Lying To The Dog

If you stare long enough at that space between the trees – there, where the row of dry junipers leads the eye down to the field of baby’s breath – you begin to see water. It’s a lake, perhaps a sea, lying peaceful and cool, and not a field at all. You can hope that no one comes to cut it, plow it, leave it fallow for winter. That’s what she sees from the window each morning, when she rises and stands alone in the house.

The sun is just up, strikes the potting shed with its white window boxes, and shines on the hollow bones of the swing set rusting in the yard. There is a mourning dove on the crossarm of the power pole, cooing to himself. This was always her favorite time of day. So calming to stand by the window, looking down at the wet grass. The dog sniffs from bush to bush along the fence. She does not see the dog but watches the dove, as countless short and tiny lives wake to the daylight all around.

In the kitchen, she takes the pan and the plate from the sink – where he left them before first light without rinsing the greasy leavings of egg and black pepper – and puts them in the dishwasher, setting it to rinse and hold. And hold is all she wants to do; just to keep a grip on the life that’s casting her aside with centrifugal force. And maybe she could use a rinse of sins as well; a drop of detergent for her guilt and grief. If only he could help her find such things, and stop insisting that by God he’s tried, that she’s had time to get past it, to drag her heart from the shadows; as much time as he’s had, anyway.

The dog comes in and stops to drink from his bowl beside the pantry door, then comes up behind her where she stands at the sink. She hears him coming, nails clicking on the hardwood floor. He presses his nose to the back of her knee. Ignored, he goes to his bed in the corner and lies down.

It’s true she’s had time, and he’s had time. Time has passed. But two years or two hours is all the same to her, who is always in that afternoon of their child on her bicycle, just a little too big for her, with fat tires and a basket on the front – with books going back to the library – riding away. Always away. So small with the trees behind her, and the gravel drive threading into the trees, to where it turns to meet the county road. That’s where she saw her daughter go, around the bend and into the trees. But she never came back out again. She was supposed to come back. That was the promise. Come back from the library with a new book to read, to talk about. She’d suggested A Wrinkle In Time, which she loved as a girl. Just a little time, then home. Not this tearing away, this disappearing to another world.

I don’t know what do to, she tells the dog. She won’t come home. I told her, straight there, straight home. Be careful, don’t dawdle. But you know she’s followed her nose into the candy store – she can’t resist. Now why are you looking at me that way?

The dog knows. He was here and rushed the door, barking, when the officers came. They came in slowly, eyes down, holding their big hats. She shoved the dog in the hall bathroom and shut the door, and told him stay as if he had a choice. He knew at once. He could smell it on them, the pitiful sadness of it, the rough road ahead waste and shame of it. He could smell the coming grief of it; bitter, musky like a possum running down the fence. So he sat on the lime green rug on the bathroom floor and whined, and fought the urge to howl. The dog knows his lady is lying.

He should just leave us here, you know. We’d be alright, she tells the dog. My sister would come from Santa Fe and live with us. I could get a job. He doesn’t care about me and how my heart is broken. It would be good for you, too. She’s got two dogs and we have so much room, a yard that’s big enough for twenty dogs.

The dog digs with his teeth at the hair between his toes, stands and paws at his bed, then turns around and lays back down again. He’s watching her.

He doesn’t care. He only wants to leave. Just sell the house, drag up and go, he says. And how can I? You tell me that. How can a mother do such a thing? She’s much too small to be alone. The days are getting short again, and gray and cold. She’ll be hungry, tired from the ride. I have to be here when she comes.

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Lying To The Dog by Kyle Kimberlin is licensed under the
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs
3.0 United States license, available at
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/.

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44 thoughts on “Lying To The Dog

  1. Pingback: Welcome and Thank You! | Newzkast

  2. Good reversal of a cliche. It’s often the dog who goes missing, and the daughter or son who must learn to deal with it. Effective use of time also, from the event to moving we get a sense the impact is has upon the woman’s life. A touching story indeed and I look forward to reading more.

  3. Vivid.

    My favourite bit: “So he sat on the lime green rug on the bathroom floor and whined, and fought the urge to howl.” The lime green rug is essential.

    The observation of dog mannerisms is bang on.

    Just the right length.

  4. That was a great piece of writing…u r brilliant!!… and then you read it too :)… I was left silent by the story, it took me some time to come here and comment…definitely had an impact..
    although I would really like to know the inspiration behind it?

  5. “the greasy leavings of egg and black pepper” – these are the words I love the most.

    …. the ones I want to have keep my water-wrinkled hands company long after the soapsuds have fallen down and dispersed….

    … the ones I want to keep and never see go……

  6. “the greasy leavings of egg and black pepper” ….

    These are the words I love the most….. the ones I want to have keep my water-wrinkled fingers company long after the soapsuds on my hands have fallen down and dispersed……..
    …. the ones I want to have stay with me and,

    never go……..

  7. i showed my whole family this story and they were crying….its so sad
    well written and beautiful
    come check out my post its also a story

  8. such an enigmatic ending and provoking story, reminds me of the movie “the other woman” really feel like this is as if portraying natalie portman perfectly in her role as a distraught mother. (: Good job

  9. This late at night, I just thought I’d click on one last story. This made me cry, quite literally. You write strings of emotions that turn to tears.

  10. Pingback: Welcome and Thank You! | Metaphor

  11. Masterfully written. I love how you use details of the setting, both those available to the main character and those outside her perspective. Great idea giving’s the dog’s perception to add more important detail in an intriguing way. Although a picture may be worth a thousand words, your artful writing projects powerful images that captivated me. I love words, and yours were a pleasure to read. Thanks for sharing.
    Congrats on a well-deserved FP!

  12. This is incredibly sad and beautiful. I really like you’re writing style, it’s very interesting and different. It’s not only touching, but strikingly human and true to life. I really enjoyed reading this. Good work. :)

  13. Pingback: Lying to the dog « JUSTICE FOR RAYMOND

  14. Beautifully written story, your child is always your child no matter how old they are. The hurt of losing a child is one that never leaves.

  15. A great detail: “In the kitchen, she takes the pan and the plate from the sink – where he left them before first light without rinsing the greasy leavings of egg and black pepper”

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