I wake up crying. Was it the dream, or waking up? My job is a nightmare. I don’t work in a cubicle; I work in half a cubicle. Two sides and a triangle of desk. A corner, point to point with other little corners. My boss buys companies, strips them, fires everybody, sells everything. I keep the accounts, add it up. I don’t talk to anyone. At four fifty-nine, I walk out and go home. Last night, my house was trashed, my records snapped in half or scored with deep grooves as if by giant claws. I know who scratched them. I put one on. The music blossoms, then rips apart. The arm swings back to its cradle. I do it again just to hear it rupture. I go to bed. The dream? I don’t remember the dream.
My watch glows, a bright iris in its ring of lashes. I get up to pee. The dogs lift their heads and follow me, wide-eyed. The chow watches my hands, the boxer stares at my feet. What are they thinking? Is this the night? Are you gonna do something? What are you gonna do?
I don’t know what they expect. A midnight smorgasbord? That I’ll spin a juicy pork chop across the bathroom floor? Perhaps a couple of freckled fish, gills gasping? Or maybe I’ll grab my cap and keys and pull open the screen? They would race me to the yard. I’d fling twin tennis balls under the stars, watch the dogs nab them. Out and back, over and over, the balls soaring in parallel tracks. The chow stops after a few catches, drops the ball, stands like a statue in the night. The boxer never gets tired, never wants to quit. Speak, dogs. Speak. What do you want? They don’t speak.
I go back to bed. That’s what they want. They follow me in, settle down on a fuzzy blue cushion. We fall asleep. In our collective dream we drive away, backlit by a mortgage going up in smoke, the engine loud in the night air. The boxer’s ears flap like circling bats. Faster. Lips flapping, white teeth, black gums. Faster, faster. The dogs’ tails lash the air as if to churn it into butter. I’m lashing, too. I’m a giant black Lab with glossy fur. Who’s driving? The night is thick with sparking fireflies. My legs sway a little, my paws are steady on the truck bed. We skid to a stop and the tailgate falls open. We bolt across the road, over the ditch, out into the meadow. We’re flying flat out. Our crossing legs make rows of flashing Xes. I’ve never run so fast. The field smells like heaven, like a million little things I remember from puppyhood. I’m going to investigate all this. Plenty of time, suddenly. There’s suddenly plenty of everything.
Raina Joines has received residencies from Blue Mountain Center, the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences, and the Lillian E. Smith Center, and her work has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry and prose may be found in Chattahoochee Review, Crab Orchard Review, Fourth River, Poetry South, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. She lives in Denton, TX.