The Private Life of Poodles

She stood there, hands on her hips, nose crinkled, with a half-smirk she learned on the varsity cheer squad. I wish I didn’t have to look at you, it said. You look and/or smell like the shit of an animal that has been fed exclusively the shit of a different animal, it said. You are a human being of such low caliber it begs the question of if you are even a human being, it said.

“Your grass.”

“What?”

“It needs to be mowed.”

“Ok.”

“And take all this stuff off your porch, it’s an eyesore.”

“Uh.”

“You should also pull the weeds in your backyard. They’re peaking out from under your fence. Everyone has to look at them whenever they walk by.”

“Everyone? Or just– “

“And your mailbox, it needs to be repainted, and take your Christmas lights down, and move your car.”

“Is that all?”

“No. Your house needs new siding and shingles. That is all. Do those things by the first alright?”

I nodded, trying my best to look nonplussed, and she left. Jogging.

Sven, my tenant, was in the kitchen, gingerly sliding an English muffin pizza into the toaster oven. An amber-colored water pipe protruded from the pocket of his sweatpants.

“So that was Meg.”

“The Bitch-Queen of the covenant. I heard.”

“She says we need new siding and roofing. And a bunch of other things.”

“Yeah, I heard.”

Sven rotated his English muffin with a fork.

“God, Fuck Meg.”

“Yeah, Fuck Meg.” Sven called from inside the bong.

“Ok, Sven, I’m not your mother, so I won’t tell you not to do that, but you have got to stop doing it in the house.”

Sven giggled, and blew a pungent plume in my direction.

“Oh come on, no one does housework sober.”

People do housework sober, most of them in fact, and I told Sven so. He shrugged, and slid the bong over to me.

“But not you.”

He had a point.

A knock on the door woke us. I placed my index finger on my nose, designating Sven as door-answerer. He groaned and rocked to a stand, triggering a minor landslide of crumbs in the process.

“This had better not be Meg! Good to see you, how are the dogs?”

“They’re fine. Did Roland tell you about my visit yesterday?”

“He might’ve mentioned it.”

“I can’t help but notice your Christmas lights are still up.

“Huh. Yeah. So they are.”

“And that mailbox still looks pretty faded.”

“I’m pretty faded.”

“What?”

“I said that’s appreciated. Thank you for your input.”

For a while they just stayed there, loathing each other in silence.

“Look, these are the rules we’ve all agreed to in order to live here. If you haven’t cleaned your home’s exterior by the first, you’ll have to pay someone to do it or move out.”

I joined them at the door.

“Hi Meg, thanks for the warning. We’ll do what we can, but some of the things you say we have to do we just can’t afford. New siding and roofing will cost at least a couple grand.”

Meg crinkled her nose.

“Not my problem.”

She left. Jogging.

Megan’s house is a block away, flanked by two immaculately pruned poplar trees. A flimsy two-foot fence hems in an unnaturally perfect lawn, bedecked with cheap plastic signs of squatting dogs with lines through them. Not that any dogs would be interested in conducting their business there anyway, three identical poodles stand sentry from the windows, fangs bared round the clock. Except for that day.

On the day Sven and I took a stand against the Shady Hills Housing Covenant, there were no dogs at Megan’s door. No heavily insured teeth snapping at us from behind the glass, no well-manicured nails skittering on the Brazilian cherry inside.

The only sound coming from Megan’s perfect pink house that day was a high, erratic whine. We knocked and no one answered.

“Maybe she’s not home.”

“Her car’s in the driveway.”

The sparkling white Prius was there. Sven pressed his ear against the door.

“Huh. What does this sound like to you?” Sven beckoned toward the door. I had thought maybe a tea kettle was boiling, or the TV was on, but with my ear to the door, I heard a woman’s anguished scream.

“It sounds like she’s hurt.”

“Yeah, we should probably get help.”

I dialed 911 while Sven checked the doors. All of them were locked, but he managed to wiggle in through a side window that had been left open and let me in.

“I think it’s coming from the basement.”

Megan’s naked, hairless body was suspended from the ceiling by a series of leather straps, a rapturous grin on her face. Four men in gimp suits were kowtowing in a ring toward her, slurping something loudly. The poodles were kenneled in the corner, looking deeply disturbed.

“Yessssss, clean it allllllll.”

“Hi Meg.”

Meg froze. Her smile left her. Her entire body blushed. The gimps stayed focused on the task at hand.

“Why are your dogs-”

“Hello Roland. Sven.”

I locked eyes with her.

“We’re not going to be cleaning anything.”

Perhaps I should’ve said something else. Perhaps I’m a petty person. I regret nothing.

“You. Have. To.”

I snapped a photo with my phone. Meg started shaking with rage, causing her to swing back and forth. The dogs whimpered.

“Is that cocai-”

“Fine.”