pages The Dog House

by William Males

Published in Issue No. 16 ~ September, 1998

Our dog barn looked like a battlefield after Figgy busted the Coke bottles. He’d done it after the pigeon colonel chewed him out for not keeping the cages clean.

Colonels aren’t supposed to chew you out. They’re supposed to have better things to do. But the truth was that this particular one had nothing at all to do. His face was lop-sided from a traffic accident, and his eyes looked in different directions. He was as far away from the action as possible, which was bad for colonels.

For us draftees it was okay. We weren’t interested in that kind of action. We sang cowboy songs to the dogs,”Lie low, little doggie, lie low.”

Besides the dogs, Figgy, and me, there was only the Coke machine at five cents a shot, which was cheap even in 1968. We had a world unto ourselves, tried to do right by the dogs, listened to Radio Cuba on my short-wave, and smoked dope.

Though it was dangerous to break rules, you had to break a few in order to break the boredom. Our colonel knew this. He was just waiting for us to slip up so he could ship us out. And here was a real slip-up: two cases of bottles, smashed to smithereens, on the smoothness of the cement floor.

The walls had seen a lot in their day but had never been part of the action before. Now they were Figgy’s target. He singled out specific bricks and gave them names. “I see you, you son-of-a-bitch.”

Many offspring of bitches watched in wonder, cocking their heads to help them understand. The bitches themselves were too lazy from eating and nursing to look up. And they knew Figgy wouldn’t harm a fly.

Figgy shouted, “Fuck the Army, Fuck Bird-brain,” and I kept watch, hoping I could judge how far his shouts reached. Our colonel could very well tape the sounds to use against us.

“But what’ll we tell the Coke man?” I asked.

The pieces of glass made music when we swept them up. If the barn had been a refrigerator, the broken shapes of bottles would have been ice that fell defrosting. But instead it was just an empty barn, even with us in it. All the tension was gone now, and the dogs, who always felt secure with us, felt more at home than ever.

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William Males dropped out of Yale for the Army in '67 and out of the Army for Sweden in '69. He would have dropped out of Sweden too, but that wasn't an option. His pieces are about this sort of thing. Three have been published in Stand Magazine, Newcastle Upon Tyne, and three broadcast on the BBC World Service. He recently received a Master of Fine Arts from Bennington College.