Mom undoes my seat belt and
points me out of the car. My butt slides off the seat, over the
tire. It’s a bit of a fall from the front seat of her Ford Astro
Star. The door closes. She drives off fast, never even turning off
the engine in the first place. The moon is half full, and I’m
glad I have my scratchy wool sweater. There’s half a McDonald’s
cheeseburger in my left hand. My right hand has a Band-aid
patterned with little pigs with roses in their mouths.
This is a busy street during
the day, but at ten at night it’s deserted. I’m on the corner
of a small strip center. Lee’s nails, Smiley’s Donuts, Shoes
Bag Jeans, Pam’s Tans. On the way down here, Mom went on,
muttering to herself, that there’s a park a few blocks ahead, I
should go there, she’ll be back for me in a few hours, well if
only I had a girlfriend’s house to sleep at, but the
exterminator is coming for the Germans and Orientals and no
children can be in the house. The fumes are harmless for men and
post-menopausal women, but not for eleven year olds, I’m still
growing. Besides, she says, the freedom her mother gave her as a
child got her ready to be sixteen and oh what a year that was.
The red glare of her brake
lights shine away from my eyes. I don’t move my feet from the
ground. I leave them exactly how they landed out of the car,
except for a few steps for balancing. I’m standing; my legs are
about a foot apart, glued to the ground. I’m a statue. The
cheeseburger goes into my mouth, and I wipe my hands on my purple
knee length shorts. The yellow wrapper slides easily into a
crumbled ball. But I don’t want to litter.
Left over construction
materials line the sidewalk. They’re re-paving the street, so
the pavement is clumps of black rocks. It’s the kind of road
that shakes the car, if you were in a car driving over it. If you
were walking or biking and fell on it, you’d bleed. You’d have
a scrape of blood, with dirt and rocks ground into the wound. It’d
leave a scar. I could just stand here; Mom will probably pass by
here in a few minutes. She always gets lost and ends up driving
around in circles, screaming with the windows rolled up. I could
just jump on her hood like last time, but that hurt my knee.
Sounds come from a group of
trashcans across the street. Three streetlights are out. I have to
really squint my eyes to make out the yellow lane markers. The
garbage cans are in front of a retirement home lawn with a neon
sign that says Polynesian Park. One of the garbage lids is flung
back, and it’s shaking. Rats.
I walk across the street and
see a dirty brown terrier mutt sleeping next to the blue
recyclables can. His little stomach slowly moves up and down. He’s
not dead, but his little ear has a scab. I never knew dogs got
scabs. I nudge his paw with my purple Reebok sneaker.
“Get up, baby, hi little
baby, do you like garbage.” My arms are longer than his, and I
reach for the Subway wrapper in the black garbage can. Luckily,
lying on top of newspapers is half a whole-wheat roast beef
The dog jumps to his feet,
barking orgasmically. A boy at school told me about orgasms, it’s
when you fuck really hard and you start shaking and hallucinate
that you’re riding a motorcycle on the freeway.
The dog whimpers in a
high-pitched voice, and licks the hairs on my legs. His tongue
feels smooth and fleshy like a vagina lip. “Here you go.”
He inhales my offerings and
a few shreds of wilted lettuce pop out of his mouth. His small jaw
makes a clapping noise as he swallows the offering in one bite.
I name him Barky. He gets up
from his sleep and stays with me. We head towards the moon,
walking next to each other. I never walked with a dog without a
leash before. My grandpa had an angry cocker spaniel that’d
chase me around his empty pool nipping at my hands and legs. He’d
make me walk it with a chain leash down to Seven Eleven to buy
Windex. I hate cocker spaniels. The dog died a month after him,
and my grandmother had to drop the dog off at the disposal center
wrapped in grandpa’s towel. Now she lives all alone, smoking
cigarettes and playing bridge on Thursdays.
“Barky have you ever had a
leash before?” He smiles at me. Dogs can smile; their jaw just
has to extend a few centimeters wider than usual. I look at Barky
and he looks at me. I scratch behind his ears and we smile at each
other, walking past noiseless trashcans towards the park. I open
every black trashcan for food. Every Dorrito, every brown apple,
every hotdog bun I offer Barky makes him smile and like me a
little more. I find half a dozen eggs, slightly cracked, in a bent
carton. Barky doesn’t eat them. My Band-aid is gross and brown.
I let it slip off my fingernail, sliding away with my sweat.