Objective reached/Host species sought/Gametogenesis initiated:
Gantry faces the Metroliner Silver Mercury Eight. He studies his reflection. Smoothes his plaid
suitcoat, then slides past the derelict trolley. Style, he says, I am silky with style. He found the suit while
garbage picking. He claims he got it shopping. Still, the suit fits, so he wears it when he has appointments
to keep. His schedule is usually stark. Except for today.
Host species encountered/Companion form taken/Host genome compatible/Vestigial cecum noted:
See Gantry, my dog does talk. You didn't believe me Gantry, did you? Gantry, the most
decorated harmonica player in the second Great War believes. He shakes his head yes. I call her Max,
that's short for Maxine, of course. I found her over there; the bum grabs Gantry by his shoulder and
spins him. Over there, the bum points, by the burnt patch of grass.
Gantry says, I say we make a sign. Use red paint and cardboard. It could say, I AM A TALKING
DOG. We need to spread the word. This furry number talks! Gantry clears phlegm. Lights a Smooth and
Implantation site at vestigial cecum/Ovum fertilized/Inferior host codons noted:
The kid drops his pencil. He leans under the desk lamp. This is it. This is The Poem, he thinks.
The one that will make him the talk of literary circles in New York. The one that will put Transit, Indiana,
on the literary map. A big red star like Lowell, Mass. A capital of culture. He reads it aloud:
From beneath the skin I climb
I do speak, am not a mime
I am smaller than a dime
My tiny passion is sublime
Who am I'm?
Mind-bending, he thinks. He skipped school today, but he knows true genius cannot be bound to
mere social institutions. He read that somewhere. He thinks maybe the bathroom at the drive-in. He fixes
a black beret to his head. A must for all poets. He exits his house. Strikes a match. Lights a Lucky
Strike. He heads for Truman's Soda Shoppe.
Inferior codons excised/Cecum split in embryonic development/Dermal parasites noted:
Gantry's side hurts. Probably from walking, he thinks. Gantry tells the bum, Truman's Soda
Shoppe is not too far, and it's the best place to show off your dog.
My side hurts, says the bum holding his right side. I say we take a break. The dog looks tired.
She's too quiet. She might be sick. Maybe she's just thinking. Maybe she needs to go to the bathroom.
Truman's is only a block away, Gantry says in a winded voice. He catches his breath. Put that
sign on her. Yeah, that looks nice. Everybody's got to know about the talking dog. Max, the talking dog,
he says soulfully. Each syllable stressed.
The dog, bum, and Gantry reach Truman's. A few businessmen eat tuna melts behind the shop
window. The food looks good. A kid crosses the street and comes toward them. He snaps his fingers. He
reads aloud from a piece of paper.
The kid eyeballs the sign around Max's neck. He says, A talking dog, well if that don't beat all.
The kid scrunches his face. He asks Gantry, Can the dog read poetry? I've got a poem that's a real cherry
bomb. Pow! Bam! These guys are far-out, the kid thinks. A pair of real kooks.
The bum asks the kid, You like the talking dog? Everybody likes me and Gantry's talking dog.
She sings, too. Play your harmonica, Gantry. Let's hear her sing.
Gantry pulls a Horner Super Special from
his pocket. Shines it with crusty black fingers. Smiles through broken teeth, and blows a tune. Max
howls. The kid rubs her head.
Ouch, the kid shouts snapping his hand away. Your dog's got static. Hey wait, she does talk.
Sings like a bird, too.
Viral contagion infection/Dermal parasite carriers/System degradation noted:
Officer Harry O'Malley walks his beat. His beat is Transit circle, in the dead center of town. He
flat-foots his way around The Trolley Statue. The statue was erected during The Great Train Boom, when
Ironton, which is what the city was called back then, was almost the railway capital of the Midwest. The city
fathers even changed the city name, from Ironton to Transit. But as things go, the rail lines were laid
northwest of here, to Chicago. The name stayed, however, and so did the statue. And Peace Officer
O'Malley treads around the statue on his beat. And it is usually a dull beat. Except for today.
Host species infected/Companion form infected/System status deteriorated/Failure noted:
As Officer O'Malley rounds the statue and faces Truman's Soda Shoppe, he sees his personal vision
of hell. A harmonica-playing black, a reefer-mad teenage hoodlum, a dancing bum, and finally a mangy
flea-bit mongrel. Good for nothin' the whole lot of them. He blows his whistle. The wooden ball inside
spins madly on saliva. This is a full-blown riot, he thinks. He lurches toward them.
Hey boy, he screams at Gantry. Cut out that harmonica playing or I'll run you in. Shouldn't you
be in school, son? he asks the kid. He points a finger at the bum. O'Malley is about to say something, but
the bum collapses, like he'd been shot by O'Malley's finger. Gantry goes next. He staggers, then sinks
into a heap of dead plaid. The harmonica falls from his hand into the street. The kid shoves a piece of
paper into his mouth, chokes, then expires. The dog is a real mess.
First it shakes. Then it pisses. Then it foams at the mouth. It whines. It cries. It expels gas,
then slowly deflates.
Mass system failure noted:
Some guy at the lunch counter puts down his tuna melt, picks ups his hat, and walks out of
Truman's. He asks O'Malley, What's that?
O'Malley states, Pal, that's a dead dog.
Brian Yee lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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story copyright by author 2001 all rights reserved