Saturday, October 27, 2007

Stray Dog, pt III

The next day, I returned from grocery shopping, arms loaded with brown paper bags filled with packages of chicken parts: thighs, wings, breasts, legs, livers and gizzards. There’d been a special, so I’d stocked up. Sin excitedly jumped up on me, jostling one bag and half emptying onto the ground before I could even get the front door unlocked!

I set the groceries on the floor just inside the door, closed it, and then turned around, intending to salvage what chicken Sin hadn’t gotten his teeth into yet. Instead, I found myself standing motionless on the porch, mesmerized at the way he tore into each package, savagely devouring the mostly-frozen chicken pieces and utterly destroying the little Styrofoam plates they were shrink wrapped on. The sight filled me with that warm sense of well-being I always got from watching him eat.

Minutes later, all traces of my purchase gone from the yard, Sin looked up at me and gave a gruff little bark. “Oh, you want some more? Okay.” I opened the door and reached into the bag Sin had partially dumped. My hand landed on a long slip of paper: the receipt. Even though the chicken had been on special, what the dog had just devoured equaled a substantial amount of my income. I could feel Sin’s eyes burning into my lower back, but I didn’t dare turn around.

“No,” I said, “That’s enough chicken for now. Maybe, later on, you can have some more.” Still refusing to look at him, I stepped into the house and closed the door. Struck with a sudden weakness in my knees, I slid down to sit on the carpet, my back against the door. Sin whimpered pitifully on the other side. The whimper rose in volume and became a sustained howl,which then descended into a kind of yelping bark. I watched my hand reach for one of the nearby grocery bags and made myself stop. Sin went on yelping, whining and moaning as if he’d been beaten. I could hear his coarse hair brushing against the door and he rubbed against it, and I could picture him in my mind, writhing on the porch in the agony of hunger pangs.

Maybe just one more package of chicken would settle him down. No! I told myself, and drew my hand back away from the sacks again–it had reached out for them as with a will of its own. I clenched both fists tightly and held them at my sides, determined not to give in--for at least three more hours. It was the longest three hours of my life.

Sin was noticeably larger when I finally stepped out to feed him again. His ugly, grizzled head came up to my chest, now, instead of my waist–or maybe he was just standing up straighter. Nothing grows that quickly, after all. He seized the bottom of the grocery bag with his teeth and ripped it away, spilling its contents on the porch and catching the last package in midair before it could land. He fixed me with his black eyes as he tilted his head back and let the entire packet of chicken gizzards slide down his throat without chewing. Was there something sinister in that look, or was it my imagination?

It was most of the way through the second grocery sack that I noticed how much worse Sin’s mange was becoming. It was rapidly spreading toward his shoulders. Clumps of gray and black fur fell from his sides and he worried each new package of chicken, shaking it fiercely in his jaws. I also noticed that the joy I usually derived from watching Sin eat was tinged with an undertone of alarm at how much control one creature could have over me.

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