudes and behaviours. They say it spreads, that it is like another disease going around with no vaccine to treat it.

I am sure you have heard these same sentiments a thousand times before from a thousand different people, from freeloading unionists, soft headed journalists and fatherless children - the usual complainers. You might be mistaking me for one of them so I can understand if you are embarrassed by these pitiful revelations about myself but I can assure you I am not one of them. This is unlike me. This is a passing phase, I am fairly certain.

So you understand it is hard for me to say this, but I must in order to explain everything clearly to you so that you understand, that some days I am at the point where I would rather not live reality, rather I could wish it onto a screen and pretend it is just a movie I have paid money to see and from which I can exit at any time.

The only thing that saves me now is my dogs. Without my dogs, I would have killed myself a long time ago. Without my dogs, I would kill myself now. Srsly, LOL, as they say.

This is the wrong attitude, obviously. This is not a success oriented attitude. I could never be a restaurant worker or retail sales person with this attitude. I realize with this attitude, I will never have good career prospects or good job security.

With this attitude, I could be a threat.

The next time I see the man, he asks me, "What you say your dogs were?"

"Americans," I say.

"Oh yeah, I remember now," he says. "Good lineage, right?"

"Yes," I say.

"I had some European dogs a few years back," the man says. "Not worth shit."

"No," I say.

"All those fancy breeds, look fancy, cost fancy but not worth shit," he says. "I shoulda just stuck with good ol' American dogs."

"Good old American dogs," I say.

The man takes a piece of meat out of his pocket and raises it to his mouth.

My dogs sit.

He bites into the meat with his back molars. He tears a piece off with a jerk of his thick neck. A smear of bloody grease coats his lips. A slow tongue wipe and it is gone.

He watches the dogs as he chews. My dogs watch his actions with interest.

The man takes another bite of meat and chews. And chews and chews. Finally, he spits it out. My dogs look at the gray masticated meat on the ground.

"On me," the man says.

"Okay," I say and loosen the leash and both dogs lunge for the meat. There is a quick snarl and a snap and the boy backs off and the girl eats.

"Spirited," says the man. "I like that. You ever put them in the ring?"

"No," I say.

"Shame," the man says. "Could make some good money for you. The kind of money taxes'll never touch."

"They are not old enough yet," I say.

"No?" he asks.

"No," I say.

"Funny, they look old enough to me," he says. "You know the thing is with many of these Americans nowadays is their breed's corrupted. Too much cross pollinating with too many foreign bitches. The younger generation's all fucked up in the blood. Can hardly identify them sometimes. Creates problems. You know what I'm talking about, right?"

I have seen the list. I have read about the problems.

"Problems with behaviour. Problems with attitude. Problems with intelligence. Problems with respect," the man says.

"Lots of problems the rest of us have to deal with," he says. "Problems with aggression. Problems with eating habits. Problems with their smell. Problems with drugs. Problems with religion. Problems with respect for their bosses. Problems with work ethic. Problems with responsible parenting. Problems with gangs. Problems with unnaturally high sex drives. Problems with respect for authority."

"I have read the reports," I say.

"But that's not your dogs, of course," he says. "Right?"

"My dogs are fine," I say.

"So you say," the man says. "I can tell just by looking at them." He looks at them. "They're perfect specimens of their breed."

People say the species which will be the most successful are the ones which are parasites to humans. We cover the planet and the parasites come along for the ride. Crows, rats, cockroaches. Where ever we go, they go. Dogs are on that list too.

Dogs are funny that way. They do not care who you are, they still like you. Unless you beat them within an inch of their lives, they will like you and even then, sometimes when you do beat them within an inch of their lives, they still like you. I am not saying I do that to my dogs. I would never do that to my dogs. I would never beat them unnecessarily.

Dogs do not discriminate. They do not care if you are some liberal educated homosexual or some geriatric with hemorrhoids and a shotgun. For the most part, you will find a dog who will take to you.

I got my dogs seven years ago. I got them both at the same time. A boy came by with a bag, opened it up, puppies inside, asked me if I wanted one. I said no. Later, I saw him out back of Building 4 twisting their necks and throwing them into the garbage can. His mother was standing around smoking a cigarette. I did not know where she got the cigarette from.

"Somebody selling cigarettes round here?" I asked.

"No," she said.

"Where did you get the cigarettes?" I asked.

"Why? You want one?" she asked.

I just looked at her. I wanted one but I just looked at her.

She said, "You take a couple of these puppies off my hands and I'll give you a whole pack. How's about that? I am tired of listening to them squeal all afternoon. It's giving me a fucking migraine."

I took the cigarettes. I took two puppies. I did not feed them for a few days and I thought they would just die but they did not so I started looking after them. Now they look after me.

"You taking care of your dogs?" the man asks.

"Yes," I say.

"They eating well?" he asks.

"Yes," I say.

"How you affording to feed them?" he asks me.

"I work in a restaurant," I tell him. "Table scraps."

"Smart man," he says and smiles. "Like Jesus said, waste not, want not."

"Wise words," I say.

"Wise words indeed," the man says. The man runs his hand from the top of his forehead through his meagre hair and back then shakes the gathered sweat off his hand.

"You ever think about selling one of your dogs?" he asks.

"No," I say.

"If you were thinking about selling your dogs, how much?" he asks.

"Never thought about it," I say but I think about it now then put it out of my mind.

I am standing in front of my building with my dogs and the sky is clear and the sun is clear. There is a crack in the earth from my feet past the lawn chairs to the other side of the courtyard. Every day the crack grows a little longer and a little wider. People are saying to be careful around it. People say that someone has already sprained an ankle.

The man sweating in the blue suit walks along one side of the crack. He walks in a straight line, unwavering, uncompromising despite the risk of stepping into an offshoot crack of the crack. There is someone walking beside him. The other man has a shaved head. He has medically enhanced muscles. I have seen the other man before with dogs, every time different dogs, short, squat things. They do not last long with him.

The two men walk up to me. The blue suit man nods at me but does not say anything to me. He points at my dogs. The other man looks at my dogs. He walks around them. He reaches out to touch them. The female snaps at him as a warning but the man does not draw his hand back. The blue suited man is impressed by this.

The male dog turns and looks slowly at the man's outstretched hand. The dog is very still and I can see the whites of his eyes. The man sees this too. He hesitates. I know the male will not miss if he snaps. Perhaps the man knows this too. He takes his hand back.

The two men nod at each other and then they leave the same way they came.

In the afternoon, the man in the blue suit comes back.

"Have you thought about a price for your dogs?" he asks.

"No," I say.

The next day, the man in the blue suit comes back.

"How much for the dogs?"

"No," I say.

The next time the man in the blue suit comes back, he is holding a plastic bag. His muscular friend stands beside him and stares at me.

The blue suit man looks at me then at the dogs. He holds up the plastic bag and shakes it. He steps towards the dogs. The dogs watch him with interest. He takes another step towards them. I watch him with interest. He watches the dogs watching the bag. He lowers the bag.

"Keeping a dog must be a chore, taking care of them all the time. Taking them out every time they need to piss or crap. Feeding them. Keeping them healthy. Vet bills must be expensive," he says.

"I have never taken them to a vet," I say.

"Never been to a vet? How do you know they're healthy then?"

"They have never been sick," I say.

"Maybe they're sick and you just don't see it. Maybe it's one of those sicknesses that don't show up until it's too late. They might just drop dead on you one day." Then he turns to his friend, "That can happen right?"

"Yeah," says the muscular man.

"They are not sick," I say.

"And what about accidents? You know dogs get into all sorts of things. Getting into fights. Chasing cars. Picking things off the ground. Eating all sorts of things they shouldn't be eating."

I look at the man's shoes. They are covered in dust but the shine underneath still comes through. He must polish them quite often. I wonder what that must be like, to have the time and the desire to polish one's shoes.

"You know my friend here was just telling me he has this rat problem. So he buys this poison to poison them. It stops blood from coagulating or something like and the rats bleed to death on the inside. I don't get it. How do you bleed to death on the inside? I mean isn't inside where all your blood is supposed to be? Anyway, he says the stuff works really well." Then, to his friend, "Right?"

"Yeah," the muscular man says.

"So you just mix it up with some raw hamburger, right? And put it out at night?" the blue suited man asks.

"Yeah," the muscular man says.

"Usually, he picks the stuff up in the morning so his dogs don't eat it but one time he missed some and this young bitch he had must've eaten it. At least that's what he figured cause when he found her, she was on her side and couldn't get up." Then to his friend, "And what else?"

"Blood was leaking out her ass," the muscular man says.

"Right, blood was leaking out her ass," the blue suit man says.

"Then she died," the muscular man says.

"Point being, the shit works," the blue suit man says then he pulls something out of the plastic bag. Raw cubes of meat. He looks at me. He looks at the dogs. He tosses the meat and the cubes land at their feet.

The meat is too tempting. I know they will not listen to me. I try to hold them back but the male is too quick and his leash too loose. He snaps up a cube of the meat. I try to reach his mouth but I have to keep the female back away from the rest of the meat on the ground. By the time I get to him and pry his mouth open, he has already swallowed it.

"Hey, it's okay," the blue suit man says. "I was making some jerky last night and had some left over. I thought about your dogs. That's all. Thought I'd give 'em a treat."

I look at the male. I try to notice any change in his breathing, any excessive salivation.

"Don't worry," the man says. "That meat was fine. Grade A stuff. I should've saved some for you. You could've made some good stew out of it. Next time I see you, I'll bring over some of that jerky. You'll love it. Good and salty."

I crouch down. I run my hands over the male's chest to feel his heart beat, his lungs breathe.

"Like I said, it's all good," the man says. "But I understand why you're worried. You just never know what people'll leave lying around on the ground these days. There're some sick fucks out there. You wouldn't want your dogs picking something up while you're on a walk. They eat something nasty, they wouldn't be worth much then would they?"

The man looks at me and smiles. He reaches into the bag and pulls out another piece of meat and puts it in his mouth.

"See? It's all good," he says. "Why don't you take a couple of days and think about how much you'd like to sell your dogs for. For real this time. Last time I ask, okay?"

The men turn and start to walk away but then the blue suit man stops and turns around again.

"Look, you probably think I'm a bad person but I'm not. I just, well, I see a lot of potential in your dogs and I think you're doing both yourself and them a great disservice not letting them fulfill that potential. To be human is to recognize potential and to know when to seize it. It's all about capital and competition. Didn't anyone teach you that in church? That's what separates us from them," the man says and points at my dogs and then leaves.

I cannot sleep that night. I am puzzled. I spend all night going over the conversation. I try to understand what the blue suited man said to me. I feel he has given away a secret. I just need to decode it and it will change everything. I spin the words over in my mind. I recite them. I write them down. I rewrite them and the more I do this, the more I feel their meaning exposed. I do not sleep at all but by morning I am finally there and I understand: capital and competition. It explains everything.

If things were different, if people were different, maybe we would all have reached a higher plateau but we are not different. We are what we are and what more can we expect of ourselves? Capital and competition - it is the way of the world and even if it takes us to the end of the world, what more can we expect of ourselves? I understand now and I am grateful to the man. He has taught me a wonderful thing because it explains everything.

A man with a car buys a bigger car. A man with a house buys a bigger house. A man with a gun buys a bigger gun. A man with nothing picks up the biggest rock he can throw. It's the way of the world.

Capital and competition - it explains me.

I leave my dogs inside the next time I go out.

When I see the blue suited man, he is alone and I invite him back to my apartment to talk about the dogs. At first he hesitates, but then says, "Sure, why the fuck not?"

We walk back to my building and walk upstairs to the second floor. As usual, the dogs sense my approach and start whimpering even before I open the door. When I open the door, the dogs push forward to greet me but then back up when they see the man come in behind me. I tell them it is okay. I tell them they can greet the man. I remind them he is the one who gives them the good snacks.

The man walks around my apartment. He touches things. He picks things up and looks at them. He walks over to the window and looks outside at the courtyard. He asks me if I have any beer and I do.

"No, I do not," I say.

I turn on the television for him and give him the remote.

"You really know how to make a guest feel welcome," the man says and chuckles at his own sarcasm. For a moment, I wonder if this too is a coded comment on my condition, an addendum to what he said yesterday but I realize it is not. It is only passive aggressive weakness but I am not disappointed in him. He is just the messenger. He does not embody the message.

I say to him, "Your words from yesterday. I understand."

"What are you talking about?" he asks.

I am grateful to the man but he is just the messenger. He does not understand his own message. And he is weak.

"Yesterday, what you said," and I take the hammer and I hit him in the head with it using the nail remover side. For a moment, it hangs there embedded in his skull and then it drops to the floor. The man looks at me like he wants to ask my permission for something and then he drops to the floor.

I have nothing to say.

The dogs sit.

5 Comments to “The Days of a Wounded Man”

  1. Kit Lang says:

    Well. That was... creepy.

    How 'bout some nice dog pics?

  2. Joanne says:

    OK Fred, you have now officially gone from Stephen King light to Stephen King full bore. You actually scared and repulsed me but still drew me in with this story. You really should try to have some of your stories published. I feel like something very evil just crawled up my back. Good, no great, job.

  3. You've gone from Stephen King Lite to Stephen King. Kinda creepy, Fred.
    Altho I do like how the guy protected his dogs.

  4. foxpen says:

    I've always enjoyed your fiction, Fred, and this one, although somewhat darker than your other stories, is no exception. You've got a real talent. You could publish your stories as a kind of anthology

  5. Excellent story Fred. Reminiscent of Atwood and McCarthy. Keep your fiction rolling!

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A request

The reason for this blog is to help get specific dogs adopted from TAS but equally important is to try to normalize the idea of shelter dogs being just as good and just as desirable as any other dogs including those which are regularly merchandised by backyard breeders, puppy millers and those few remaining pet store owners who still feel a need to sell live animals. The single greatest stigma shelter animals still face is the belief that shelter animals are substandard animals. Anyone who has had enough experience with shelter animals knows this is untrue but the general public hasn't had the same experiences you've had. They see a nice dog photo in a glossy magazine and too many of them would never think of associating that dog with a dog from a shelter. After all, no one abandons perfectly good dogs, right? Unfortunately, as we all know, perfectly good dogs are abandoned all the time.

The public still too often associates shelter dogs with images of beat up, sick, dirty, severely traumatized animals and while we definitely sometimes see victims such as these, they are certainly not the majority and, regardless, even the most abused animals can very often be saved and made whole again.

Pound Dogs sometimes discusses the sad histories some of the dogs have suffered. For the most part, though, it tries to present the dogs not as victims but as great potential family members. The goal is to raise the profiles of animals in adoption centers so that a potential pet owner sees them as the best choice, not just as the charity choice.

So, here's the favour I'm asking. Whenever you see a dog picture on these pages you think is decent enough, I'd like you to consider sharing it on Facebook or any other social media sites you're using (I know many of you do this already and thank you for that). And when you share it, please mention that the dog in the photo is a shelter dog like so many other shelter dogs waiting for a home. If we can get even five percent of the pet buying public to see shelter dogs differently, to see how beautiful they are and how wonderful they are, and to consider shelter dogs as their first choice for a new family member, we can end the suffering of homeless pets in this country.