Beauty Shot

Yannick Murphy

Maya had been attacked once. A man had followed her up the stairs of her building and held a long knife to her throat. He made her open the front door of her apartment. What he didn’t know was that her dog was behind the door. It was a dog trained to attack. Maya’s mother, wanting her daughter to be safe when she moved to New York City, had given her the dog already trained. When Maya said the German word that told her dog to attack, the dog went for the man’s throat. He dropped his knife trying to get the dog off him. Maya saw the dog hanging off the man’s neck as he ran down the stairs and out onto Second Avenue. She chased after them. She was able to follow because there was a trail of blood on the sidewalks. The blood crossed the avenue and was on the sidewalk in front of Gem Spa, the soda fountain shop, where a few hippies or yippies, she never knew the difference, were standing and talking and smoking. She followed the blood all the way down the length of Eighth Street, all the way up Broadway and to Grace Church, where it seemed to stop by the iron gates that enclosed a yard with a few lovely cherry trees growing. They were in bloom and when she breathed in deeply in order to make a long, loud whistle for her dog her nose filled with their scent. Her dog came from behind her, barking happily to see her, and rubbing against her so that she could be petted. Maya knelt down and put her face up to her dog’s and rubbed her neck. When they started walking home, her hand felt wet, and when she looked down she saw there was blood on her palm and all over her dog’s belly.

She thought the dog might have killed the man because so much blood had been on the sidewalks, and on her dog’s fur. That night the hippies or the yippies protested the war. They gathered all of the metal waste baskets from the street corners and put them in front of Gem Spa. Then they lit them on fire. Even from her place, which was across the street, Maya thought she could feel the heat from the fires as she looked out her picture window. Her dog came up under her hand as she watched, wanting to be pet. Her dog’s fur was still wet after the washing she had given the dog in the bathtub where the water ran pink with the blood down the drain of her claw footed tub. The hippies or the yippies sang songs. They sang “Last Night I had the Strangest Dream I ever Dreamed Before,” and she found herself singing the words as she stood with her dog watching the fires burn. Then they chanted. They said, “1, 2, 3, 4, we don’t want your fuckin’ war” over and over again.

Maya did not think much about the war. She didn’t know anyone who was in the war, and she didn’t follow politics. “Don’t get involved with those anti-war hippies,” her mother had told her. “They’re only protesting because they’re young, and they’ve got nothing better to do but take drugs and link arms and sing for peace,” Maya assured her she would not get involved. She was in New York to learn how to make films. She took a job with a filmmaker so she could someday learn how to make one herself.

Sometimes the chants of the hippies or the yippies stayed in her head because they were catchy. She repeated them as she shampooed her hair in the shower. She had no desire to join the protestors, but that night she was thankful for their burning fires. When she lay down on her bed that was near the picture window, the flames kept her room bright, and tonight she was afraid of sleeping in the dark. She took the knife the attacker had dropped, which she had cleaned in the bathtub at the same time she had cleaned her dog, and put it on the floor near the head of her bed. It looked like a machete, she thought. The handle was made of ebony. The blade curved up at the tip, reminding her of the way silk slippers a genie might wear curled up at the toe.

She didn’t want to go to the police. She didn’t think she could remember the face of the man. She never really saw him. She only felt the machete blade at her neck and she only sensed that he was much taller than she was. All that he said to her was, “Open your door now or I’ll cut you on the stairs.” She wondered if she did go to the police if they would take the dog from her, because it had attacked the man. That night the dog lay beside her bed with her head facing the door. She could see the licking flames in her dog’s eyes.

She wanted to take the dog with her everywhere now. When she went to the grocery store, she tied the dog’s leash up to a street sign and told the dog that she would be back. The dog sat and waited and jumped up to greet her when she came out of the store holding a bag full of groceries. She wanted to take the dog to work with her and asked her boss if she could bring him into the office. Her boss was making a film about the parks in New York. He told her what parts of the film he wanted her to find, and she would go through canisters of film he had taken. He wanted the parts where children were rolling down the grassy hills, and hollering through tunnels listening to their own echoes. He wanted the parts where people in the heat of summer dove off the bow of their rented rowboats and swam in the dark water of the pond. He wanted the parts where a girl held a red balloon tightly while she went up and down on a wooden carousel horse. “Maya, find me a beauty shot,” he’d sometimes say, and she knew what he meant, she should find some shot he took of mist over the lake in the morning, of a carriage horse’s caramel-colored mane as the carriage horse trotted on a cherry blossom-covered lane. The dog was not a problem. She lay beside the large canvas bins that held the strips of film in the midtown office. She turned her head when she heard the groan of the elevator stop at their floor, but she did not bark. Maya would always give her dog the crusts from her deli sandwich, and the dog always took them gently between her teeth and ate them quickly, without making a mess.

One night her boss asked her to go to a concert that was being held in the bandshell of the park. Maya brought her dog, and her boss filmed the concert while she held his Nagra reel-to-reel tape recorder bag slung over her shoulder, and held out the mic above her head to capture the sound. She let the dog loose, so that she did not have to hold onto her leash and at the same time take the sound. The dog trotted behind her and when Maya stopped, the dog stopped and sat beside her on the ground. Hippies were at the concert. The men had hair like the women, long and flowing. The hippies came up to the dog, their peace sign pendants hanging long from leather cords, and almost hitting the dog as they knelt down to pet her. The dog was nervous from all the attention of the people dressed in kaftans with flowing sleeves that grazed the dog’s head, and with the scent of cloves on them from cigarettes they had smoked. The dog kept looking up at Maya and panting. Her panting almost like speech, Maya thought. As if the dog were telling her she wanted to go home.

When the concert was over, Maya’s boss was pleased with the footage he had taken. He had close-ups of women wearing beaded headbands watching the concert and mouthing the word “peace” into the camera. He had shots of children on their father’s shoulders as the fathers swayed to the music and the children clapped. “Let’s get a drink,” he suggested to Maya, but Maya wanted to take her dog home. She did not like how her panting had become faster and more shallow, as if her dog could not breathe the hot summer air that seemed to be even hotter in the park because the people were grouped so close together watching the concert. “Come on. Just one drink,” her boss said. “You have to do as I tell you. I’m your boss, after all,” he said smiling, but Maya was afraid a part of her boss wasn’t kidding. She was behind on her rent, and she felt she could not take the risk of being fired right now.

Sitting across from her boss at a table in a bar, she could see how one eye was rimmed with a red circle from where the rubber eyepiece on his camera had been held up to his face. It made him look older than he was, and it made him look like he had been crying. She thought the bar would be better for the dog, but it wasn’t. There were sports fans there watching a game, and their cheering every once in a while would make the dog move from a sitting position to a standing position, and she would let out a slight whine, so slight that Maya was sure she was the only one who could hear it.

Maya drank a gin and tonic quickly, hoping it would mean she could leave the bar that much more quickly and go home, but her boss saw how her glass was empty, and ordered her another, and one for himself. “I know I’m not supposed to ask you this, considering I’m your boss. But would you like to spend the night with me?” her boss said after he had swallowed down his second drink. “I mean both you and the dog, of course,” he said, laughing a little. Maya laughed a little too, because she was embarrassed for him. Why hadn’t he at least tried to seduce her instead of just asking her? Was he that insecure? Had he not done it in so long? She looked at the sports fans. One kept pounding the bar every time a player missed or a player made a shot. There seemed to be no difference, one pounding was as loud and as strong as the next, whether it was for the point or for the loss.

“I have to get home,” she said. He nodded. He took another drink of his drink. “Well, then. I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said. He stood up and he left the bar. She stayed where she was. The game must have ended. The men were not cheering. They were sitting and drinking at the bar. Someone must have turned on the stereo because soft music started playing, some kind of jazz. Her dog lay down by her feet. She noticed the bar had paintings on the wall. They were for sale. She liked them. They were of scenes of wildflowers in fields and skies with clouds that seemed more like wisps of smoke than clouds. She ordered another drink. This one tasted better than the last two. She wondered if the bartender had switched to a different kind of gin, one whose flavor she could taste just by breathing in over the rim of her glass. She reached down and petted the dog even though the dog’s eyes were closed now. It was a Saturday night and she knew that back at her place her dog probably would not be sleeping as soundly. The hippies in front of Gem Spa were probably lighting their fires in the trash cans, they were probably singing, and maybe there would be a fight, or cop cars cruising by, their flashing lights creating kaleidoscopes of color on her walls.

The bar did not seem like it would close anytime soon. More people entered and ordered drinks. The jazz tempo changed, it was livelier and louder now. The dog was noticed. Women wearing spaghetti strap gowns came over to pet her. They had just been to a show, they said. Their polished nails were creamy pastel colors and when their fingers moved across her dog’s head and coat, it looked like so many sweet candy coated pieces of bridge mix raining over her, sliding around her fur. Maya was invited to join them. There was Adam and Seth and Keith and Cindy and Doris and Bonnie. She said their names as they were introduced, but the minute she said them, she forgot them. They said the tunnel home was jam packed with traffic, and so they decided to stop here for a nightcap until everything had cleared. “The gin and tonics are very good,” Maya told them, thinking she sounded like she had been coming to this bar for years.

Adam or Seth or Keith ordered her one, even though she had told them she had had enough. She wasn’t even standing and she thought she could feel the upper half of her body swaying as she sat at the table. The wood of the table beneath her hands was warm, and she thought how it might even be nice to lay her head on the warmth of the table. The women were inviting her dog to put her front paws on their laps. “Come on up!” they said in high voices, but the dog looked at Maya and did not jump up. “She’ll rip your dresses,” Maya said, but it came out, “Sill ip your dresses.” Maya laughed at herself, and everyone laughed with her and then they clinked their glasses together and drank more. After that, though, there was a long silence. Maya looked at the pretty shimmery spaghetti strap dresses the women wore. The material looked like iridescent scales of fish were sewn onto it, and when the women moved it seemed to Maya like they were moving underwater and their bodies were flashing as if caught by rays of sun. “What do you think about the war?” Maya asked them, because she had been thinking about going back to her neighborhood and how the yippes or hippies would be out. “Oh, I am so sick of all this talk of war,” one of the women said and the rest agreed. “Don’t you think we should be trying to stop it?” Maya said, but one woman said, “We should be trying to order more drinks, that’s what we should be doing,” and she raised her hand high, trying to call over the bartender, even though Maya had never seen the bartender come out from behind the bar.

It was a shame she had to use the ladies room, Maya thought to herself, because if she didn’t have to use it then she wouldn’t have had to stand and make her way across the bar to the back, past a lot of people. The dog wanted to come with her, but she told her no because she did not think the ladies room would be big enough for the both of them. “Stay with Boris and Candy, and the other woman,” she said. “Hah, Boris and Candy. I like that. I’m going to call you girls that from now on,” she heard one of the men say as she stood and the room reeled and the floor seemed to tilt as if she were walking in the aisle of an airplane turning midflight.

She was wearing a mini skirt and she was thankful she was not wearing pants, or anything with buckles or snaps, she almost didn’t make it to the toilet seat in time. She shivered as she relieved herself. It took such a long time to go. She stared at the black and white tiled floor beneath her feet, and it seemed to move. Then suddenly she felt sick, and whether or not she was finished using the toilet, it didn’t matter, she had to get up from the seat and turn and lift the lid or else she would have vomited on the floor. She felt sweat break out on her back and her neck and chest, and when she was done she took some tissue and ran it under the faucet and used it to swab the places on her skin that had broken out in sweat.

When she walked out of the bathroom, bright lights were on in the bar, and the bartender was putting chairs up on the tables. She winced. The lights seemed as bright as the sun. Everyone was gone from the bar. She ran into the street. She yelled her dog’s name. She ran back into the bar. “Have you seen my dog?” she said to the bartender. He shook his head and took off his apron and tossed it onto the floor, where a pile of bar towels was already sitting. “Nope,” he said.

She ran towards the tunnel. When she got there she could see that the traffic was clear now. Cars were speeding into it. She was tempted to go into the tunnel, walk all the way to the other side, but she could not be sure that those people had taken her dog. Maybe her dog was on the streets near the bar, running around, looking for her. She started to feel sick again, but held it down.

The bar was close to her boss’ office. She thought maybe the dog had gone looking for her there. She went to the outside of the building. She looked in through the glass revolving doors. Everything was dark. She looked up and down the street. She tried to whistle, but she couldn’t get her lips to do it right. She yelled her dog’s name again, this time shrieking it. She went back to the bar. It was closed now. She slid down the wall. She sat with her legs apart. If anyone walked by they could have seen up her skirt, but no one was on the streets now. It did not matter. She slept with her head up against the building for a while. The sound of hooves woke her. A horse drawn carriage was passing. The horse had a purple plume of feathers in its headpiece, and the feathers danced and floated as he moved. At the same time, the sun was rising, and it rose first as purple and hazy. “A beauty shot,” she said to herself, knowing that if her boss were with her he would have said it himself.

When she walked home down Fifth Avenue, she called for her dog. People turned their heads to look at her as she cupped her hands around her mouth. She held an empty leash. Walking past Gem Spa, she stopped to ask the man working behind the counter if he had seen her dog. Her voice broke when she asked. The man, a hippie with a mustache and long beard, and wearing a dashiki, told her hadn’t seen her dog. He gave her a free egg cream though, and then he told her he had something else for her. He asked for her hand, and he shook it, and in her palm he left a small pill. It was the blue of a robin’s egg. “You’ll feel better. I take one when all this shit about the war brings me down,” he said. She walked home holding the pill, thinking how she did not necessarily need to feel better. What she really needed was her dog back.

Before she climbed up the stairs to her place she turned around, making sure no one was following her. Then at the top of the stairs, she turned around again. There was no one there, just the black and white tiled wall, reminding her of the bar, and its tiled bathroom floor where she was sick. Inside, she put the pill on her dresser and forgot about it. She looked through her photographs. She looked for one of her dog. She only found one of herself and the dog, and the dog’s head was half out of the picture and sideways. Looking at it no one would be able to tell what the dog looked like. She wanted a photograph that she could tape to the lampposts in her neighborhood, and the midtown neighborhood where she had lost her dog. She wanted to post a reward for her dog. She would pay $200 to get her back. It was at least one of her paychecks. She thought of lying, writing that she would pay $500 to have the dog back, and that if the dog were found, maybe she could borrow the rest of the money to claim her. Maybe her mother, who always asked about the dog, or her boss would loan her the money. But in the end, the photograph was not good enough. She took white paper and wrote “$200 for lost Dog” and drew a picture of her dog with pencil, and it looked like a child’s drawing, but she copied it and taped it to lampposts everywhere anyway. She called the ASPCA, and asked if they recently had a dog brought in that looked like her dog. “All the dogs look like your dog,” the woman on the phone said. She went to the ASPCA. She hated looking in all of the kennels at the dogs who were not her dogs. She hated the dogs. She knew she should feel sorry for the dogs with their runny eyes and their dull coats that she could not bring home that needed homes, but instead she cursed them because none of them were her dog.

The only thing that lay by her bed at night was the machete, with its curved tip like a genie’s slipper. She moved it from the head of the bed to the side of the bed where her dog used to lie. She wanted to be ready to lift it up if she needed it to defend herself.

Her boss did not invite her out after filming in the park any longer. After he filmed the bread and puppet theater troupe putting on a performance on the green, with their huge paper mache heads making them look grotesque, and after he filmed the children hiding behind their mother’s backs as the puppets, gigantic on stilts, spoke to them through microphones that distorted their voices, he packed his camera and took her sound equipment off her shoulder and told her goodnight. Feeling very light after not having the Nagra reel-to-reel sound equipment bag on her shoulder any longer, she decided one evening to stay in the park a bit longer. She climbed a rock, a huge piece of granite, that had names written on it and that was smooth from so many people having sat on it. From that high up, she thought she could see so much of the park. She could see the zoo and the carousel and the boat pond. She could hear the animal clock strike at the zoo, and she could hear the carousel music, and the oars of boaters splashing in the water. When it was too late for her to be in the park alone, after the sun had set, she stood on the rock. Because no one else was nearby, she called for her dog. It was a long call, she made it as long as she could and did not stop until she needed to breathe.

That night, there was singing on the street again, and fires in the trash cans. She could not sleep because it was so loud. People were running in large groups down the center of the street, blocking a sea of taxis and cars so they could not drive. The drivers leaned on their horns, and did not let up. She heard police sirens and people screaming, “It’s the pigs.” She heard a woman’s voice yell, “Take off your shoes, you’ll run faster.” She heard someone banging on the downstairs door, and then she heard the door opening, and the door slamming against the black and white tiled wall. Someone was running up the first flight of building’s stairs. Their footsteps scuffed and pounded on the slate steps. Someone was either thrown or threw themselves at her front door. She heard a thumping sound and her door jiggled in its frame. If her dog were here, she thought, she would be barking. She would be right up next to the door and she would have her shoulders set wide, and her ears straight up, and her tail out straight, and she would be barking so loud and so sharply, that it would hurt your ears, and you would hear her bark inside of your chest, vibrating what was inside of you, your lungs and your ribs and your heart.

She lifted up the machete. She walked right up to the door. She heard something slide down the length of the door, whoever was there must have slid their back down her door. They were sitting down now. She could hear them breathing loudly. After a while, their breathing slowed, but it was still loud. She could hear her kitchen sink, which had a leaky faucet, drip a drop of water to the sink bottom in between his breaths. She sat down cross-legged facing her door. She left the machete in her lap, with her hand still on the ivory handle. The crowd outside was chanting. “Bring our boys home!” they chanted and “Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids have you killed today?” The sirens grew louder. The police must have been right outside. Her place danced with the sirens’ lights. She heard someone whisper her name. They said it again louder. “It’s me, Brian, your boss,” the voice said. She did not believe him at first. She thought someone had found out her name and had found out her boss’s name, and was tricking her. “Can I come in?” he said in a louder voice. “Brian?” she said. “The cops are thick out there. I think one’s after me. I helped the others light the trash can fires. I threw a soda can at the back of a cop’s head. The cop turned just in time to see I was the one who did it. All I could think to do was run. Luckily I remembered you said you lived across from the Gem Spa and I remembered what address I sent your checks to,” he said.

When she let him in he looked at the machete and said, “Whoah, where’d you get that from, the cane fields?” He took the machete and hefted it. “You might do better with something lighter. Something that would not make you tired to hold it,” he said. Then he noticed the blue pill on her dresser. “What’s this?” he said. She shrugged. He rolled it between his fingers. “Where’d you get it?”

“Across the street, at Gem Spa,” she said.

“You mean you ordered an egg cream and this is what you got?” he said.

“Something like that,” she said. He laughed, and when he did the sirens lights lit him up and made triangles and squares of blue and red light flash on his face.

She let him hold her that night while they lay side by side on her bed, still in their clothes. She told him she did not think it was a good idea that they do any more than that. She asked him why he was down here at the protests, and he said he had a brother who had been drafted and was over there and he just wanted him to come home. “It’s so simple,” he said. “I just want to see him walk through my door one day soon. I keep thinking if I imagine it every night, then it will come true. He’ll come home in one piece.” He asked about her dog and she told him how her mother had given her the dog, and how the dog knew the word for attack, and how the dog had once saved her life. Her boss did not interrupt her or ask more questions, but she talked more about her dog anyway. She told him how the dog had hung from the man’s neck all the way down her stairs, all the way down the street, past the Gem Spa, all the way until the churchyard. She told him how the man’s blood was in her dog’s coat. She told him how she thought the man was probably dead. Her boss spoke then. “Yes, I imagine he is, or maybe he is still alive but in bad shape,” her boss said. “Oh, no, I am sure he is dead.” “You mean you hope he is dead,” her boss said. “Yes, but maybe sometimes it’s the same. Maybe this time it’s the same because I will never see that man again, because he will not come back, knowing this is where the dog lives,” she said. “Yes, maybe it is the same then,” he said and she could feel her boss nod his head against her own as they lay spooned. She could hear what must have been his chin rub against her hair.

Sometime in the night, the streets became quiet. The fires in the trash baskets burnt down, and the police left. She and her boss were able to fall asleep. In the morning he kissed her forehead before he left her place. She noticed later on that the blue pill was gone. She wondered if her boss had taken it with him, or if he had thrown it away so she would not take it. When she met up with him later at the park to take some shots of the sun coming through the leaves, and some shots of kites being flown by a man from India with children running behind him as he ran to catch the wind with his kite, she asked him where the pill was. “I threw it away. You have no idea what’s inside that pill,” he said. He was right, she knew, but she felt he had no right to throw it away either. She was never planning on taking the pill, but maybe it wasn’t such a bad pill. Maybe it would just make me feel better or sleep better or be awake better, she thought. She was tired often. She would wake up every morning and visit the ASPCA and look at the dogs in the kennels, and then she would take long walks near the bar where she lost the dog. She would just walk and look for the dog. At night she dreamt she saw the dog running down the empty streets, but the dog was a ghost, and did not stop even though she kept calling out to her.

One night she got a phone call. A kid was on the line. He sounded like he was a teenager. He said he saw her flyer and he had her dog. She thought it was her own fault, what did she expect when she had drawn such an amateurish drawing of her dog except for kids to respond to her flyer, for it to be a joke. The kid wanted to meet her at the playground all the way across town. “Meet me by the boat,” he said. She knew the boat in the park. It looked like it was made of sand, but it was just sandy colored concrete. The children could climb up in it and walk the deck and look through portholes at passing cars on the avenue. When she met the kid, he looked older than he sounded on the phone. He was sitting on the side of the boat, with one leg crossed over the other. She had the two hundred dollars, but she was almost sure that the kid would not have her dog. She was right, and when she went up to him and said, “Are you the kid who called me?” he said, “I need the money first.” “It doesn’t work that way,” she said. “Give me half the money then,” he said. “And then what?” she said. “Then I take you to your dog and you give me the rest of it,” he said. “How do I even know you have the right dog?” she said. He handed her the flyer she had drawn. “Is this your dog?” he asked. “That’s a bad drawing,” she said. “Well this is the dog I have,” he said. She looked at the kid’s face. In a few years he could go to war. She thought he looked like her boss Brian. She thought they had the same chin. It was a chin that was square, and you could see the outline of his strong bones beneath the chin. She imagined the kid could even be Brian’s brother.

She didn’t care about the money all of a sudden. She imagined that after she gave it to him he would just run. She could see him running in the sand to get away from her, the sand flying up behind his tennis shoes as he dug into the sand as fast as he could. “Take the money, go to Canada, get far away from the war,” she thought to herself. He did not run though. He walked ahead of her, counting the money as he walked, and then stuffing it into the back pocket of his blue jean cutoffs. It was a dumb place to keep it, she thought. She could see some of the bills peeking out from the pocket. They would have been easy to slide out without the boy even noticing. She wondered how this kid could be so smart about trying to get the money, but so dumb about where he kept it. She realized then how you could never be sure about people. Just because you had some information about them didn’t mean you could guess what they would do next, or in another situation. There were no pieces to the puzzle when it came to people, because in the end there was no fixed picture to see. Instead people were like some kind of a blur, something in motion all of the time, that was always changing.

He took her down a street lined with brownstones. He stopped at one brownstone and went down the basement steps, and as he went, though, he reached out and held her arm, helping her down. She flinched at first, remembering the man who had attacked her, but then she let the kid help her. She was surprised at how gentlemanly his grip felt on her arm. She did not think a kid would be so polite, or so strong. It was one of the less well-kept brownstones on the block. The tree out in front had wrappers and cans in the area inside the metal fence that surrounded the square patch of earth that the tree was planted in. The door down to the basement had unfinished scraps of boards nailed to it, which probably served to patch up holes in the wood. She followed him down and into the basement and hoped that her dog was really down there because if the kid tried to hurt her, then she knew her dog would protect her. It was dark in the basement, and coming from bright sunlight, she could not see a thing for several moments. “There he is,” the kid said, and her heart sank, of course, because her dog was not a “he,” and so this dog she could not see, was not her dog. Then, at the same time the kid pulled a string and turned on a bare bulb, and she saw her dog, but only for a flash, because then she ran to the dog and buried her face in her neck. Her dog was thinner, and her coat was the same dull color as the dogs in the pound. She got down on the dirt floor of the basement and sat there while the dog licked her face and wagged its tail. “I’d like the rest,” the kid said, and she gave it to him. He said “Thank you,” and then he ran up the steps. She turned and called up the stairs, “Thank you! Thank you so much!” she said, and she really was thankful to this boy, this kid, this almost man.

The walk home took them a long time because sometimes she would just stop on the sidewalk and bend down and hug the dog and pet her and tell her she was such a good dog.

When they finally neared her neighborhood and they walked past Gem Spa, the man who worked there who had given her the robin’s egg blue pill shouted out, “Hey, is that a new dog you got?” and she said, “No, this is the same dog. I found her.” The man waved her over and held out an egg cream he had poured into a plastic dish. She gave it to the dog, and her dog lapped it up on the sidewalk, licking the dish even when it was already clean, so that the dish moved down the sidewalk, crossing over the black burn marks from the trash can fires, with every lick of her tongue.

She called her boss that night and told him about the luck she had finding her dog, and he was happy for her, and said he could come by with some champagne and they could celebrate, but she did not want to see her boss, and she told him thank you anyway, but she and her dog needed sometime to be together again. She called her mother to tell her about the good news, and her mother said, “That’s some story, are you sure it’s the right dog?” and she told her mother yes while she had one hand on the phone, and one hand petting the dog.

When she brought the dog to work the next day, her boss said the same thing. “Are you sure that’s the same dog. I swear your dog was darker. Your dog wasn’t this blonde,” he said.

“Of course I am sure. Of course it’s my dog, why does everyone keep saying that,” she said.

“Isn’t there a way to be sure? What was that attack word in German your dog knew, and that you never told anyone else? Can’t you use it with this dog and see?” he said.

“I can’t just have the dog attack when there is nothing to attack, and if there is something to attack, like a person, then that person will be hurt for no reason,” she said. “Besides, it is my dog,” she said.

The dog now liked to sleep with her on the bed instead of next to her on the floor by the bed the way it did before. She thought the dog changed to sleeping with her because she was so upset by having been separated from her, that she never wanted to be far from her again.

One evening, she was working in the office and her boss stepped out to get a coffee. The phone rang and when she answered it was her boss’s mother. Maya had never spoken to her before, and the mother did not ask who she was. “Tell him to call me back,” the mother said, and Maya could tell the mother was trying to say it at the same time she was trying to keep herself from crying. “Is it about Brian’s brother?” Maya said. Brian’s mother burst out crying then. “I’ll tell him to call you when he gets back,” Maya said. She thought how she would tell him when he got back. When he got back to the office, with not one coffee for himself, but two, one for her as well, she would tell him the news of his dead brother, and he would drop both of them. Both coffees would hit the hard office tiled floor and bounce and their tops would pop off. Coffee would splash as high as the bins that held the loose cuts of film and would stain the bins’ white canvass sides. The entire office would smell of the coffee. She would stay with him until very late. He would want her to stay. When he called his mother back, she would go down the hall to the restroom to get some paper towels, and she would hear him crying from that far away. But she never did tell him his mother called. She figured she might tell him later or tomorrow, just so he could keep thinking his brother was alive for a little longer.

That night they went to film an all night fireworks display in the park and her boss was excited. He was telling her ways he would intercut frames of the exploding fireworks with shots of musicians banging on drums and children playing chase through the tunnels. They didn’t finish until very late. Then she and her dog walked home, without her ever having told Brian to call his mother. Her ears were ringing from the rockets and all the packs of firecrackers the kids along the street were lighting and throwing at the feet of passersby. She was thinking of how it would be nice to be at home, inside of her place with her dog lying by her side and away from the fireworks, but when she got close, she saw that it would be impossible to get to her building. Cops and hippies and yippies were blocking the street and the sidewalks. Suddenly the cops started chasing the people, and they started running towards her. She turned and started running, but she fell in the clogs she was wearing, and twisted her ankle. The dog stopped when she stopped and it whined. A cop came up close to her and had his club out and struck her on the back. She could not breathe because of the blow. She could not get up. The cop raised his club again. That is when she said it. She said the German word to her dog that would make her attack. The dog continued to bark. The dog did not jump in the air and hold onto the cop’s sunburned neck beneath his severe crew cut. The dog just barked. Maya said the word over and over again while the cop hit her on the back and on the legs, trying to make her get up. When the cop turned to hit the dog, the dog yelped before it could be struck, and then it ran, putting its tail between its legs, and winding through people’s legs, escaping. Maya turned and looked up at the cop. “Bring our boys home,” she said, her voice sounding like a whisper. The cop laughed and then he hit her one more time on the back and left her there. When he moved on up the street, he started clubbing other people who would not get up. After a while, Maya could stand, and she limped back to her place and up the stairs. The cops had done a good job clearing the streets, though. Everything quieted down quickly.

Sitting or lying down hurt. For a long time she just stood and looked out her window at an empty street with just the thin trails of smoke coming from the extinguished trash fires. The smoke rose up past the tops of the buildings and coiled against a pink clouded sky. She made her way to her bed and lay down, and then felt for the machete on the floor next to her. Maybe her boss had been right, maybe she needed a lighter one after all, one that would not be so heavy for her to wield if she really needed to use it. In the pink morning light, her hand also looked dreamily pink as she wrapped her fingers around the black ivory handle. “A beauty shot,” she knew her boss would have called it. She picked up the phone and dialed his number. For a moment she thought of holding the phone over the pink light on her hand to show him how beautiful it looked, as if the phone could do more than just transmit sound. “Brian, I forgot to tell you, your mother called,” she said when he answered, knowing that now was the time to tell him the truth.

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