A SHAGGY DOG STORY
By Karen Radford Treanor
Rodney Spurge looked at the puddle on the kitchen floor. "Marge!" he called, "Your useless mutt has left you a present." With a half-hearted kick at the pile of hair cowering under the table, he picked up his lunch bag and left, slamming the kitchen door behind him.
Bloody dog! Marge thought more of it than him. He hoped it would choke on its breakfast. No fear that would happen to him, Marge didn't do breakfasts for humans any more. Ever since that stupid mutt moved in, Rodney might as well be the invisible man.
What was it about women, what happened to them when they got past forty? When they'd married, Marge made a big deal about taking care of him, thought he was her knight in shining armor. Over the years it had all unravelled, ending up with her getting the mutt, "for protection and company", she'd said. What was he, chopped liver? Company? Who'd prefer a dog to her own husband? As for protection, the dog was frightened of its own shadow. A lot of good it would be against a prowler.
The bloody dog took all her spare time these days. If it wasn't a dog show it was a visit to the grooming parlor, or the vet, or some other expensive thing. The spare room, his study, was now festooned with ribbons and pictures and trashy silver-plated cups. Champion Apricot Djinn, Appie for short, had taken over his house, his wife, and his life, Rodney thought as he stomped along to the bus stop. A freakin' Afghan hound, f'gawds sake!
If she was going to get a dog, why not get a real one, a German Shepherd or something useful? Something that could be trained to guard the house, or fetch the paper or something? He'd told her as much last week, but she'd just shrugged it off.
He got on the bus, wishing it could take a detour through his yard and run the damned dog over.
That night, Marge put on a pretty good meal, almost like the old days, Rodney thought. "That wasn't bad, just goes to show you can do it when you try," Rodney said, burping loudly and dropping his napkin in his plate. Leaving Marge with the dishes, he went in to watch the sports news. After that maybe there'd be something good on, like Temptation Island, something with broads and adventure. If Marge wanted to watch one of her dumb shows like "The West Wing" she could do it in the kitchen: he was entitled to choice of shows; after all, it was his work that kept the house running, put food on the table, paid the electricity.
He didn't pay for the dog, though, he'd put his foot down about that. She wanted the dog, she could support it. It had come as a bit of a surprise when she'd announced that she had a two mornings a week job at the Office Supply Store. Every penny went into the dog--at least Rodney never saw any of it. Waste of space and money, but he supposed there was nothing he could do about it as long as she paid for it.
Kicking off his shoes and unbothered by the odour that steamed out of his socks, he flicked the channels until he found his show. "Hey, Marge, bring a beer," he yelled. Shortly thereafter, she came in with a cold Bud and a bowl of pretzels. "In case you need a snack," she said, putting them down on the table beside his chair.
She turned back towards the kitchen, then said "Oh, I decided you were right about the training. Appie should pull his weight around here. I'm taking him in for guard dog training twice a week. He's picking up the idea pretty fast, I told you he was smart.
"Ha." Rodney said, taking a long swallow of the Bud, but obscurely pleased that she'd listened to something he said for once. He doubted the dog would get a passing mark from dog school, but what the hell, it was better than prancing around at some stupid show with a bow in his hair.
When Rodney got home the next night, Marge was in the back yard with the dog. She was wearing one of her oven mitts, and the dog was leaping at it half-heartedly, its Veronica Lake hairdo flying in the breeze. "Hold, Appie, hold!" Marge said. The dog jumped at the oven mitt and missed.
"You call that attacking? Jeez, the burglars'd have the TV and the video out the door before that stupid mutt figured out what to bite," Rodney yelled from the back porch. Kee-rist, what a waste of time and money, trying to train an animal like that. He went indoors and dropped his jacket on the table and looked in the oven. Nothing cooking, had she been playing around with the dog all afternoon? He kicked off his shoes and enjoyed the feeling of the cool linoleum under his hot feet.
"Just to remind you, the bread winner's home and wants his dinner," he yelled out the back door. The yelling made him cough, he leaned over the sink and hoicked up something, maybe he was coming down with a cold.. Have a beer, that's what he needed. Going to the fridge he helped himself to a cold Bud and noticed there were only two left. Was it too much to ask her to keep the beer supply at a reasonable level? Did he have to do everything for himself? Scratching his crotch, Rodney sock-footed it into the living room.
Halfway through the news he heard rattling in the kitchen: good, food was on the way. When she called him in he was disappointed to see that it was tinned ravioli and a plain lettuce and tomato salad beside it, with one of those ready-made garlic bread loafs that tasted like nothing much.
"If you didn't waste so much time on that mutt, maybe we could have a decent meal once in a while," he grumbled, but ate what was put in front of him anyway.
"He's coming along really well, Peter, the instructor, says he's never seen such a quick learner as Appie," Marge said, as if somehow the dog's progress excused her from attending to her main job, taking care of Rodney.
Peter, was it? Pretty cosy after only three lessons, Rodney thought. Not that there was anything to worry about, no one would make a pass at Marge with her grey-streaked hair and dumpy clothes. "Goin' down the pool hall, quarter-finals are on," he said, grabbing his shoes and putting one on the counter while he struggled into the other one. Marge clamped her lips in a thin line and said nothing. Rodney put on the other shoe and went to the cupboard where Marge kept a cookie jar that functioned as her housekeeping account. Helping himself to a couple of fives, Rodney left the kitchen without any other comment.
Arriving home well-lubricated, Rodney fell into bed in his underwear and socks and snored loudly until morning.
The following week, Rodney helped himself to fifteen dollars from the cookie jar and announced, "It's the semi-finals tonight, might want to treat someone to a drink." Again Marge said nothing, just busied herself with the dishes.
The day the finals were on for the district pool championship Rodney got home early. Once again Marge was out in the back yard with her stupid mutt. This time she had one of his old shirts wrapped around her arm.
"Appie, hold!" she ordered the dog, but the dog didn't seem to know what was wanted, and bounced around like a puppy, big hairy ears flapping. Rodney stood on the porch and laughed. "Stupid mutt!" he said. "He'll be a lot of use when the burglars come."
"He does just fine when you aren't here to mock him," Marge said.
"Ho, ho, ho, the little lady's angry, wow, I'm SO scared," chortled Rodney, going indoors and kicking his shoes in the corner. He helped himself to a beer, looked in the oven, saw a casserole and made a quick decision.
"I don't want that muck, I'm going down to the pool hall for the finals, get a Big Mac on the way," he said as Marge came indoors. He put his shoes back on and made for the cookie jar.
"I wouldn't have to cook muck, as you call it, if you didn't keep helping yourself to the housekeeping money," Marge said.
Rodney swung an open palm at her but she stepped back quickly and the blow merely ruffled the ends of her hair. "God, what did I do to deserve such a stupid bitch?" Rodney said, not looking at her as he rifled the cookie jar of its last seven dollars. He chugged the beer down, straightened his tie and left.
After a convivial evening at the pool hall, during which he won sixteen dollars, Rodney rolled home pretty pleased with himself. Maybe he'd give Marge five dollars for the cookie jar, that might cheer her up. Maybe he'd even give her the whole seven he'd borrowed earlier.
Turning the back door knob, Rodney met resistance. Fishing his keys out, he managed to get the right one in the keyhole after a bit of fumbling. Pushed open the door all of four inches, then met more resistance.
She's put the chain on. Dumb broad knew I was out, why'd she do that? Rodney put his shoulder to the door but the chain had been installed by someone who knew what he was doing. "Marge, Marge, let me in," he called through the crack. Nothing. She'd probably taken a sleeping pill.
OK, he could go around to the front door, but she'd probably snapped the deadbolt and he didn't have a key for that. What to do? Rodney sat on the top step of the porch for a moment trying to clear his head. Aha, the pantry window. The lock was old, it shouldn't take much to jimmy that. A couple pokes with his pocket knife and he'd be inside.
Rodney staggered to his feet and stumbled along the porch to the pantry window. Jimmying the lock didn't go as smoothly as when James Bond did it, but after some slips, Rodney felt the latch give way. Sliding the window up he slung a leg over the windowsill and crawled into the small room.
Before he could get his bearings there was a noise in the darkness and something large and hairy landed on his chest, knocking him flat on his back. The thing growled and Rodney felt hot drool on his face. He tried to push the creature away, but got a sharp nip on his hand, enough to make him lie still.
"Marge, Marge, get your ass down here, your stupid mutt's bitten me!" he yelled.
After what seemed a very long time, Rodney heard footsteps on the stairs and saw the kitchen light flicker on.
His wife came to the door of the pantry and looked at him lying on the floor, the dog astride his chest, blood trickling from his upraised hand.
"Well don't just stand there, you stupid bitch, say something!" Rodney cried. The big blond dog growled again, showing every one of its sharp white teeth.
"Appie, kill!" said Marge.