Apr/May 2004  •   Fiction

Mud Dog

by Peter Markus

Art by Janet L. Snell

Art by Janet L. Snell

We make Dog.

We make Dog out of the same mud we used when we made Girl.

Us brothers, boys, we need Dog.

Dog, we've been told, is boy's best friend. Dog is loyal. Dog is good. Good, like mud is good. Like brother is good. Like girl is good, too.

Girl needs Dog, too.

We make Dog, and we give Dog to Girl.

Girl gets down on all fours, a dog herself, her hands and knees in mud, and gives Dog a big, wet, muddy kiss right upon Dog's lips. Yes, Dog has lips.

Girl takes hold of Dog, of Dog's flappy, drooly, gummy jowls. And Girl gives Dog another kiss.

Dog is a lucky dog.

Us brothers, Girl kisses us never enough.

Dog's tongue, a slick, pink fish, dangles out Dog's mouth, dripping a river of mud.

Girl reaches down and grabs hold of a tree—in Girl's hands it is a stick, a broken off twig—and rips it, roots dangling, from its dirt. Girl flings tree into river.

A rusty tug, tugging behind it a rustier barge stacked full of boxed up steel, each squashed, junkyard square once upon a time ago a shiny new car our father might have made: this chugging boat, this river plow, turns over in this tree's wake.

Dog takes to river the way a good dog does to any body of water, the way a good dog does to mud.

See Dog fly.

When Dog hits river, river raises up on its muddy haunches to drench sky with its doggy drool.

Boats at anchor, some drifting in mid-river, still others docked closer to shore, flip and then fill with water and mud and then sink, bows first, down to river's muddy bottom.

Houses once overlooking river, windows flooded with river's light, unmoor from foundations made of stone and mortar, mud and brick. See these match stick houses, shack paper rafts, float down river. Not even a bath tub rubber ducky or plastic boat ever looked so small.

Here, Dog, Girl calls.

Dog comes a running.

And where for half centuries before Dog, there was just mud and dirt and grass, now ponds and lakes fill with water where Dog lays down one of his mud-padded paws.

Good, Dog, Girl says, and rubs Dog by the scruff of Dog's un-collared neck.

Dog shakes off river and returns back to being all mud, the way Dog was made.

Hear Dog bark at sky: barking because Dog sees and because Dog believes moon is a ball to be fetched.

Dog keeps barking and keeps biting at moony sky until Girl gets for Dog what Dog wants.

Watch Girl tippy-toe over to take moon into her hand. Girl hurls moon the length of the sky, a spinning baseball floating above outfield's fence. Stars burning for billions of years bright enough for all our eyes to see are now wick-snuffed candle stubs, stubbed out by a wind stirred up by moon. Constellations rock to and fro in a wake made by that water-and-mud-mixed dog we call Dog.

This moon, this go-get-it doggy ball, Dog goes after it to go fetching.

Dog, good dog, fetches moon back to Girl. Dog drops it at Girl's side, then digs a hole to bury it down inside. Dog drops moon into his dug out hole. Dog buries moon. Then Dog covers moon up with mud.

Next night, moon doesn't rise in sky. Sky is moonless. When Girl sees sky without its moon, Girl tells Dog to go fetch moon back. Dog sprints down to river, down to filled-in hole where moon is buried. Dog digs up moon. Dog takes moon and returns it to Girl.

Good dog.

The moon, it is a gift from Dog.

Moon is muddy.

Girl takes this muddy chewed up moon from out of Dog's mouth and shines it up. She rubs it up and down on her arms, the way she might do to an apple. Then Girl takes out of moon half a bite, makes half of moon disappear. See Girl take this bit-in-two moon and then sling it back to sky.

Like mud: moon sticks.