By Jesse O'Connor
The fucking dog's going bananas. Ten O'clock on a dead silent winter night, and the goddamn thing's yapping relentlessly towards my house. If I were in the living room, the racket would be muted and all but drowned out by the hockey game. But I'm in my crying one year old son's bedroom that faces said menace, and the restraint I'm exercising is getting a cramp. I hear a thump come from somewhere above me, and remember Courtney is going hard up there. She's desperately trying to reshape her body after passing a human, music blasting through her ear buds, blissfully unaware of the all-out auditory assault being launched at us from "across the way". We moved to this small town, with its small town jargon, just after Jack was born. I caught myself saying "moh yah" the other day while conversing with old Pete at the bakery, and felt my IQ drop twenty points. Courtney wanted to be a stay at home mom, and the only way to do that was to move somewhere inexpensive. This place fit the criteria, although we had to relocate four hours from the city and time travel socially about fifty years. I landed a job as a math teacher at a neighboring township, and we moved our little family into a home that would've cost four times as much back home. There's a beer vendor inside the local watering hole, so I have a six pack within reach should I feel parched at midnight. Courtney loves the feeling of safety, being in a town with only one stop light. And of course we were informed our neighbour would be a Doctor, which sealed the deal. This dog, however, hadn't been on the brochure. The Docs wife died a few months ago, so this was the new companion. I'd met Mrs. Wong once and we'd had a one sided conversation about geraniums and soil. Her constant chatter had melted my fixed smile, and reduced me to mumbled onomatopoeia's. He's found an apt replacement. A sudden increase in crowd noise from the living room alerts me that my team has submitted an overtime winner to lose game one of the conference finals. I rock my sobbing son to no avail, while the culprit of his distress serenades us with maddening sharp barks. For the first time since moving from the city, I miss it. I miss the anonymity that would afford me the luxury of opening the window to scream "shut that fucking thing up!" Instead I carry Jack in to the living room, and let him crawl around while I watch a highlight of the back breaking goal I'd just missed. "A loss will set a fire under these boys" I say aloud and half-heartedly to myself. Jack yawns, which sparks some hope that my day is almost over. And with any luck "Wilson" will be hogging his gutless owners bed when I ease this little cry bomb back into his crib. Maybe I'll even find my nuts still attached when I finally get to piss and head to bed myself. This inability to express my frustration due to the fresh social parameters I find myself imprisoned within, is emasculating. If it were some moonshine swilling, back woods yokel who owned Wilson, I'd be reverting to my city ways in a heartbeat. But it's the Doctors dog. The only fucking Doctor for a hundred kilometers at least, and my wife will kill me if I endanger the preference we've been benefit to since moving next to Dr. Wong.
Beer going down like water, fistfuls of trail mix smashing into my maw. I'm on the edge of the fucking lazy boy, willing my squad to an improbable game two victory. Back by a goal with five minutes remaining, the baby starts to go off. Now you might be thinking "get the wife to handle it Nancy" or "let him cry for fucks sake". Guys who think this way are either perpetually single or in a loveless dominating one way relationship. Those compliant, apron wearing, blow job machines from the fifties have been discontinued. Courtney works out upstairs with "Shaun T" before bed, and the tactic of letting a confused baby wail in fear and panic until it passes out in despair isn't in my playbook. I go in. My eyes gripping the television until the last possible moment, and find myself in an unsettling atmosphere, planets away from the cozy little paradise I've just been ripped from. He's shit his diaper. But of course that's not what woke him up. Wilson is losing his mind out there, and suddenly mine's gone too. Instinct overrides discipline, and I find myself with the blinds up, window flung open, a "SHH..!" escaping my lips. Wilson is shocked in to silence. I manage to swallow the string of profanities that had been cocked to cast, and give the mutt a death stare. Wilson begins to growl. He bares his little teeth and gives me everything he has (which isn't much).He appears to be a terrier. A dog not meant to be chained up, or coddled by humans as if he were a child. This thing is full of pent up, limitless energy. His ancestors had been bred to kill rats in factories, and hunt rodents on farms. They'd been valued and useful companions. Now what the fuck were they? Yappy little assholes with no interest in becoming lazy house pets. I thought Doctors were supposed to be smart. This little firecracker is likely a going concern, relieving itself indoors, ripping up important documents, gorging on the contents of knocked over garbage cans. I've been witness to the pitiful Dr. Wong being walked by his own dog. Not once did he yank on the leash. He let that little bully drag him straight in to a ditch, and then waited while the dog sniffed at a dead raccoons ass for about ten minutes. Only when Wilson had grown bored of the carrion did the "walk" continue. They disappeared around the corner, and I had hoped a squirrel would guide them in front of a tractor before they made their way home. "What is it Wilson?" The inquiry had come from Dr. Wong himself who suddenly appears from the street and escorts the pup in to the house. The fact that a lack of barking had alerted him throws my blood pressure in to appointment making territory. I consider leaping through the window and punching to death a small dog and tiny man for a moment, then quietly close up and tend to my sons doodie. Jack finally submits to sleep, and I'm allowed to return to the living room where the beers are warm, my team has lost, and trail mix needs to be picked out of the carpet before I can retreat to bed.
I'm at this fucking game, up yours Wilson! Courtney has Jack over at her mom's place in the city, and the boys and I are cheersin' brews, slappin' backs and basically squeezing the living hell out of each second of our abatement from family life. Chaz, Beef, and Jerry are my long time bros from differing hoes. I mean that literally as we share the same father. We had all managed to make it to an amateur level of hockey as teenagers. But as the realization that going pro wasn't possible began to hammer us into our respective square holes, we started gambling. We got an online book that we fund secretly, and collaborate on high stakes, one shot, mega bets. The hope is to surprise our families with a huge win fall someday. But until then we figure it's best to keep it a secret, seeing's how we're bleeding hundred dollar bills on a consistent clip. Currently we are sinking together on a five thousand dollar wall thumper that hinges on our home squad advancing to the cup. As usual we aren't looking tip top. Game three is a total beating. By the end of the second period we're down four nothing. My big bro Chaz is listening intently to my plight regarding Wilson and the Doctor. "Why don't you just let it go bra?" I look at Chaz's bewildered face in bewilderment. "Let it go Chaz? This fucking dog is waking a baby up every night, and ruining my alone time! Courtney's upstairs doing her Pilates or whatever the fuck before bed, the kids supposed to be knocked out, and I've got a precious couple of hours to watch the game, or jerk off, or read a fucking book of poetry, but no! I'm singing rock a bye baby, chop my cock off!" Chaz laughs "No bra I mean release it. By the sounds of it, that dog will just run its nuts off until it's lost. Not your fault if he's too dumb to seek shelter." "Do it bra" Beef adds, then raises his caterpillar eyebrows at me over a mega jug of suds. "It's not even that bad guy" Jerry chirps in. Jerry looks like a weasel with glasses. But even though he's half the size of Chaz, and a mere flank of Beef, he's the fighter of our group. Always ready and willing to throw down. Eager really. I once saw him purposely spill a drink on himself, as a tattoo covered mohawk dude passed him in a bar. After the obligatory first shoves had been traded, Jerry had Judo flipped the bad boy through a table and then rained elbows on him until Beef managed to yank him outside. We retold the story so much that Jerry, for a short time, became "Jerry Judo". But he hated the name so we nixed it before it became an issue. "If it were me that stupid mutt would be dead twice already." Jerry continued. "There'd be a boot party on the Wong lawn and Wilson'd be the guest of honour" Jerry titters at his own wit, then glugs seven bucks worth of brew. It should go without saying that Jerry is one of those perpetually single guys I mentioned earlier. We all down our beers as the last seconds tick off the period. I decide, just after the horn sounds and we break out the mickeys of rye we've stashed in our boots, that Jerry is an idiot, and that Wilson will be turned loose.
It's not impossible to come back from three zip in a series. But after witnessing the worst game ever played, we all decided that action needed to be taken if we wanted to recoup some of our five grand. The only way to make money is to spend money right? So we took advantage of the odds being boosted, after our squad had laid an egg in their respective score box, and threw down the remaining five grand on just this game. The odds were three to one against our boys, so we stood to gain our ten grand back plus land a five grand profit. Not to mention still be alive for an epic come back rarely seen in sports. A back from the dead, down three to nothing revival that would send us to the cup with enough money in our account to buy tickets! Let it ride! We all had laughed at the madness of our predicament as we drunkenly huddled around Beefs cell phone and watched him submit the kamikaze wager. We had each contributed twenty five hundred a week ago, and we had truly believed that it would last a while. It was a way to stay connected to each other. A common goal, a last ditch effort to land on easy street. But here we were, only days in, and we not only had our entire bankroll on the line, we had our beloved team and our friendship, sitting in the crosshairs of annihilation. How could I continue to love a team that may let us all down like this? How could I sit around and laugh and joke with a bunch of guys about a ten thousand dollar loss? There's much more riding on this game than money. And I'm going to be damn sure there are no interruptions from that over grown rat Wilson. Dr. Wong has an extremely relaxed schedule due to the small population and general lackadaisicalness that's rampant in these communities. Sure there are no lines to stand in at the grocery store, or appointments needed to see a mechanic. But good luck popping in and out of anywhere without getting an ear full of monotonous garbage. The population here is a whopping three hundred and two. That's two hundred and ninety nine landmines floating around town just waiting to blow up a half hour of my time with weather observations. Wong could return home at any given moment. Now that he has Wilson to care for, he pops in and out three or four times a day, as Courtney has observed. We figure he must have to cage the untamed beast to avoid destruction of his home. Wong's problem solving skills seem frighteningly passive, considering we depend on him to guide us in all health issues concerning Jack. Well today I will free him of his tormentor. I finish lunch, kiss some foreheads, and head out the door. Things are silent on the Wong property. As I approach the house I can hear the muffled yelps of Wilson. Does he bark all fucking day? It's hard to believe he has anything left for his evening performance. Wong has a rope tied to his front porch which he only uses around nine thirty each night to tie Wilson up. Every other outing for the pup is in the form of a walk (or drag in this case). Wong has all the best intentions, just the wrong breed of dog. I pull out a knife as I reach the rope, and swiftly cut it in half. I re-lay the length of it so as to hide the cut, and pull an empty bag of chips out of my pocket. In the typical classic fashion of scenes such as this, I have visualized turning around to find sneaky Dr. Wong standing behind me, hands on hips and foot a tappin'. In anticipation of this awkward scenario I'm prepared to present the piece of garbage I had been removing in an act of neighbourly goodwill. But of course, I'm in the clear. And like most devious acts in life, this one goes off without a hitch.
Once again the game's too close. Tied at two with five minutes remaining in the third, I'm wringing my sweaty hands so much I'm creating hand farts, which are failing to amuse. Courtney's sweating in a healthy way upstairs, and Jacks sawing logs in his crib. Wilson should be off on a grand adventure at any moment, and with any luck never be returning. Perhaps he'll run in to a derelict cat and a wise old hound whom will accept him as the rambunctious happy go lucky fool he is, and form an unlikely partnership. My phone lights up with three messages at once as the game heads to yet another overtime. Tensions are high for my fellowship. I wonder if we'll even bother texting our chagrins should our team fail us. Two months' pay, lifelong friends, and your beloved sports team all on the verge of evaporation. Jesus, what were we thinking? The commercials end, the puck drops, and as I reach blindly for my fresh rum and coke, three terrible things happen at once. The dog erupts into a frenzy of barking that sounds so close, I swear he's in Jacks room! I knock my drink on to the floor, and as I spin out of my chair the announcer shouts "HE SHOOTS, HE SCORES!" I stumble in shock and rage towards the front door, as Jack begins to scream, and my team hangs their heads shamefully in stunning HD quality. I'm going to kill it. It's gonna be a slipper party as I didn't bother with my boots on the way out, but either way this pooch is getting stomped. As I round the corner of the house to confront the yapping muppet, I'm seeing red and there is no hope for a reprieve. Wilson's literally barking up the wrong tree, and I'm about to punt him into the trunk of the pine he's clawing at, when something begins to crash down out of the branches. Dr. Wong hits the ground with a thud, and quickly pops to his feet, while desperately pulling up his pants. "Dr. Wong? What the fuck are you..." and then it becomes clear. The Dr. begins sputtering some story about losing a frisbee up in the tree, but there's no frisbee. There's only the freight train of shocking realization crashing into my brain. He has a little pair of binoculars hanging around his neck. "Doing a little bird watching my man?" I ask playfully. For some reason I'm not angry. I feel kind of excellent actually. I find myself petting Wilson as the good Doctor raises his greasy Vaseline slicked hands in a gesture of innocence. It has dawned on me that to get out of this situation; he'll likely grease my own palms with enough green backs to put me on easy street.