The house is dark, everyone asleep but the Woman, who is sitting at her open bedroom window crying and sneaking a smoke, a secret she will keep from everyone but the dog who is sleeping in the kitchen after having its attempts to comfort (the chewed red ball fetched and dropped to bounce tantalizingly at her vulnerable bare feet) rebuffed. The secret will of course be safe with the dog, who even in his sleep sniffs at the acrid scent on the air, twitches his ears and whines softly, but otherwise will do nothing to give the Woman away in the morning.
It has been a good day for the dog, with not one walk but two. There was the usual morning walk, somewhat foreshortened – the dog pulled once, politely, at the leash when the Woman tried to take him back to the house too soon. Didn’t she know the letterbox was just ahead, with its invisible forest of canine effluvia?
But the woman turned them back, and the dog went, disappointed, but only for a moment, as is the way with dogs.
The second walk was unexpected, and very welcome, because it followed a loud conversation between the Woman and the Man. It was not the loudness that had troubled the dog, but the spikiness of the words they spoke to each other. Their words were like sharp little spears that made the dog’s tail tuck itself up under the belly and quiver.
The second walk lasted very long – an unheard of hour, and though the Man did not let the dog run free as was their usual custom, there was still plenty of rabbits in the brushy scrub, and the briney smell of the ocean, and the wind that blew the dog’s ears pleasantly around its head.
Now the dog lay dreaming on the cool linoleum of the dark kitchen, the oven still emanating faint heat and smells of tomato sauce. The dog dreams of the walk, the second walk, the good one. In it the Woman kisses the man at the door, and ruffles the dogs ears and asks who’s a good boy; in it the man unsnaps the red leash and the dog is free to chase the brown rabbits, cotton-tailed tumbleweeds that dart just out of reach of his twitching paws.