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Men and Mutts

By 

Michael Garrett Ashby II

H

e hunched over the bag, peering just inside enough to glimpse its contents.

“Jesus Jason, there’s a dead dog in here. What in the living hell did you take this for?”

“I thought it was filled with gifts or electronics or something.”

Christmas was when thieves usually cleaned up. Everyone ran around with bags upon bags over their shoulders. Most people didn’t notice their bags were missing till they got home, and even then they usually assumed they forgot it somewhere in the midst of their hurry.

“Where the heck did you get it?”

“There was a lady on the subway. She was struggling to carry it; I just assumed she had some heavy stuff in there.”

“And you just took it?”

“I pushed her down the stairs after helping her halfway up.”

“Jesus man, this is messed up.”

Cain scratched his forehead. They couldn’t just leave a dead dog in their house, and it’s not like they had a backyard to bury the thing in.

“We should just leave it on the side of the road. The trashmen could always pick it up. What do you think?”

“I think that’s kind of messed up. This dog was alive at some point. I don’t know how comfortable I am just sending it out to be thrown in a trash compactor.”

“It ain’t alive anymore.”

“But it was.”

They sat there for a moment, stuck in a stale-mate. Their stares were interrupted by an opening door. The visitor was a tall dark man, dressed in black head-to-toe with a large over coat thrown around his shoulders.

“What do you boys got for me?”

“Mother superior, I was wondering when you would show up.”

“Well I’m here now, so what do you have?”

The mother superior, as he was affectionately known, was the go-to for selling anything hot. He made regular rounds through the ghettos looking for things that would be missed, but never found. He was good with things like that.

“We have a dead dog. That’s about it right now.”

He peered down into the bag like he was looking at old baseball equipment.

“Yeah? There’s not really much of a market for dead dogs. But I imagine you already knew that.”

“Just give us a little bit more time. Maybe come back later tonight. We just haven’t seen many leads today.”

“Look, I’m going to tell you guys what I tell everyone else around here. If you’re going to keep wasting my time, then you mine as well join the rednecks collecting copper. I don’t need this crap, you do, and if you don’t step it up it’s going to be a real cold season for both of you.”

“We’re trying man.”

Cain stood there with his arms open. He looked a bit like a beggar trying to get sympathy change.

“I’ll be back later tonight. Get this dog out of here before you smell up your apartment.”

Just like that he walked out the door. Time was slipping out of their hands. It was hard enough to make money in the summertime, but in winter it was a necessity. You need heat; otherwise you freeze yourself the death.

“I’ll take the dog. I’ll take it to a vet or something. I’ll leave it on their door step. We’re not just throwing it away.”

Cain threw a sharp glare over at Jason.

“Well aren’t you just a regular saint. I’ll go out and get us something we can actually sell while you take care of a giant dead rodent.”

---

Jason’s arm slumped down under the dead weight of the duffle bag. It felt like a two hundred pound weight driving into the groove of his shoulder. He imagined that he looked like someone with an enormous amount of gifts under his arm, and he began to laugh. He laughed at the concept of another man stealing his dead dog, making the same mistake he did. It wasn’t unfathomable. He wasn’t walking through the cleanest of streets, and everyone in the neighborhood was either a struggling artist or a junky. And these days what difference was there really? They both did what they could to get by, and for most that meant stealing duffle bags and finding out what was in them later. That meant dealing with mother superior and other shady figures.

The vet wasn’t much further, and the smell of burning hair was in the air. There was a man in a white coat waiting at the door.

“How are you doing today sir?”

The white coat was speaking with a large smile on his face. He seemed far too excited for a man who burned dogs for a living. He seemed far too excited for a man who did anything for a living.

“I’m doing alright. I-well I have to get rid of something.”

“Is it in that duffle bag there?”

He held out his latex covered hand for the bag.

“Yeah it is.”

The white coat grabbed the bag and placed it on the concrete in front of the office. He asked something along the lines of “What should I be expecting to be in here?” while he unzipped the bag. Jason’s hands were shaking, he didn’t know why but he was nervous.

“When did he die?” He had a sudden air of aggression to him.

“He died earlier today. I came home and found him on the floor like that. Can you do something with the body?”

“That’s a shame. He’s a beautiful German shepherd.”

“I’m going to miss him, yeah.”

They both stood there for a moment, staring at the dead dog.

“I had one a lot like him when I was younger. He was beautiful. He used to run around and nip at our heels. I loved that dog. We raised him since he was a puppy.”

“It always hurts when a pet goes.”

“Yeah, it doesn’t get any easier, putting them down or disposing of the bodies. I still think of him a lot when I’m working here.”

“I can imagine.”

“I imagine you could, couldn’t you. You know it’s not free for me to take this dog though, don’t you?”

“Why the hell does it cost money? You’re just going to burn him with the rest of the dogs aren’t you?”

“There are arrangements, procedures, it’s not like we just throw them in a furnace.”

“I don’t have money.”

“How did you feed him then?”

“I didn’t”

“So that’s why he’s dead then isn’t it, because you’re too proud to let go of an animal you can’t take care of?”

Jason could feel himself sweating. He should have just thrown the dog in the trash like Cain wanted, but something about it felt wrong. A body in the trash with all the wrappers and condoms and used garbage that piled up on the street corners, he would just end up crushed in mountains at the dump. Or worse, he would end up being food for some homeless dumpster diver. He didn’t know what to do now, so he ran. He sprinted back down the alley ways, passed the dealers and the artists, and the love holes that sat outside along the concrete runways. Behind him the white coat was screaming something. He heard talk of animal protection services coming. He just shut his eyes and ran until he was home. He slammed the door and fell flat onto the middle of the floor. He was safe.

---

“Look what I got.”

Cain was standing over him with four beakers in his hand. They were filled with some clear liquid he couldn’t identify.

“What the hell are those?”

“I stopped by the vet myself, and I got us something special. Mother superior is going to love these. They’re tranquilizers.”

“People take that stuff? It’s for animals.”

“Yeah people take this stuff. It’s worth a lot of money. We just might be able to turn this hell hole around if we can keep getting our hands on these.”

Jason stood up and smelled one of the beakers. It smelt like urine and dog fur.  He tried to picture someone injecting it into their arms. He started laughing. He started imagining the junkie turning into a werewolf. It looked like a German shepherd with flannel and pants. He laughed until Mother superior showed up and bought the beakers, and occasionally again after that.

---

Cain and Jason drove down the side streets in their new car. It was a light baby blue with white wall tires and beige leather seats. To them it was the sign that they made it. They would be able to ride in like professional robin-hoods, moving in and out of their victims homes before they even knew what had happened. They drove by the veterinarians’ office, ground zero of their success. A duffle bag was sitting next to their trash cans and the whole place smelt like burning fur.

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Issue 10

published 

September 22, 2017

Men and Mutts was written by Michael Garrett Ashby II, who is a fiction and poetry writer based out of South Florida. He has been published in the Spark Literary Anthology, Maudlin House, Ex-Fic, Atlas and Alice, eFiction India and more.

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Issue 10

This writing was originally published in Opium Magazine, and is not listed in the Lit.cat archives.
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