“Leave my heart out of it,” she says, “you’re not bringing him up. I won’t allow it.”
Looking down at the dog who in turn looks at me, I notice there’s blood on his front paws. Kneeling by his side again, I take his right one in my hand and inspect it. Going on to check the other three, I find each of them to be in a similar condition.
“You poor thing,” I say, and with that, he licks my fingers before nuzzling his head against my open palm.
“Look at his paws, Meeko, they’re covered in blood! They’re burning on the sidewalk. We can’t leave him out here. They’ll get infected.”
My words reach her, but she tries her best to avoid them by leaving the window. I can hear her cussing though, and then the sound of the bathroom door slamming. She must slam that door at least a dozen times a day. Thing’s almost off its hinges. Massaging the tender flesh and brown, silky fur of the boy, I check to see if he’s wearing a collar, but there’s none to be seen. Panting with beer on his breath the same as me, I look about to see if anyone’s paying attention. Unsurprisingly, no one bats an eyelid. The traffic has eased and is now flowing down the strip, but more people are mooching about. They congregate around the stores and fast-food joints and will stay that way until long into the night when the sun sinks behind the farthest buildings. I recognise none of the faces individually, but as a crowd, they appear the same as they do day after day. I don’t blame them for seeking the streets as I understand the need to be around other people—the need to be a part of life—and yet the life they seek has no meaning. None that’s worth seeking, anyhow. It’s centred too much on company and not enough on conversation, and without words, you can be in someone’s arms yet feel like the loneliest person on earth. The smell of food is making me hungry. That damn chicken—it gets me every time. Licking my lips the same as the dog, I decide the only decent thing is to take him up to the apartment.
“So you wanna come with me, boy?”
Tilting his head, he grins and barks and sticks out his tongue.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
Wincing at the sight of his bloody paws, I take another look at the crowd on the off chance someone might see me and think I’m in the act of dognapping, but as expected, no one sees a thing. Getting to my feet, I pick up the empty bowl and shake away the last few drops of beer that cling to its surface. Stuffing it down my pyjamas, I kiss my teeth at the dog and pat my chest.
“Come, boy, up we get!”
I’m not sure if he understands, but just like that, he leaps into my waiting arms. For a dog of his size, he’s heavier than he looks.
“Good boy,” I say with a grin while wrapping my arms around him, “now when we get upstairs, don’t listen to anything she says. She’s a good woman, really, it’s just that she’s easily jealous. Give her time, and she’ll be okay.”
With a small bark, he nestles himself against my chest as I link my fingers beneath his tail. The blood from his paws drips down my bottoms and smears itself against my chest, but it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.