The Joys of Watching a Dog Fall Apart

Matt Farrell

First my job and now my wife. And I was paying him a hundred bucks a night to have his way with her.

So here I am. Nowhere. But I've come up with a plan. A simple, step-by-step plan for life resurrection.

Step One: Take Fiore to the vet to see what the hell is wrong with him. Easy.

Linda drives me and the invalid over to Dr. Schwertscharf, our vet with the unpronounceable name. She runs some errands ("errands") while I take Fiore to have some routine tests run and meet with the doctor.

"What's wrong with him? Why is he falling apart, doctor?" I don't say Dr. Schwertscharf because I don't know how to say it.

"We haven't found anything physically wrong with Fiore," he says, speaking slowly, deliberately. "The fecal and blood tests look normal. My best guess is that the changes are due to stress. The source of the problem appears to be mental."

"Mental? You think Fiore is fabricating symptoms? What, for attention?"

"No, no. Sometimes these symptoms manifest when there's been a stressful change in the animal's life, such as a switch to a new house, or the introduction of a baby."

"Well, my wife and I haven't moved, and unless she's hiding something from me, we're still childless."

"The cause of the stress can be any number of things. Stressed-out cats might start urinating outside the litter box and stressed-out dogs might start defecating in the corner of the living room. Some shed more heavily. I suggest you find a way to alleviate the stress. Maybe more walks."

I've taken too much shit in my life, or stepped in it, to accept this charlatan's theory that I made my dog a nutcase. "Doc," I say, "I'm blind. Not dumb." Fiore and I storm out. Step Two: Get a new vet.

Linda, of course, is loathe to help me in any way.

"I'm too busy to chauffeur you all over town, John. One visit to the vet is enough."

"As happy as I am that you're able to see Fiore's shit on the carpet before you step in it, I can't, so I would actually like to fix this dog. Yes?"

She drives me to a new vet's office without another word, donning an expression, I assume, of apologetic humility and newfound faith in my reasoning.

It turns out Dr. Gould—vet extraordinaire—actually has a head on his shoulders because he reports the discovery of Giardia in Fiore's stool sample. Giardia is the cause of all Fiore's symptoms, according to Dr. Gould, and some Flagyl should clear everything up in five days.

Step Three: Write Dr. Schwertscharf a letter informing him that the cause of Fiore's ill health is not mental, but rather Giardia, whereas the cause of Dr. Schwertscharf's misdiagnosis does appear to be mental.

Done.

Step Four: Trap Linda in a lie.

The next day, Linda gets home from work thirty-five minutes later than usual. After my accident she had to join the work force, and due to her lack of marketable skills, it was the workforce at SaveMart Supermarket. She sets the table, lights candles (for her benefit, obviously), and at my request, force-feeds Fiore his evening dose of 250 milligrams of Flagyl. We sit down to buttered spaghetti smothered in Kraft parmesan cheese. Linda uncorks a bottle of champagne, and I hear the surge of effervescence as she pours us each an ample amount. Maybe the alcohol will loosen her tongue.

"What are we celebrating?" I say.

"Nothing in particular. I wanted to have a nice evening."

My ass, I almost say. I bet the champagne was a gift from James or some other rat. "Here's to a nice evening." I raise my champagne flute.

"Here's to a nice evening." We clink glasses and I take a sip. Too dry. Poor choice, James. I cough to indicate I'm not impressed. Linda plants her glass down on the wood and releases a soft, sensual exhale. For the next few minutes we eat in silence. I hear a siren far off, maybe from an ambulance rushing to a new set of ruined lives.

"James was a big fan of champagne," I say. "Remember James?"

"Sure I do. Your friend from the paper. Dark hair and glasses, right?"

"As far as I recall." I scrape my fork against the plate, tilt my head. "You know, he told me he ran into you a while back." This is a lie. James and I no longer speak.

"Really?" she says, probably starting to sweat. "I don't think so. If he was one of my customers at SaveMart, he probably got lost in the blur." She chomps down on a knot of spaghetti. "You know who I did run into though? Charlotte, my old friend from swim team when I was a kid. She's been living two blocks from us for the past ten years. Can you imagine that?"

"No," I say. "I can't."

In this fashion the meal continues, with Linda sidestepping my queries and me failing to complete Step Four.

Days pass. Linda shoves the last of the Flagyl down Fiore's throat, and I sit at home, sit at home, sit at home, and Linda gets back from SaveMart Supermarket later and later each evening. One day she brings back roses—I smell them the second she walks in the door—and arranges them in her favorite vase on the coffee table. That night she says she'll be staying at her sister's for a whole week.

"Why are you going to your sister's for a week?" I say.

"To see my sister," she says.

The next morning, after stepping in a fresh pile of Fiore's shit, after slipping on a puddle of his vomit in the bathroom (the puking is a lovely new addition), I decide it's time to take action. I can no longer afford to wait for the recovery of that incontinent blob.

Step Five: Go to Linda's sister's house and prove my wife's an adulterer.

I wait three days in case Linda doesn't flit off to her boyfriend's place right away. I take a cab at six (Fiore pisses in the back seat but the driver doesn't notice), and I arrive at her sister's house at six thirty, the perfect time for Linda to be away at a romantic dinner. I tug Fiore up to the front door and ring the bell. This is what we've been waiting for, Fiore.

"John?" Linda's sister says as she opens the door. She has the same grating voice as my wife, with the addition of a smoker's hack. "What are you doing here?"

"I need to speak to my wife."

"You couldn't have used the phone?"

"I wanted to surprise her." Fiore pants eagerly in anticipation. "Where is she?"

"Obviously, she's not here." She puts a pause between each word. By her tone I can tell her arms are crossed.

"Are you listening to me?" I say. "Are we having a conversation? If she's not here, then where is she?"

"Oh, John, give her a break."


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