The evening the neighborhood dogs rebelled, gnawing through fences and tethers, we deserted our wine glasses on back patios and bolted inside. We left rakes, lawnmowers, idle in the grass. We grabbed blunt objects and shivered near windows. We were dog people, all of us, but the way they slouched down the road in a swollen pack, the way they prowled through our garden beds, drove us to cower and hide.
We texted one another. Did you forget to lock the gate? Did Wesley twist free of his leash? But no one could explain how they banded together, how they fled in unison. Alone, our dogs were meek. Together they seethed and roamed.
We cracked windows and screamed their names until our throats grew hoarse. We dangled deli meats by our doors. Still, our dogs’ eyes drifted. They formed mobs and dug holes. We worried for the neighborhood chickens. We worried for our lawns.
We criticized one another’s lack of obedience training. “I always knew Mabel was a bad seed,” we said, or “Desmond should’ve been put down after he mauled the Connors’ cat.”Our dogs were victims, not aggressors, so we pointed fingers and named ringleaders, accusing the houses to our left of breeding menaces. We targeted the young couples who moved in last month, citing the subtle way our block had shifted, but they blamed long-term residents—anyone living on an unimproved property, spoiling the community aesthetic.
We looked to the sky, the cosmos, but the moon wasn’t full that night, just a sliver. As the darkness pressed on, we feared our dogs were too far gone, that it was already too late, so we huddled in corners and assembled barricades. We swallowed pills and drained our whiskey bottles. We dozed to the sound of distant howling.
By morning, we found the dogs resting on stoops and welcome mats, heads bowed, tails wagging, wildness wiped from their eyes. We gradually opened doors and invited them back inside. But from then on, we gripped their leashes tighter, built our fences higher, invested in more training. We isolated every pet, watching for remnants of fierceness. From then on, we watched each other.
ABBIE BARKER — Abbie is a creative writing instructor living with her husband and two kids in New Hampshire. Her fiction has appeared recently in Cutbank, Berkeley Fiction Review, Gordon Square Review, Fractured Lit, Whale Road Review, and Best Microfiction 2022. Read more at abbiebarker.com.
Art by ETHAN BUNDY — Ethan is a writer, artist, and musician living in Portland, Oregon. You can find more of his stuff at https://themanwhofellinbuffalo.com.