The Sound of Barking Dogs
She was roused out of sleep by the sound of a barking dog, recognized now as something that would visit her in dreams. She’d woken from dreams, now broken vignettes -- starting with her childhood home and the French bulldog next door, named for his medicine, a treatment for something called black tongue. That name making her shiver in a delightful little kid mix of disgust and fear.
“Nopco. Nopco, Nopco, come get your Nopco,” Mrs. Novotki would call, morning, noon and night, the dog always on the front stoop, lifting its head only to bark until Mrs. Novotki would come lumbering out to find it, knowing Nopco would not move for her, only bark or yip. At the start of the dream, she’d been little. And sick. Shut in, probably with a bad middle-ear infection, from which she suffered frequently. Diverted momentarily, even from the yapping, her mind ranged back. Remembering how those ear infections always ended in a trip to a dark-furnitured office. Where a doctor would insert into the affected ear a tube, attached to a big machine. A machine that would ‘blow her ear out,’ her mother told her. When over, her mother always took her to a corner drugstore where, as a special treat, she was allowed an all too rare ice cream soda that always tasted medicinal from whatever the doctor used in the tube.
She shuddered. Returning to Nopco’s yapping, yipping frantic dog noises. After the Novotkis left, a young married couple moved in and in no time had a baby. In her dream she was on that porch, standing over a baby carriage while Mrs. Peck told her she must never stand directly behind a baby, forcing a baby to roll its eyes way up in its head in order to see her. But the barking had continued, and her dream moved her to a place she had once lived as a young adult where a little dog lived right above, its owners at work all day, the dog barking out its loneliness and fears. Since she worked at night, sleeping was hell. Now, in her dream, the dog was yipping and barking right outside the door, disappearing when she opened it only to begin again as soon as she shut the door and left. Left -- to go back to bed. To bed -- and to Thomas! Oh great heavens above. Thomas! Her Thomas.
Thoroughly awake now, she got up abruptly, dismissing the tattered dreams that tried to cling, along with the memory of Thomas - her poor dead Thomas. Going to the window, she tried to locate the dog that was yipping and yapping, somewhere down on the darkened street below. The only illumination came from the dull orangish bulb of a single streetlight and the bluish neon of a sign mounted on a bar further down to the left. She bet the dog had been left locked in the only car parked on the street. Probably by a drunk from the bar. Where else would the barking be coming from? Windows in houses across the street all were darkened. That bar, she thought. And its patrons. Motorcycle riders, a lot of them. Accelerating away with the snarling and a high pitched squealing shriek mixed with low ripping rumbling, roars - racing for the highway. Testicles on wheels. The sound always lingered long after the riders and their macho machines disappeared.
Like the sound of barking dogs. Shut up in cars. Left to yip and lunge at passers-by while their owners got soused at that bar. That bar. Where sometimes fractious, loud voiced, large bodied, mean with attitude women came out to stand on the sidewalk and hold yelling matches with drunken men. It made her wish she was one of those comics on that comedy show who could pinch the heads off people that annoyed them. With their fingers! As she wished she could do now, to the owner of that dog that was barking, barking, barking. Her hands flexed. If she could find him, she would pinch his head off. Had to be a he. No woman, even a drunken one, even a mean drunken one, would shut a dog in a car and leave it so she could carouse. A child maybe. Probably. But a dog? Never.
And now a second, deeper bass bark joined the first, coming from a different direction. She wondered where it was and if it barked in sympathy or just because the sound of another dog barking urged it to bark too. Oh my good Lord, it’s too late for this. The bar closed at 2 AM. It was now 3:30 AM. Maybe that poor animal belonged to someone visiting, in a home across the street? If so, were they deaf? Was everyone else in the neighborhood deaf? She couldn’t be the only one up, fretting at the noise of the barking dog. Two of them. Now, in concert. The second, a deep basso profundo. Can you call the police for a barking dog? Ask them to find the owner? Or just for help, so that frantic yipping and barking would stop?
And then, unexpectedly, it did. Just like that. She’d seen no movement and heard nothing, other than the two dogs. But the lone car that had been parked down below now started up. Its motor sounding clear in the quiet night. Its lights flicking on as it drove away. Down the street. Towards the city. Yipping stopped. Yipping gone. Car gone. She looked again at the clock and saw that 20 minutes had passed. A long time to sit in a darkened car with a dog yapping incessantly. Maybe it had been even longer, given her dreams. And now the second dog fell silent after a last volley. The street, dark and silent and deserted. She waited, as if for a second act, but none followed. She climbed up into her bed, nestling comfortably into its rumple of pillows and covers.
“I’ll never get an explanation for any of that from you, Lord,” she thought, “so instead, please, just send me back to my warm dream-bed and into the arms of Thomas. Only, also please. Please. No barking this time.”