Alone with the Talking Dog, Part 1 by Chris Leavens

By Chris Leavens

Genius. Genius occupied every sentence, no every word in those letters, but now those letters were gone, torn to shreds, sitting in front of Adam in a box. Adam cried for days after he opened that package. Michelle wanted no more of Adam’s company nor did she want the company of his letters, the letters he wrote, the letters soaked in genius. She wanted to spend more time with Pierre, her new man, that guy who took her salsa dancing. Adam would have gone salsa dancing. Why didn’t she ask him? Why did she push him away as if every physical advance was an illegal assault? After all, he could reconsider; the "give-me-some-room-let’s-be-friends-for-a-while" thing might work.

Adam asked his talking dog to explain it, but the talking dog could not explain it. The talking dog just paced around the couch waxing poetic about the pants he had just bought.

“This particular pair of pants has real deep pockets. You can put everything in them: cell phone, wallet, keys, pens, your PDA gadget. And you still got some room after all that.”

“Cut it out, talking dog.”

“No Adam, I’m dead serious. That’s why they call these pants 'mobile pants.'”

Adam stared at the blank white wall in front of him. It was solace, it was a cloud, an empty, foggy space to float into, rest in. He wondered if he could talk to the wall, if the wall could share with him an anecdote to give him respite. Maybe the wall went through a messy break-up with a door or a window it once loved. Sage advice could lie dormant beneath the layers of latex paint. The talking dog had no wisdom to impart on the subject of relationships; the talking dog had been neutered. All he cared about was his new pants and Scrabble.

“Talking dog, go get me the Scotch tape.”

“How’m I gonna open the drawer?”

Adam huffed, “Ok, can you at least empty out the box of torn letters Michelle sent me?”

“Sure thing, Cap’n.” The talking dog picked up the box with his mouth and turned it upside down. Shredded paper coated a small section of the carpet like a light snowfall. A cold wind chilled the talking dog’s nose. The breeze bore Michelle’s distinctive scent; the stale, caustic perfume, the expensive shampoos and body washes, the oily evil that oozed from her pores. The talking dog never cared much for Michelle or her expensive car or her connections to the publishing world. She’d sit with him and pet him with the same mild indifference that mysteriously hypnotized Adam. Adam lavished her with poems, flowers, and I love yous, and in return he received nothing but the "comfort" of her icy, needy presence. If testicles manufactured the brand of insecurity it took to keep a woman like Michelle around, the talking dog was happy to be rid of the devilish pair of organs.

“Ok talking dog, we’re gonna tape the letters back together.”


“Momentous ideas cover these pieces of pages.” Adam picked a few of them up. “Contained within this pile are fragments of what will be my first novel, my opus.” Adam inhaled deeply and closed his eyes. He smiled.

“You can smell her, can’t you?”

Adam’s eyes popped open and aimed at the talking dog’s face. The filthy little four-legged eunuch smugly cracked his mouth and panted. Adam stared at the white wall again and breathed deeply. “OK, alright, talking dog, here’s what you’re gonna do: you’re gonna take a pile of pieces and slide them around, arrange them. It’ll be like a puzzle, right? Yeah, good. You can go into the kitchen and work on the linoleum floor in there 'cause it’s smooth and it’ll make it easy for you to move the pieces around. When you think you’ve got a lot of one letter together you’ll call me or when you’re out of pieces you’ll call me and I’ll bring some more pieces to you. Got it?”

“You know, you can just put something smooth down on the carpet here and then I’ll be able to sit here and we can talk while we do this.”

“Um, yeah, no, I think it’ll be easier my way.” Adam tried to disappear into the blank white wall again.

“Yeah then I’ll go into the kitchen, but I think I’ll put a bunch of extra pieces in the pockets of these mobile pants just to make things easy. They’re real deep pockets, you know.”

Adam raised his chin in agreement.

The talking dog waddled into the kitchen, his mobile pants pockets filled with the fragmented letters to Michelle. Her smell would inhabit his new pants in a few hours and he knew that. Just like when she visited. Michelle left, but a cloudy blend of her aroma stayed behind, filling the apartment with its overwhelming calamity. The talking dog and Adam shared wonderful times when that woman and her odor occupied other realms. They bandied about words and story ideas, competed in intense games of Scrabble and Boggle, and played tug-of-war with Adam’s old shoes. But then Michelle would arrive, her smelly body intoxicating Adam, making him mush. He stroked her, kissed her, and uttered the kindest words as she sat about silently asking for more. And the talking dog walked over to her, tried to understand why Adam liked her, and she simply stroked the dog’s head soullessly as she stared at her own image in the nighttime glass.

The scent of Michelle annoyed the talking dog so he put a bunch of the letter pieces on the linoleum and rolled around in them a few times. There. His oil was in the paper; it dulled the sinister feminine pungency. He looked at the pieces and started to shift them around. These tears match; this stain goes from this one to that one. The talking dog reconstructed an entire fourth of one page and a third of another when he noticed the fragments moving independently. Maybe it was a draft, possibly a tiny wind. Whatever the cause, the words shifted tectonically, the torn paper fibers brushing against each other. New sentences began to form and the pieces fused, their tiny, sinewy tendrils grabbing other fragments, screaming for adhesive reinforcement. As the words formed sentences and the sentences formed paragraphs, clear thoughts materialized, stuff that made sense. It was all there, Adam was right. Pounds of nervous thoughts, a little bit of humor, a window into a confused, lonely mind. But that smell, her smell came back and it gathered wind and it blew the young story apart. The talking dog rolled on the papers again and the formation tried to reshape itself, but like a termite infestation Michelle’s aura returned, springing from the little pores in the paper. It was stronger, this time, the scent, and it stung the talking dog’s eyes and burnt his nose. He stared at the pieces and dizziness shook him.

Adam smelled it too. He thought about the complexity of the talking dog’s olfactory senses and the pain the scent would be causing him. Why couldn’t the talking dog understand his torment, his yearning for these letters, for Michelle’s company? Adam looked to the white wall in front of him for help. The wall’s expressionless banality understood him. But it was neither a cloud nor a respite; it was a wall, empty, home to nothing, doing nothing but staring at a dirty room that had been waiting for its only occupant and visitor to clean it. The reality of the wall shook Adam for a moment, made him realize for a moment, just a moment the downward spiral he'd allowed himself to ride.

Time ushered that moment off with a swiftness. It escorted it out of his mind, out of the room, to a distant land, to a place where it could exist peacefully with other sane moments, seconds, hours, and days. It was replaced by another piece of time, one in which Scotch tape snaked out of Adam’s hands and migrated across the semi-assembled pieces of letters. The tape crisscrossed the sheets neatly, creating shiny transparent webs that glistened in the incandescent light. Adam glimpsed briefly his masterpiece (or the pieces thereof). But then it came. The aromatic cloud of Michelle materialized above the papers, a massive thunderhead of smell. Tape rippled from its dispenser, double-, triple-, quadruple-coating the old letters. The cloud above danced in the resulting turbulence, agitating the tape as it attempted to cover the odor of the paper. The tape raged and began to eat the torn-up letters lying on the carpet. Adam sat motionless, blasé, as the scotch tape devoured the paper, sticking to it, gnawing at it, growing into a big ball. It hungrily moved about the room looking for more food. It stuck to every single lightweight particle the floor had to offer and it wanted more so it went into the kitchen. Adam paid no attention; he found the wall again and he and the wall were resonating, each one contemplating the worthlessness of the other.

Needless to say, the talking dog wasn’t really a match for that giant ball of tape. The deep pockets in his new pants gave him an outside shot, but the lack of opposable thumbs proved to be a disadvantage too significant to overcome. The Scotch tape swallowed him and the letter remainders whole. Satisfied, the ball of adhesive and plastic decided to sit in the kitchen with the smell of Michelle following it, hovering above. The sticky destruction and the aroma of ex-girlfriend calmed and silently reveled in their cataclysmic tour of the small apartment.

In the other room, Adam acquiesced and accepted what he had become: a blank, emotionally-dead wall -- empty, white, and alone.


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I guess part 2 will have to be called "Alone without the Talking Dog," huh?

No, but it is obligated to feature a tall, computer-generated alien with a Jamaican accent. "Meesa talking dog gonna die?" But honestly, in a story that features a giant ball of tape chowing down on a talking dog, there's plenty of room for said dog to return to action.

"A blank, emotionally-dead wall -- empty, white, and alone." This dog owner makes me sad. Can the talking dog in part two have some cute little puppies who fight crime? That should cheer everyone up.

Part 2 will be about seven years of Adam's life told entirely in rhyming couplets. That should cheer you up, right? Aside from Part 1 ending on a down note, what do you think so far? I think I'll wait until the third one to put the ewoks in.

My iWok is great! I can't believe it how many kinds of foods I can store in this tech! Aspecial--it changes the life!

In all seriousness, though, this is good. I hope to see more active Adam in part 2. The soullessness will get monotonous if not. Empty, white, alone--it makes me glad to be none of these.

The talking dog is a sterling literary device that has been underused ever since it was supplanted by the much less formidable talking baby that now permeates our mass culture. Ahh, America. Always in the direction of dumber. Too, too bad.

I like it so far. Considering that my recent reading has revolved around the exploits of a young wizard, I found your style to be both a welcome change and exhausting. Well done.

I love the talking dog, and I want the dog to come back. The evil tape must be destroyed. Other than that, I love this story. I am a sucker for personification, and this story has it in spades. Nice work.

Mr. Leavens this is the most emotionally resonant thing I've read of yours. The Talking Dog's comment about his testicles is genius. I felt it got off course a bit toward the end, but finished strong. Can't wait for Part 3. I'm not really interested in Part 2.

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This page contains a single entry by Chris Leavens published on May 7, 2005 9:05 AM.

An Insane Melee of Pork Pony Stories Added to the Archives was the previous entry in this blog.

A Possible, Future Conversation with a Therapist To Be Determined by A.S. Albright is the next entry in this blog.

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