Saturday, January 9, 2010

The story of the coward, the asshole and the potty-mouthed thief

While traveling along a long stretch of highway, a coward, an asshole and a potty-mouthed thief come across a large dog lying by the side of the road. The dog appears to be breathing but is otherwise immobile.

The coward, upon seeing the dog, starts to cower and crosses to the other side of the road while keeping his eyes on the dog the whole time.

"Watch out for that beast," the coward calls out. "I'm pretty sure it's going to wake and tear you apart and try to eat you."

The asshole, seeing this as an opportunity to show up the coward, walks over to the dog and seeing that the dog does not react to his presence nor is it likely to react, shoves it with his boot. The dog makes a sound, maybe a whimper, maybe just an exhale of air from his broken ribs. Otherwise, the dog doesn't move so the asshole gives it another shove with his boot just to drive the point home whatever that point may be.

The coward, seeing that the dog did not respond to the shove from the asshole, did not lift its head even, slowly and cautiously crosses the road and walks over to the dog. The coward kicks the dog's back foot and then retreats with a squeal behind the asshole. The dog still lies prone. The coward then comes out from behind the asshole and kicks one of the dog's front feet. This time, the dog opens its eyes and looks at the coward and the coward squeals and retreats behind the asshole again.

"You're such a pussy," says the asshole laughing meanly at the coward.

"That thing looked at me," says the coward.

"So?" says the asshole and then goes over to the dog and shoves the animal's head with his boot. "It's not like it's going to do anything, you coward."

"Shut up, you asshole," says the coward and then flinches away in case the asshole feels like striking out.

The asshole just walks away, no longer interested in the dog. The coward scurries past the dog, with a thought to poke it in the eyes with a stick but thinks better of it, just in case the ugly beast decides it's hungry after all.

The potty-mouthed thief, fifty meters behind, looks up and sees that he is almost caught up with the asshole and the coward because they are examining something by the side of the road but then they take off again.

"Hey, hold up there, goddammit," he says even though no one hears him or if they do, they're not listening. He's slow because he's pulling along a heavy wagon loaded full of loot from the last house the three of them had just robbed. After the robbery, the three of them played a card game of hearts and the potty-mouthed thief had ended up with the most hearts, though not all of them, and thus he was the loser of the game making him the puller of the loot.

The loot consists of heavy items of questionable value. It's mostly silverware, if it's even silver - like how does one even tell? - and some antique looking crystal glasses and bowls and one sheepskin jacket which the asshole insisted they take - which the thief is certain the asshole will claim for himself. What a disappointment. In fact, the potty-mouthed thief doesn't think the loot is of much value at all and figures that at best they'll get a couple of hundred at the pawn shop. Subtract costs, split the remainder three ways and it almost renders the night's work a total waste of time. In fact, with all this strain on his lower back from the wagon pulling, the potty mouthed thief decides it definitely isn't worth it. Another mile of this and he'll be forced to spend his portion of the take, and more, on chiropractors and massage therapists and lots of yoga to calm his nerves.

The potty-mouthed thief is thinking these negative thoughts just as he passes by the dog lying by the side of the road. He thinks the dog is dead and is about to keep going but then he hears a whimper.

"Well, there's nothing I can fuckin' do for you, you poor shitty bastard," mumbles the potty-mouthed thief but nevertheless he stops and pulls out a bottle of water from the wagon and goes over to the dog.

There are flecks of blood by the dog's mouth and from the raspy breathing, the potty-mouthed thief is pretty sure the dog's ribs are broken, probably from being hit by a car. From the wagon, he fetches one of the stolen crystal wine glasses and unwraps the towel which had been wrapped around it for protection. He soaks the towel with water and then bends down over the dog and squeezes the water into the dog's mouth. He's not sure if this will even work but then the dog starts to slurp up the water trickling into its mouth.

It's a slow process but after a few minutes the bottle of water is empty, most of it spilled into the dirt despite the potty-mouthed thief's attentive care. He places one hand under the dog's head and cradles it. With his other hand, he gently strokes the dog's muzzle.

"Aw fuck it," the potty-mouthed thief says and he goes back to his wagon and empties out the loot and covers it up with dirt and branches. He lays out several towels on the bottom of the wagon.

He then takes the last towel, a large bath towel, pink with blue cherubs embroidered along its perimeter, and slides it underneath the dog. He tugs and wiggles the towel until finally it's spread out fully beneath the length of the dog. The potty-mouthed thief wonders if he'll be able to manage the full weight of it all but nevertheless goes ahead and grabs two corners of the towel in each hand and lifts. He heaves up the load with a grunt and a little effort. He quickly moves the dog up and into the wagon, a little afraid that the dog might thrash about from pain, but the transition goes without a hitch.

The dog acknowledges its place on this new, softer surface with a lift of its head to have a look around. Maybe the water helped, thinks the potty-mouthed thief, then he takes the sheepskin jacket and lays it over the dog. It's a bit chilly out.

The dog is a much lighter load than the loot so the potty-mouthed thief soon catches up to his companions. He explains the situation to them.

"You dumped our loot for that dog?" says the asshole. "What kind of a retard are you?"

"Look, I'll fuckin' come back later and retrieve it," says the potty-mouthed thief.

"Yeah, you'd better," says the coward. "You retard."

"Shut the fuck up," says the potty-mouthed thief.

"No, you shut the fuck up," says the asshole. "You need to dump that fucking animal and go back and get the loot."

"No fuckin way," says the potty-mouthed thief. "I'm not leaving the dog behind. That's just fuckin cruel."

"What? What did you say?" asks the asshole. "Did you just say, 'That's cruel'?"

"That's what he said," says the coward.

"I'll show you cruel," says the asshole. He walks over to the side of the road and starts to look around. He's looking for a big rock but the largest he can see is no larger than an egg.

"Goddammit," he says and he wanders further away from the road into the dry scrub. With each passing moment, the asshole's rage builds up more pressure. But that's okay, he's thinking. He starts to salivate in anticipation of the flood of orgiastic emotions he'll be savouring when he brings that big rock he's sure to find any moment now down on the head of that stinking dog. And maybe once he's done with the dog, he'll share a similar moment with that retard thief he never should have partnered up with.

The asshole stumbles out into an area free of scrub and sees exactly what he is looking for lying there on the ground not two meters away. He walks over and picks up the big rock. It's heavy and to lift it comfortably requires both the asshole's hands but he's quite satisfied with the substantial weight of it. He looks over at the road and starts walking back.

Wind the clock back two minutes and the potty-mouthed thief is watching the asshole searching. He's got a pretty good idea what the asshole is looking for and he's worried.

"Your stupid pet is going to get it now," says the coward.

"Fuck off," says the potty-mouthed thief but the coward, aroused by the possibility of bloody violence to be inflicted upon another, is not swayed.

"Your stupid pet is going get its ass kicked," says the coward.

The potty-mouthed thief wants to punch the coward in the face but holds back.

"How long have you known that fucking asshole for?" asks the potty-mouthed thief.

"Long enough," says the coward.

"Why's he always such a fucking asshole?" asks the potty-mouthed thief.

"Bad childhood," says the coward.

"I had a bad fucking childhood and I still ain't that much of a fucking asshole."

"Says you."

"Yeah, says me," says the potty-mouthed thief and then, not knowing what else to do, punches the coward in the face, breaking his nose.

The coward goes, "Uhn, un, uhh, un," and he brings his hands up to his face and touches his nose and sparks of pain are sent screaming into his brain and tears erupt and cloud up his vision and he goes, "Ahh, uhn, uh, uh."

The potty-mouthed thief grabs the handle on the wagon and starts to pull and run. The asshole, from his clearing in the scrub, sees the turn of events and starts to run as well, obliquely to the potty-mouthed thief with the intention of cutting him off somewhere up ahead and then cutting him down.

The potty-mouthed thief is slowed down by the wagon he's pulling but the asshole is slowed by the big rock he's cradling under his arm. The two of them run like this for a couple of minutes. Neither man is terribly fit. The asshole runs roughly through the scrub, sometimes almost tripping and then just recovering and the potty-mouthed thief runs somewhat like a lunatic pulling his precious red wagon. And because neither man is terribly fit, after two minutes of all out running, neither is really running anymore but rather panting and stumbling.

At one point, with the distance between them virtually unchanged, both of them stop to recover, keeping an eye on the other. A few seconds later, they both start up again.

It's apparent now to the asshole that he's not going to be able to catch up to the potty-mouthed thief if he has to run with the rock so he drops it. Somewhat rested and with arms now free and unweighted, the asshole sprints full speed at the potty-mouthed thief.

Back on the road, the potty-mouthed thief sees that the asshole is suddenly running a lot faster and realizes that it's because he's dropped the rock. The potty-mouthed thief momentarily thinks about abandoning the dog and the wagon but he's in too deep to give up now. If he doesn't end it, the asshole and the coward will catch up to him eventually and do something nasty.

"Wish me luck," he says to the dog and then he drops the wagon handle and runs into the scrub towards the asshole. They run towards each other like two mad bulls, arms and legs pumping. The scrub is quite high in spots and brushes into the potty-mouthed thief's face so he tries to keep his head tucked down.

The potty-mouthed thief is not a strategic fighter. He doesn't know what he's going to do but he knows he's got weight on his side. He's got no plan other than to smash-crash into the asshole and hopefully injure him. What comes after that, well, he hasn't given it much thought but judging from when he last saw the asshole through the scrub, the impact should come any moment now, so he'll have to make something up on the spot.

But the impact never does come.

When the potty-mouthed thief next gets a chance to see the asshole through the scrub, he sees that the asshole is no longer in front of him. The asshole has arced away and he's heading for the road, heading for the wagon. Too late, the potty-mouthed thief realizes that the asshole is running towards the dog.

The asshole gets to the road at least a good fifteen seconds ahead of the potty-mouthed thief, enough time to do some damage to that dog, even if it's with his bare hands. Revenge will be sweet. And bloody. The asshole runs over to the wagon and looks in, fists ready.

The dog isn't in the wagon. He scans around, wasting precious seconds and then he sees a lump of furry something behind some bushes. He runs over ready to kick and strike but it turns out to be the sheepskin jacket from the robbery.

There is a rustle to the right about thirty meters away and the asshole sees the dog. It's walking funny, maybe limping. The dog has seen him and it's actually coming towards him.

"Come here, doggie," yells the asshole but as soon as he does that, the dog stops. Something in his voice, perhaps, or a scent on the breeze, warns the dog to take care. The dog sits, hoping to appease the unknown human with the uncertain intentions.

The asshole advances on the dog. Twenty five meters away, twenty meters, fifteen. The dog does not move. Ten meters, five. A couple more steps, slower, and then he's there. He could reach out and grab the dog. He could do that and more, right now, and the dog still does not back away and in fact lies down and rolls on its side. It looks up at the asshole and wags its tail and for a moment the asshole wonders if he's being too much of an asshole for what he's about to do and that is the last thought he has for a very long time.


Later, back on the road again, the potty-mouthed thief, pulling the wagon with the dog lying in it, debates whether or not to use the last bit of bottled water to wash the dried blood off his hands. There's not a lot of blood, but still, probably enough for someone to notice. He could say it's from the dog but whatever it was that was making the dog blow blood from its nose earlier has stopped now so that might not make a believable reason.

The potty-mouthed thief stops and steps over to the dog and starts to pet it. He lets the dog smell his hand. The dog sniffs and then licks his hand. It's hard to know what's driving the dog, if it's affection or taste, but soon enough the hand is clean.


Christopher said...

What a fascinating post to find your blog again with. I recall reading "Stuck" some time ago, but lost many blogs I read when blogspot blew up on me.

So many dog blogs are written to a woman's sensibility, well, since most of them are written by women. It's great to have some testosterone on the reading list, and your prose is captivating.

Try as I might to pull some literary analysis on this story, I can't seem to identify who the thief, asshole, and coward might represent in the world at large. It's a natural instinct with stories like this to assume they're allegorical, but I guess this one is more direct, or I'm losing my touch.

The movie in my head that played as I was reading this was directed by Reservoir Dogs era Tarantino, and I especially like the ending. Good dog.

Heather B said...

Thankyou for letting the dog win one.
We can all put faces to the three humans as we see fit . I have my own thoughts on who they are.

Fred said...

Hi Christopher, I chose the three characters' names, such as they are, originally because the story was going to be much more allegorical and very different (it involved pianos and anvils falling from the sky and Bugs Bunny) and then when I realized that's not how things were going to turn out, I kept the names anyway. Lazy.

I like the comparison to Res Dogs. I think Buscemi would be the coward, Keitel would be the thief and Madsen would be the asshole. The dog could be played by Chris Penn in a dog suit. I like Tim Roth and it would be excellent to give him a role as well but there's not much left. Maybe he could be the sheepskin coat or a scraggly bush.

Fred said...

Hi Heather B, I did have your last e-mail in mind when I wrote this.

borderjack said...

Wow. I really missed the boat on this one. I mean, apart from the unsurprisingly horrible humans, I walked away with the message that a dog can help cleanse our souls and make us pure again. Good think I'm not in a book club!

Ian said...

Your writing is captivating.
I thoroughly enjoy it no matter the topic.
If you`re not writing for a living,you could be.

Fred said...

borderjack, "cleanse our souls and make us pure again"

Well, there is that.

borderjack said...

I agree with Ian.

Marcie said...

I'm jumping on board with Ian & Borderjack. That was a fantastic read.