Unobserved, the dog is able to exist in two places at once.
He lies at the foot of his owner’s bed, her hand idly stroking his fur as she struggles to find the inner resources needed to finish the book she began reading over a year ago. On nights like this, expectant and alone, the book is a morass of words. She can no longer remember the characters or the plot or anyone’s motivations, so she starts from wherever she had put the bookmark previously and mouths each word as she moves toward the inevitable, and frankly disquieting, end. The dog likes when she reads. There is more room for him, on nights like this, when she craves another presence. Someone to prove she’s alive.
The dog is also, at this precise moment, across town, running loose in the yard of the object of his owner’s affection. He’s a vibrant man who hasn’t read a book in years. Not since his ex-wife gave him a copy of Mending a Marriage: Who is the Needle and Who is the Thread, which he read with an earnest fervor he’d never felt in all their years together. He highlighted and underlined and copied his favorite passages, but they never once talked about the book. They signed the paperwork without ever attempting to mend anything. He thinks about that book more than he would care to admit.
The dog doesn’t give a shit about books, or even words for that matter. He can feel his age in his bones and his loosening skin and his drying hair. He wants two warm bodies in his bed, one on either side, like bookends. These two, the dog’s owner and the object of her affection, will do nicely. They are the needle and the thread.
So the dog puts his head on his owner’s thigh and sighs, tilting his deep brown eyes up at her; while at the same time, he rubs against the man’s leg, his tail whipping uncontrollably.
The woman mouths more words as the man says, “Whoa, buddy.” His fingers reach out, those magical digits with the power to move all the matter in the world, and he clasps the dog’s collar.
He sees the name there and the number, and the dog rolls onto his back on the bed next to his owner because he knows what happens next.
The phone rings and she puts her bookmark in the book and closes it. She has no idea when she will open it again.
“I found your dog,” the man says.
She looks at her dog and the man looks at her dog, and thus observed the dog chooses a location.
Alone in bed, the dog’s owner rubs the spot where her dog had been moments before. “I’ll pick him up,” she says, the book forgotten now. “I’ll come to you.”
Josh Denslow is the author of the story collection Not Everyone Is Special (7.13 Books) and the novel Super Normal (forthcoming Fall 2023, Stillhouse Press). He listens to a lot of music.