Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Sparkling Machinery You Call Your Destiny: Part II, chapter 5 from The Edge of the World (a novel in progress)

I would have left town right when Lily told me she was pregnant, but I'd just started learning about dogs at the track. I was intrigued by the dogs. Left alone, they ate, they slept, they fucked. With the right training and breeding they could run, they could guard, they could sniff out suspects or drugs, they could attack. And, like people, they could be controlled. At first the dogs were simply a hobby, my work being my dealings with people. But it was through another friend of mine, Carone, that I got the idea of using dogs to make a living.

Carone was a big fat motherfucker from New York. He always seemed to have a sandwich in his hand. Not those little sandwiches made with white bread and a couple of slices of turkey, but huge Italian sub rolls stuffed with endless layers of ham, salami and cheese. Carone was constantly eating, wiping mayonnaise from his mouth with the back of his free hand and making conversation between gulps. His business was guard dogs, but for fun he came down to the track to bet on the greyhounds.

"Dogs, they're man's best fucken friend," he declared. "Shit, man, if you took away all the women in the world it'd be no big deal for me. I'd just start fucking dogs..."

"You mean you haven't already?"

"No, not yet..." he muttered as he eyed one of the race dogs. "Hey, Lemmy, check out the ass on this greyhound bitch. Goddamn, that's a nice dog ass!"

The dog ran away as soon as Carone moved towards it.

"If you want to fuck these dogs you better learn how to talk sweet and sophisticated to them," I said. "These are classy dogs, not street mongrels."

"Hell, I forget sometimes."

Carone and I walked towards my car and then drove to the bar where we always went after work. Bino was already there at our table, lifting a bottle of beer with his left hand because his right arm was in a sling. Carone and I sat and ordered drinks as Bino began shaking his head.

"This is fucking awkward," he said.

"Hell, maybe you'll come out of this ambidextrous," Carone suggested.

"Then you'll be a two fisted drinker in every sense of the word," I added.

"This isn't really a big problem," Bino said, lifting his beer. "The real problem is that I can't write with my left hand. I've tried, but it's just not working."

"If you ask me you can't write with your other hand either," I said.

"Whatever," Bino said as he motioned to the waitress for another beer.

"So, you want to get in the guard dog business," Carone said changing the subject.

"Yeah," I answered. "That's a business I can take anywhere. Race dogs you can only do down here, in Massachusetts, and a few places out west. And I hate Massachusetts and I hate the west."

"Yeah, I left there as soon as I could," Bino said, shaking his head.

"But you had problems out there," I argued. "You had to get away. Me I just don't like the people out there."

"What happened to you out there?" Carone asked Bino. "Got some Catholic girl pregnant?"

"No, nothing like that."

"It was his sister," I explained. "They were crossing the street together when a car hit them. He made it, she didn't."

"And now my hometown doesn't, like... Well, it isn't very pleasant for me anymore. The atmosphere just seems very oppressive."

"So you went all the way to the other side of the country," Carone said as he raised his hand in the air to get the waitress's attention.

"Hey, we were talking about dogs!" I said.

"Oh, okay." Carone turned to the waitress. "An order of onion rings." She started walking away when Carone added, "Shit, and a burger too."

"You're going to kill yourself with all this food," I said.

"I thought you wanted to talk about dogs."

"Yes, the dogs."

"The best ones, in my opinion, are Dobermans. They're a bit smaller than German Shepherds, but they're easier to train."

"No, I want the biggest dogs I can get—maybe I can combine the two. Or what about wolves and wolf hybrids?"

"No, you want to stay away from them. Especially the wolf hybrids. No one can tell what those fuckers are going to do. They're the most likely to maul you for no apparent reason."

"I can handle that shit."

Carone shook his head emphatically, "No, trust me on this. You want to use dogs that are as purely bred as possible."

"Yeah, stick to the inbred mutts," Bino interrupted.

"You don't know anything about this," I snapped at Bino. "Stick to your fucking writing."

"Hey, I'm just following Carone's advice."

"Well, that's it to start with," Carone continued. "For the training and breeding, just hang out with me and the dogs and then..." Carone looked away towards the kitchen, then shook his head. "Wait... I can't talk any more until my food comes," he said, then stood and walked over to the juke box.

Bino raised his eyebrows and watched as Carone put a few quarters in the slot.

"Yeah, he's really baked," I said to Bino, who on hearing my comment started to cackle.

"But he's a good person to talk about a new business with," Bino said at last. "Because he's hungry. Damn hungry."

In a moment Carone's first song began to play:

You grew up riding the subway
Runnin' with people
Up in Harlem down on Broadway
You're no tramp but you're no lady
Talkin' that street talk
You're the heart and soul of New York City, girl...

"And eating seems to keep him from dancing," I added.

"I thought it was gravity that did that."

I stood up to go to the restroom. When I got back to the table Carone's food had arrived.

Later that evening I went to Carone's to see his setup with the dogs. He had his office in the basement of his house. Behind the house was where he had his kennel: a large fenced-in area, part of which was covered by a tent, plus a shed at the far end.

"It doesn't take much money down here to house the dogs, because you can leave them outside most of the time. But if you got your business where it gets cold you're gonna need some place to keep them warm in the winter."

We walked into a section where he had a Doberman puppy. The puppy started to approach us, its tail wagging, when Carone yelled, "Stay!" It stopped for a moment then continued its approach.

"Stay!" Carone yelled again but much more loudly this time. The puppy stopped and lay its head down on the ground.

"That's it." Carone walked up to the puppy, patted him on the head, and gave him a biscuit.

"You should train all your dogs yourself," he said looking back at me. "And the time to do that is when they're puppies, eight to ten weeks old. If you wait too long it's a little harder, and dogs that you've started training late can create some headaches for you further down the line. And of course some dogs will be more difficult than others."

"I don't think I'll have any problem with training them," I said. "I'm pretty good at that sort of thing."

"Yeah. Well, at any rate it's easier than trying to teach people."

"I imagine it is."

It didn't take long for me to learn how to train the dogs. Carone had given me a puppy the next time one of his bitches had a litter, and I brought it home telling Lily it was a gift from me to her.

"Why don't you name it?" I said.

Lily held the puppy and studied it for a while, patting its head and looking into its eyes. "Let me think about it for a few days."

She lay it down on the floor and it began running around the room. When it spotted Kiddo it examined him for a moment from a distance, then approached him cautiously. Kiddo, of course, was completely oblivious to the dog. The dog, however, grew agitated as it stood before him, and soon began barking at Kiddo as if he were a prowler or something. It must have been its pure Doberman blood that led it to look upon Kiddo with suspicion before I'd even begun to train it.

"Come!" I shouted to the dog. "Come!" It turned away from Kiddo and trotted back to me.

Soon enough I had it trained to ignore Kiddo as if he were simply another piece of furniture. I had it trained to piss and shit outside when I took it out for a walk. I had it trained to sit, fetch, and heel. I had it trained to jump when I said "jump!" And, finally, to attack when I said "Sick `im!" Eventually it even learned to take an interest in the television. It would sometimes sit in front of the television, watching the screen with squinted eyes, its ears perked up as if it were eavesdropping on some private conversation. At any rate, it seemed to have more of an understanding of what was happening on the screen than Kiddo did.

A week after I'd brought the dog home Lily finally announced that she had a name for it.

"I think we should just call him Dogg—with two G's at the end?"

"What? You act like you've got a million names running through your head this past week and then you come up with Dogg?"

"Well I did think of a lot of names, and Dogg is the one that best fits him."

"Don't you want to give him some clever name. Or to name him after some writer, something like `Fielding' or `Trollope'?"

"That would be silly."

"Silly, how so?"

"It just would."

I argued on and on but Lily insisted that Dogg would be its name. And so it was. I had to give in on this matter because by this point Lily was far along in her pregnancy and I refused to fuck her. As her pregnancy didn't have the effect of diminishing her sex drive, she was always begging for it. I had to make something up, saying that it wasn't that I didn't still find her appealing with her big belly, but that I couldn't get myself to believe that it was safe for a pregnant woman to fuck. Letting her name the dog, then, was a minor concession I had to make to keep her happy.

By this time I'd started fucking Rachel, the waitress from the bar where Bino, Carone and I went after our days at the track. Thelma, for some strange reason, refused to speak to me anymore—which was fine with me, because I'd gotten tired of her. And besides, Rachel looked like she'd make a good fuck.

Bino, however, looked at her in a completely different way. Unlike Thelma, whom he didn't even really like, Rachel was the sort of woman who really moved him. It was easy to see that what Bino had for her wasn't simply a crush and that he was, in fact, in love with her. "She really isn't your type," I'd tell him. But he'd go on about how she was smart, beautiful, sweet. How she was just out of college, taking a couple of years off before going to grad school—which was why she was just waiting tables here in Ft Myers.

Me, I just liked her body. It wasn't as voluptuous as Thelma's, but it looked nice and firm. She was one of those shy, somewhat reserved girls who I knew could have her world turned around if the right person fucked her. And I was the right person.

Still, I gave Bino a chance, and when I saw that his romantic approach was going nowhere I moved in on her, unbeknownst to him. He was out of town at the time, visiting his family out west. I was at the bar with Carone that night, and when her shift was over I asked her to join us for a few drinks.

Rachel didn't hold her liquor very well. A couple of beers and a shot and she'd be laughing hysterically, forgetting everything she'd ever learned. After a few more rounds she knew she shouldn't attempt to drive home so I, of course, offered to drive her there.

And it was there that I fucked her. I fucked her while she was drunk, fucked her against the wall, her legs wrapped around me as she screamed and panted. I fucked her in her bed as her radio played Bach and Vivaldi, sounds that covered up her screams but made her squirm and stretch like a child having a nightmare. I fucked her in her mouth and in her ass, fucked her in the morning when she was sober to make sure she'd remember that it wasn't just the music that made her sweat.

When she went into the shower I picked up the phone and called Lily. I told her I'd stayed over at Carone's house, that we'd been working with the dogs, and that afterwards we drank until we passed out. Lily was always very easy to fool. Or perhaps it was just that I was such a good actor and anything I said, no matter how far from reality it was, sounded like the absolute truth.

"I'm going to the track now," I said. "So I'll just see you tonight."

"Okay, Lemmy," she said without a trace of suspicion in her voice.

Just as I hung up Rachel stepped out of the bathroom. With a towel covering her body she looked embarassed, nervous even, and turned her head left, then right as if she were searching for something.

"I'm so hung over," she said finally.

"I don't feel too bad," I told her, even though my head was pounding. I then got dressed and went to a diner. I sat at a booth and the waitress, a woman somewhere in her late fifties, immediately set down a glass of water. "I'll just have a coffee to start with," I said. She looked down at me for a moment as if she were examinging me, then walked off. Watching her as she went behind the counter to pour the coffee, I opened up my bottle of aspirin. As I put the aspirin in my mouth and took a gulp of water she looked over to me.

"One of those nights, huh?" she said.

"Yeah," I said, giving her a tired smile. "Bourbon, vodka, rum... I was mixing my drinks like an amateur."

"You should know better than to do that."

"Sometimes I forget what I've learned. Not that I know all that much."

I nursed my coffee for half an hour, then ordered a scrambled egg sandwich and hash browns. When I was finished, and my breakfast seemed like it was going to stay down, I went to work.
The title of this chapter, The Sparkling Machinery You Call Your Destiny, is taken from “The Sadness of Things,” a song written and performed by Nick Currie (better known as Momus). The title of the previous chapter, My Significance in an Indifferent Universe, is a reworking of another line from this song.

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