Dogs Named Desire
We got lucky and left Kentucky. This was after our Monday night
marriage, when we lit out for the left coast and struck it rich along
the way peddling new sins to Protestants, got blackout drunk at a bar
around the corner from the Alamo—forgot everything
(including the Alamo) for weeks, and then we continued west until we
reached the San Fernando Valley where we settled amongst the modest
pornographers and the unending strip-mall sprawl. The wife and I took
to Southern California like a couple of dwarves in an orphanage. Our
love grew small but our backyard swimming pool loomed large. We named
it Denial and although we never swam the damn thing we liked to lounge
next to it and boat drink ourselves to oblivion. Sure, when we sobered
there was still plenty wrong with us, but the truth is brighter than
the sun sometimes. It's only natural to look away. We did until we
didn't. Then we didn't.
She took most of it and then took up with an itinerant yoga instructor
and last I imagined they were wandering the world inventing avant-garde
Meanwhile I bought some cheap speed and got to work on an uninspired
teleplay about a family of handicapped acrobats who hang on despite it
all and sure enough the gals over at Lifetime Television pounced on it
and advanced me enough cash to buy a new Charger and put some road
under it. I should've gone to Montana. I should've gone to Idaho, but
no, I got sentimental and beat it down to the Gulf of Mexico. When I
reached the shores of Alabama there were firemen everywhere. Smoke on
the water and the flames to the sky. The heat had scorched the sand
into glass. I wanted to stick around, to stay and help those boys
fight, but instead I took the dumbness in my heart and the change in my
pockets over to the dog track in Pensacola. I bet it all on a dog named
Desire and dammit if I didn't walk away wanting more.
Hence I returned to Louisville the only way they'll take
you—wasted and wounded and strapped. I took a room
above a dram house by Churchill Downs. Beneath me people bonded over
bourbon and lies. Me, I just listened to it all through the frail
floorboards, for weeks. Eventually I excavated myself from that dark
place and went downstairs to bask in the neon. At the lip of the bar
sat my ex-wife's father. He was kind enough to act dumb about his
daughter and like a true gentlemen, he was both brooding and
benevolent. He offered me a beer and then he offered me a job. I was in
no position to pass on either.
The job was janitorial. Nights we cleaned skyscraper offices
overlooking the Ohio. The days? They were there too, always changing.
Then it was October and the commonwealth light began to fade. A wind
storm arrived and knocked out power to the city. For a solid week, I
sat there in the dark, trying to think of something to think that
wasn't shot. I thought about driving down to the Sherman Minton bridge
and taking a leap, but for some reason when the power returned
something inside me lit up, too. Yes, it seemed there were still
stories to raise and hell to write. For awhile I palled around with the
father until his hands swelled from all the heart pills. By the
holidays he'd stopped coming to work altogether, disappeared. He had an
angioplasty and then died. It hurt when my ex-wife didn't attend the
funeral, but it hurt less when the old man left me some money.
Now comes more days not worth naming. In the newspaper there was an
ongoing debate over the merits of bridge building which lasted for many
years. One day I woke up and everyone looked younger. One day I woke up
and I was taking a hammer to my birth certificate. One day I woke up
and decided to find some hero for a friend. I decided to get a dog. I
thought it would love me unconditionally, that it would fill the cheap
vacancy caused by my life.
I went to the shelter and picked out an albino greyhound. She was
strange, but beautiful. I named her Desire and drove her to a field to
let her run. That night the sun was setting rather cinematically behind
a stand of elms. Immediately she took off after a bird. Man she could
fly. I said: go, go, go!
And she did.
She went and went and went and never came back.
Ryan Ridge is the author of Hunters & Gamblers, a collection of stories from Dark Sky Books..
Read other RR stuff from the archive.
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