Dogface Hamlet

A dog beyond fences story.

Photo by Kevin Butz on Unsplash

The figure appears at the mouth of the alley. Again.

He walks the lane repeatedly. Something in him won’t let him stop this unsolicited patrol.

He misses the dogs the most. Oh, how he had enjoyed their unconditional love, their unrestrained joy over his presence. Him! His physical appearance left most folks skittish, looking for any excuse to cross to the other side of the street. But dogs? No, sir; they loved him. A coach had once nicknamed him “dogface.” Unfortunately, the name had stuck. Maybe that’s where it began.

His thoughts are the same, as repeatable as the path his feet will describe crossing this alley between Bleecker and Custer. On the third house, he floats to the right side of the narrow lane and likes to peer through the knotholes and cracks in the fence.

But he doesn’t see the dogs anymore. Now he only hears their pitiful mewls filled with hunger, their sad barks longing for any company, foreign or familiar.

“They sound hungry,” he says to the empty lane when he passes the fourth house.

At the eighth house, the fence is a more modest thing, barely four feet high. He sidles up to it, remembering how Daisy, the German Shepherd that lived there, would bound up to him. He smiles, remembering how her kisses and licks tickled him so much. And for a few seconds, just a few seconds, he wasn’t an abomination that walked shunned through life. For a few seconds, a fellow-creature had found his company imminently agreeable and had judged his presence as desirable.

He misses Daisy more than he misses his father.

He looks away as the smile slips from his face.

During its third wave, his ornery father fell ill and melted from the earth.

He didn’t miss him much. It wasn’t the ending he would’ve wished for the man who brought him into the world. It was far different from the elaborate fantasy he had concocted for the virtuoso of psychological cruelty.

Why had he never left the man? Why did he—for years—continue to stay with that tyrant? He still doesn’t understand his actions and inactions. Dogface was like Hamlet. He had cared little about school, but in English class, especially when they read stories by Shakespeare or Dostoyevsky, that was when dogface felt human.

He looks up and sees the last three houses before Custer.

The dogs continue their barking. It fills him with every emotion he has ever felt or will ever feel, happiness, longing, sadness, unfulfilled desire, wretched loneliness.

Dogface reaches Custer and pauses; he considers the empty street before him, then steps both from the alley and back into it. He should be on Custer now; he is not. He recurs to the mouth end of the lane.

He steps forward and sighs as the lonely dog pleas reach his ears.

“They sound hungry,” he says as he passes the fourth abandoned home.

Maybe this time he will see a dog. Perhaps this time he will meet an old friend.

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