Sometimes I write fiction stories, both long and short. I recently began reading them at a great story show here in Denver at the Mercury Cafe that takes place every 4th Tuesday of the month. I thought I would also share them here, because I took the time to write them and you’re bored at work.
“I’ve been running Barfles on the treadmill.”
She grunts, immersed in her book. My comment is plotted for a specific effect, agitation, so I repeat it.
There is silence as she lifts her head, still looking down at the pages.
“What? Her name isn’t Barfles.”
It’s true, her name isn’t Barfles. It’s Sparkles, if you can believe that. She earned her nickname by promptly vomiting on my hiking boots, and then my laptop. I was ready to send her back by day two, if that was possible. It was not.
My statement sinks in.
“You’ve been running her on the treadmill? I told you not to do that.” She says the second part as if she is talking to a willfully disobedient child, which I suppose I am. She’s staring at me now, waiting for my reasoning.
“She loves it. I told you it’d be fine.”
“I don’t care what Sparkles loves. She can’t run on the treadmill.”
“Why not? I saw them do it on TV.”
“The treadmill belongs to the apartment complex. No one wants doggie prints and fur on the machines.”
“I wipe her feet before she gets on.” This isn’t true at all, but she does have a valid point.
“There is no way that’s allowed.”
“So what? If someone catches us I’ll just tell them it was a one time thing.”
She clenches her jaw and closes her book. I forget why I wanted to pick a fight in the first place.
As if sensing her place in the conversation, Barfles walks over and looks from face to face, wagging. I scratch her jaw.
“You have to admit she has lost some serious weight.”
“You told me you’ve been running at the park.”
I shrug, silent.
“So what do you do while Sparkles runs? Read a magazine?”
“No, I offer encouragement.” Also, there’s a television mounted in the corner.
“I can’t believe you’d lie to me about something so… trivial.”
“I knew you’d say no.”
“Because I did say no.”
I know the way to end this conversation. I’ll swear not to run Barfles on the treadmill and apologize for lying. This is a minor offense; there shouldn’t be much of a probationary period. Yet I can’t do it.
“I think you should come watch her run.”
“No! No, she’s done on the treadmill. You’re going to get us kicked out.”
Barfles wags harder, as if she knows a trip to the fitness center is imminent.
“You think they’re going to evict us because we run our dog on the treadmill? Really. Seriously.”
“They didn’t even want us to have a dog in the first place. It’s the perfect excuse for them.”
I never thought the apartment people were looking for a reason to evict us. This shift catches me off guard and I can’t think of anything to say.
“What would you think if you went to use the weights and someone’s cat was on them?”
“You mean like lifting the weights, or just sleeping on them?”
“I wouldn’t care.” The thought of lifting weights with sleeping cats on them seems really motivating. “I’d like it.”
She looks down at the cover of her book, calling for her.
“Promise me you won’t take her in there any more.”
“I think we should talk about a compromise.”
I wait a full stubborn minute but realize my cause is lost.
“I said fine.”
I get the leash and leave, heading for the fitness center.
A few days later, while riding in the car on the way to the Food 4 Less, she gets her revenge. I’m reading the back of an empty fast food bag, letting my hand dangle out the passenger window, feeling the hot August air. I’m not even aware that she has said something important until she elbows me in the arm.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Were you listening at all?”
“I was reading this bag. Sorry.”
“You were too busy reading the Wendy’s bag.”
“Apparently. What did you say?”
“I was saying that maybe we should go back to using condoms.”
I already know what this is about, and I had really hoped she wouldn’t bring it up again.
“I don’t think condoms would prevent that sort of thing. I think we should wash the sheets more often.”
“Maybe you could shower before we have sex.”
“Like every time? That seems a little inconvenient.”
“We don’t have that much sex.”
“I don’t see why this is such a huge deal.”
She bugs her eyes out.
“It is a huge deal. You fucked a dog hair into me. That’s a really, really big deal.”
I laugh, because I can’t help it.
“I did not fuck it into you. It was just a… coincidence. It was just there. There have probably been many dog hairs before that one.”
“That makes me feel so much better. So you’re just slowly filling me up, like a stuffed animal?”
In her distracted state she brushes the curb and the car shudders. I grab the dash in a panic.
“Christ! Do you want me to drive or what?”
“No, I’m fine.” She accelerates to an even more unsafe speed.
“I promised I’d be more careful in the future.”
She shudders, re-living the memory of her discovery.
“If we brushed Barfles more often it would be less likely,” I offer.
“Oh, so it is my fault after all. You are amazing.”
“I didn’t say it was your-“
“And her name is Sparkles. Sparkles. Sparkles. Sparkles.”
When a person repeats that word so many times it makes them sound mentally ill.
“I think if we both keep her brushed there would be less hair.”
“I think if you kept your penis clean you would keep trash out of my interior.”
I resume reading the Wendy’s bag.
Our relationship comes to its anticipated end not with a bang, but a whimper. We are in the Maxima again, this time heading home from the dog park. She has pulled into a parking lot, too distraught to continue driving.
“I’m moving out.” There are tears coming out of her eyes, but I wouldn’t say she is crying.
“Because I said I wanted to be a silver miner?” I had casually mentioned that it might be fun to move to Idaho and become a silver miner, which has snowballed into a critique of my life’s decisions to date.
She sniffles and stares straight ahead.
“It’s over because it’s over. It’s over, it’s over.”
“Are you serious?” I know she is; I guess I’m just stalling.
“I hope you learn to take life seriously one day.” She wipes her eyes with the back of her hand and gives me a pitying look.
“I don’t really want to be a silver miner.”
“Yes, you probably do. Deep down. You want something banal like that.”
“Silver is skyrocketing right now, it’s not-“
“Stop.” She sniffs again and composes herself. “I’m going to move to my mom’s next week.”
The reality sinks in.
“This is really crazy. Let’s just think about this-“
“I’ve been thinking about this for months.”
“When? Where was I?”
“Probably walking Sparkles on the treadmill.”
“Well… what are we going to do about this car?” I gesture broadly at the dashboard. “We still have two years of payments.”
“You can have it.”
“I don’t want it.”
“Then we’ll sell it.”
“For a loss,” I snort.
Barfles licks the back of my neck, concerned.
“I want visitation rights for Barfles.”
She laughs, but not in a happy way.
“I’m serious. I have a vested interest in her.”
“You have never liked Sparkles.”
“What?” I prove how much I like her by scratching her snout.
“She’s my dog, I paid for her.”
“Well, I have purchased quite a bit of food for her. I’ve walked her, I’ve cleaned up after her-“
“Shut up. You’re not getting visiting rights. Get your own dog.”
Barfles nuzzles the side of my hand.
To share Barfles would be a huge win for me. It would show that I had actually participated in a relationship, even if it was only with this little dog.
Barfles looks between us and whimpers, fearful of the future.