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Image by Sanne Hartogh
On my phone I stumble across the website for Insta-Pooch. The company promises to make dog-owning simple and rewarding.
“Exactly,” I say.
“Who?” my wife says.
I empty the bottle of wine, dividing what is left between our two glasses.
“This,” I say, handing her my phone.
My wife scrolls and reads. Then watches the short video, the happy dogs, gleaming coats, obedience without the need for repeated instructions. Smiling owners.
We both empty our glasses.
“They,” I tell my wife, “appear…”
“Yes,” says my wife, “they do.”
We look at one another. Each of us seems to be waiting for the other to continue.
“No,” says my wife.
“No?” I say.
“No,” she says, “perfect.”
She returns my phone. I open a second bottle of wine. My wife opens the oven to check on the salmon. I follow through, I submit our order to Insta-Pooch via my phone. After dinner and the second bottle of wine we take cognac into the other room. We fall asleep on the couch. The movie we were excited about seeing, can’t recall the title, it’s a comedy, is rolling its credits when I wake up. I think it is morning, I think I am so far behind, so late. It is dark outside. But not quite ten at night I discover.
In bed later my wife shouts in her sleep, feet kicking.
* * *
A package arrives the next morning. It is the size of a ring box.
“What’s that?” says my wife.
“You know,” I say, cheating a look at the return address for a hint. “The dog.”
We skim the instructions online. My wife fills a washtub with water. I break the seal on the tiny box, stir in the tablets and powder then cover the tub with a towel, leave it in the basement. My first gin and tonic glides down my throat with a gentle bitterness.
We decide to lunch before noon. I open a bottle of wine, my wife dishes out a colourful salad. We try. To eat light, to think about our health. As I refill our wine glasses, a sound comes from the basement.
My wife says, “You think..?”
So, we go downstairs and investigate. A bark, a whimper. I lift the towel. A snout looks up at me.
“A wiener dog?” I say.
The dog growls.
My wife empties her wine glass, takes the dog in her arms, reads the name tag.
“Hello, Syd,” she says, and the dog licks her face. “Dachshund,” she says.
“We,” I say, “ordered a Lab.”
Then my wife gasps as, with a series of rapid snapping sounds, the dog grows maybe half a foot longer. She sets it on a blanket. By the time we finish the next bottle of wine, Syd is a solid six feet long. The growth doesn’t appear to be painful for Syd, the dog simply goes still and closes his eyes and slows his breathing. Then snap snap snap and when each spurt finishes, Syd thumps his tail on the blanket and delivers a deeper bark, as if to say, That’s it for now. (Okay, with each spurt the dog releases some internal gas but the smell passes quickly.)
Later we discover our two mistakes, one on the order form and one regarding the proper dosage of the ingredients. I, we, often rush when, instead, careful examination is called for. Maybe we will, over time, reacquire that skill.
The children on our block, however, take to Syd immediately. They run, he gallops after them. The smaller of the children, allowed by Syd to ride on his back, wave their cowboy hats and throw back their heads. They laugh at the sky.
At night, TV amuses our eyes. Syd stretches out, warms our feet. My wife sits in her own chair. Sometimes I mention our boy. He would have been ten. My wife quietly agrees he would have loved Syd too.
Larry Brown lives in Brantford, Ontario. His story collection TALK was published by Oberon Press. Recently he completed KURTIN, his second collection.