Always Give Your Fictional Dog a Treat
He can’t write and hasn’t written but finally, the problem reveals itself: this writing desk — it’s too fucking big. Look at it. It’s stupid and huge and expansive. It’s taking up the whole fucking room. There is only one solution now: to make the desk shorter. So, he spreads a tarp — blue, plastic — on the living room floor. There is only a desk in this room, and a chair and the typewriter, all of which have since fallen into miserable silence for years. Now of course, there’s the tarp. Three of these things are supposedly always silent, so the gunmetal mechanisms — he doesn’t know what they’re called — gleam obstinate at the center of the desk. They do not clack-clack or sing. They do not try to sing. The white light above him shines. The ceiling fan whirls fluidly, silently on its only setting. He has described the fan to himself as “fast, psychotically fast.” Then his progress when he sits near this desk: “Slow, psychotically slow.”
The typewriter mechanisms are made by a company that also crafts guns. They gleam and smile like pale and beautiful gunmetal children who refuse to sing at the altar of a gunmetal church. The mechanisms gleam like new guns on a high noon that refuse to shoot upon his drawing. He pictures some bandito antagonist in a ghost-town where the ghost-women hide behind pianos in saloons to adjust their frilly stockings. The typewriter is not-writing nor is it singing. It becomes small again. It becomes the bandito. It shoots him dead.
The desk is too fucking big! Here, the typewriter is the world’s most powerful car engine sitting in the empty hull of a whale carcass.
This fucking desk MUST BE DESTROYED, he says. Or, yes, shortened.
And now with the tarp is on the living room floor, laying crumbled-flat like big-blue wrinkled garbage bag, like some tiny interactive map of the ocean, waves undulating with the wind from the psychotic ceiling fan, rippling like a flag of this stupid little country of a stupid man and his typewriter and his desk, beneath the god’s-eye sun of the white light above him. He drags the stodgy legs of the desk, the heavy desk, onto the tarp. It wrinkles, crinkles, tears, rips, is annihilated but still — as tarps always seem to go — remains miraculously a tarp.
He curses. He furiously lights a cigarette. The cigarette burns but refuses to draw. Angry, he writes “Lucky, the dog” on the typewriter. Clack-clack-clack. He has no reason why. A dog has appeared in his mind, one named Lucky, and then disappears before he can grab the image to retain it.
The hacksaw is in the kitchen drawer, beside a pencil, both of which have become dull —the pencil has always been dull (forever) and the saw just recently became dull by way rust.
This pencil is dull but it’ll do for a straight line, he says.
This is modest and perhaps a lie. He closes the kitchen drawer and there, in the new space, Lucky the dog sits on the kitchen floor.
“Lucky,” he says to the dog, who startles at her name, “Get the ruler. We’ll get you living again.”
Lucky is a Maltese. Little and curly-white. The ruler is magnetic, attached to the oven, and the dog brings it to him after some initial difficulty breaking the vacuum-seal from the oven with her little newly formed teeth. Tail wagging, panting, desperate, now expecting a treat, Lucky measures him. She wonders, will-I-or-won’t-I-see-rewards. She measures a long time, because like a joke, she is measuring in dog years.
The ruler is obviously not long enough end-to-end to measure the enormous desk. He tosses it, decides that Lucky will not get a treat for her efforts.
He returns to the writing room, measures on the overhang of the desk twice — one on each side — and marks a small dash on those and front and back notches. He draws a shoelace from his loafer. The lace is just long enough to touch the two measure-marks he’s left on both sides of the desk. He draws a line, right along the shoelace with the dull pencil, a strangely careful and intimate gesture that he forgets how he learned. He eyes the line until the petering smoke from the cigarette burns the inner pads of his eyes. The ceiling fan, psychotically fast, has kindled the stodgy little blaze to his lip without his recognizing. He swears and pulls on the cigarette, which again refuses to draw.
The saw sadly chews through the wooden desk and the desk becomes shavings. Lucky watches the wood shavings that once were confined to the reality of a shape, to an experience each shaving once knew as “enormous, boat-like desk.” Shavings go everywhere. The room is filled with wood shavings. The ceiling fan whips and whirls the shavings into a tornado over the ocean-blue tarp. Lucky whips her head to one side, still perhaps sullen for the unprovided treat but mighty curious because here they are, on a flaggy tarp in the modest room sawing and sawing and she’s just been realized. She frowns and watches and then pouts as sawing becomes tiresome to watch.
You know what? he says to Luckily, still sawing, if you don’t like it, get out.
Sawing. Sawing. His elbow feels like a working mechanism, like the hammer on a gun, on a gun that’s firing saw-shaped bullets. Working and working, the desk slims, is narrowed, the path is chosen. With every heave, the universe is narrowed. Wood shavings stick to the new sweat on his forearms, forehead, in his eyebrows. The boat is slimming down. The boat is becoming an eel or small television.
The rusty saw is working, working, working, working, working. The ceiling fan maintains a constant lunacy. Shavings everywhere. A snowglobe of shavings. The desk is becoming shorter, more manageable, smarter. There is no carcass, the gun is gathering bullets. The tarp, still a miracle, under his feet. The desk wobbles.
The typewriter shimmies off the desk, thuds then clangs to the tarp, but more importantly the floor, where a piece — an integral and working piece he doesn’t know the name of — careens off into the eternal mist of the kitchen, where proud Lucky sprints to retrieve it, yet spitefully, never returns.