A Tail of Love

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Contently Deranged Travelers
A sentient dog is trying to understand the essence of love. Sequel to OF DOGS AND MEN. Continues in THE INQUISITOR.

Submitted: August 16, 2017

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Submitted: August 16, 2017

A A A

A A A


I

Reggie Dawgkins finished his sautéed femur in Béchienel sauce, carefully wiped his jowls with a napkin, and checked the advertisement he had posted on the popular dating website bitch.com earlier that morning.

Mastiff, age 2 years and 3 months, music teacher, stable income, non-smoking, non-salivating, completely flea-free, attractive brown fur, masculine hind paws. Likes: gourmet food, International Retrieving League games, karaoke barking, medieval Hundland poetry. Dislikes: figure mushing, South-Western acoustic pop, Poodle nationalism, excessive bitching. Looking for a temporary sexual liaison or a long-term relationship, pref. long-coated, pref. Rough Collie, pref. strong natural scent. Color not important. No caninelingus! Please contact me at reggiemusic38@bowwow.com

Reggie's best friend and fellow musician Csaba Kutyus, a handsome Kuvasz with a perpetual mischievous grin on his muzzle, poured himself a glass of strong brandy and casually remarked:

"Reggie, my mutt! Heed the words of a son of a bitch who has smelled more rear ends than you could possibly imagine. Scrap those ads. They make you look needy. Look, bitches want..."

"You don't know what bitches want, Csaba." Reggie scratched his right ear. "Admit it. You are a bitchinizer. You never had a relationship that lasted more than one afternoon."

"Look who's barking." Csaba stuck out his long pink tongue and discreetly peed on the carpet. "Shall I remind you of one sick pup who specified a temporary sexual liaison in his ad?"

"Touché." Reggie put his chin on the table, between his forepaws. "But what should I do? You know how it is these days. They keep saying monogamy is an unnatural canine invention. Nobody wants a commitment anymore. Maybe I should just get my one hour of dog knot and forget about true love."

"That's the spirit." Csaba yawned and stretched his paws. "True love is no more real than vegetarian Labradors. Remember that song we used to sing in college? 'Truuue love, it is but fiction... Truuuuuuue love, it's malediction... It's all about the friction! Oh yeah, baaaa-by...  Arrroooo-wuff!'"

"You've had too much brandy."

"Never too much! Never... too much! Reggie, Reggie, Reggie... Listen to me. The way I see it – love is what they... hic!.. what they call a groli... glofi... glorified instinct. You woo them, you do them. Seize the day... and all that crap. Yeah... I'll buy you a new carpet."

"Just get out of here, stinky breath." Smiling, Reggie locked the door behind Csaba. The smile disappeared once his friend was out of sight.

 

II

A few bitches answered Reggie's advertisement. He had two temporary sexual liaisons – one with a shy Toy Fox Terrier, who wanted to "rebel against the stereotype" by having a one-hour stand with a complete stranger, and another with a third-rate television actress, a curly black Barbet, who was "exploring her inner sensuality" and almost broke Reggie's baculum in the process.

"I feel even lonelier now," Reggie confessed to another friend, a writer named Wim van Tyke, over a cup of decaf latte in Starmutts. "I guess I have to acknowledge the fact that sex, on its own, cannot satisfy me."

"Of course it can't, you mongrel," Wim replied calmly, removing locks of unruly Schapendoes fur from his artistically shaped forehead. "Just as I subtly indicated in my latest novel, Throes of Convulsions, sex is but a pale shadow."

"A pale shadow of what?"

Wim graciously waved his forepaw.

"A pale shadow of that unattainable aegis, that unfathomable pleroma, which we call – yearningly! – the utopia."

"Wim... What are you talking about?"

The writer bit his lower lip.

"You would have known, Reggie... You would have known, if you bothered to read my speculative short story The Inquisitor. In that story, a futuristic theosophist, who is also the Prime Minister of our planet, retrieves Adolfo Perrez from the past and leaves him in the Middle Ages, where he becomes..."

"Can anyone actually follow those convoluted plots of yours?" Reggie spread his paws. "And we were talking about my love life, not about your... art."

"Oh!.." Wim raised his snout in a dramatic gesture. "Is that what you call my oeuvre?"

"What's your problem? I called it art."

"Yes, but sarcastically!" Wim exclaimed. "Art! You said it like you were spitting with your tongue hanging outside. Like there was a flea in your mouth. Now I know what you really think of me. You haven't even read my recent piece of decadent psychological horror, Horrible Omelette. How can you hope to understand the ecstatic mystery, the inchoate trepidation, the fallacious muse that is love? You are an insensitive cur! A callous fleabag! You, Reginald Dawgkins, are unworthy of being called a son of a bitch!"

Reggie got up and left the coffeehouse. As soon as he was gone, Wim van Tyke stopped yelling and wrote down their entire conversation. After a moment of hesitation, he entitled it A Dialogue with a Monster.

 

III

Whistling Cur Pawrter's show tune What Is This Thing Called Love? in a melancholically slow tempo, Reggie deleted his online advertisement on the dating website and sighed.

"Am I cursed?" he asked the reproduction of Ruffael's famous oil painting St. Canis the Witness Preaches to the Great Danes, which was hanging on the opposite wall. St. Canis did not reply.

A pop-up window with a short video clip flashed on the monitor. A medium-sized Chow Chow, gently caressing the trademark mane covering his chest, solemnly promised "hypnotic transformation" intended to "purify the illusion of self". Reggie dialed the number and made an appointment with Dr. Gou, better known under his spiritual pseudonym Shvana Nay Kukuraputra.

Playfully wiggling his triangular ears, Dr. Gou snickered and gawked at Reggie with a radiant expression on his muzzle.

"Oh yes, oh yes. I can see it. Wooooo, I can see it! Reginald – may I call you Reginald? Reginald, I know where the source of your problem lies. You see, your puccha is distorted. You need to restore the balance of your jivha. Your shi is shrouded in illusion – that which we, the enlightened ones, call chou."

"If that means 'your love life sucks', I wholeheartedly agree," Reggie uttered gloomily.

Dr. Gou wagged his tail energetically and jumped towards Reggie. He was standing so close to him that their snouts almost touched.

"Reginald, your problem is much bigger than that. Tell me: can you dig with one paw?"

"What?"

"Can you pee with both your hind paws in the air?"

"What does it have to do with anything?"

"This is the ancient wisdom of quan, Reginald. To solve your problems, I'll have to show you your illusion." Dr. Gou placed his soft, furry paws on Reggie's head, closed his eyes, and started rocking back and forth, moaning in ecstasy. "Wooooo!.. Aroooooo!.."

Reggie's nose was itching from constant contact with thick Chow Chow fur.

Three minutes later, Dr. Gou removed his paws.

Reggie sneezed.

"Ah! Your perception of self is vanishing, isn't it?" Dr. Gou grinned and energetically nodded a few times.

"On the contrary." Reggie scratched his nose. "I sneeze, therefore I am. St. Dogustine used that simple argumentation, and Chiené Dogcartes made it famous. Besides, Doctor..."

"Please. Call me Shvana Nay Kukuraputra."

"...my problem is my love life."

"A-ha!" Dr. Gou exclaimed triumphantly. "Your love life! Now tell me, Reginald: if there is no love, if love is but an illusion, a figment of your imagination, a mirage, then... how can there be a problem? How can your heart ache if there is no heart? Are you dreaming that you are a flea, or is a flea dreaming that it is you?"

Reggie shook off strands of Dr. Gou's fur and walked out of the office without saying a word.

 

IV

"Well, Mr. Dawgkins, what did you expect?" Professor Lucius P. Schwanz asked, wiping his glasses. "You tried to determine the essence of such a complex phenomenon as romantic love by interviewing a person clearly afflicted with the Dog Juan syndrome, an author of turgid pseudo-philosophical melodrama, and a patent charlatan. Obviously, they are unable to properly educate you in the topic, don't you think?"

Reggie thought that the Professor's distinctive Schnauzer beard needed some trimming.

"Yes," he said. "Yes, Professor Schwanz. That is why I'm consulting a psychotherapist now. I'll be honest with you. I have a problem. As a puppy, I was always ashamed of associating sex with love. I imagined I'd meet this sweet, beautiful bitch, have fifteen-sixteen pups, a two-story kennel with a backyard – you know, the usual suburban dream. Then, in high school, a classmate once showed me a porn video – I think it was a Bolonka and a Newfoundland – and I just couldn't connect it with that dream of mine…"

"Sounds like a classic Schmutzpelz syndrome," Professor Schwanz observed, stroking his beard. "Objet petit."

"Pardon?"

"Please go on." The psychotherapist waved his forepaw wearily.

“Professor, I’m scared. Everybody have sex. Sometimes it leads to a relationship, sometimes it doesn’t. Then, even when it does, most relationships fall apart. Sex partners change faster than Yorkie hair fashion trends. Nobody seems to be aiming for true love anymore. The kind of love that captures your heart and never lets you go.”

“Are you saying you abhor sexual intimacy and sublimate it into old-fashioned chivalrous fantasies?” Professor Schwanz scribbled something in his notepad.

"Not at all.” Reggie felt he was blushing under his coat. "I do like sex. Sometimes even too much. But… it’s like eating a pan-fried fibula with mashed pumpkin and sweet beans. Have you tried?..”

“No.”

“Really? The secret is to keep it crispy, with the oil and… Okay. What I mean is – eventually it gets old. But love is supposed to be everlasting, isn’t it? Pure. So wonderful that it stays with you forever. Or so I’ve read.”

“Well, if you base your definition of romantic love on miscellaneous belletristic products…” Professor Schwanz grimaced. “Listen, Mr. Dawgkins. I don’t think that you need a psychotherapist. You are a normal, healthy individual. The only advice I would dare give you is to establish a better communication with objective reality. Your idealism – besides being woefully outdated – is the only true obstacle on your path to emotional contentment.”

“What idealism?” Reggie asked timidly.

“Why, you clearly idealize romantic love.” Professor Schwarz produced a wry smile and scratched his bearded chin. “Recent research has demonstrated that it is, in fact, a type of neurosis – sometimes a collective one, a result of deep-seated psychological complexes mixed with suppressed sexual desires, modified according to the behavioral codes and social norms prevalent in the correspondent culture…”

“Professor, I’m sorry.” Reggie raised his paw. “I’m not looking for a recent research. I’m looking for a very old research. One that has stood the test of time. One that will tell me once and for all what love is, and where I can find it.”

“In that case, I’m afraid I cannot help you, Mr. Dawgkins.” Professor Schwanz spoke with palpable irritation. “I deal with science, not with mythology.”

“Oh, I don’t want to deal with mythology, either,” Reggie said decisively. “I just don’t see how scientific mythology is better than any other kind.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well… saying that love is a neurosis is pretty much the same as saying that it is glorified sex, or an unfathomable mystery, or an illusion of self. All those definitions are mythical. They reduce reality to an easily recognizable symbol.”

Professor Schwanz carefully licked his nose.

“It’s too hot, and the air conditioning is busted.” He looked at Reggie with cold contempt. “Have a good day, Mr. Dawgkins.”

 

V

 “Sir! Wait, please!”

Reggie turned around. A middle-aged Boxer handed him his wallet.

“You dropped this.”

“Thank you.”

“No worries, sir. Err… I hope he could help you with your problem.” The Boxer pointed at the door to Professor Schwanz’s office.

“Oh. You’re…”

“I’m just the janitor.” The Boxer stepped aside, revealing a large mop sitting in a plastic bucket.

“I see.”

There was awkward silence.

“I’m sorry, sir, it ain’t none of my business.” The janitor looked uncomfortable. “It’s just that you look… sad.”

“Sad?”

“Yeah. Like he couldn’t help you, you know.”

“He couldn’t. I don’t think anyone can.” Reggie chuckled. “Unless, of course, you can tell me what love is.”

“Love?” The Boxer leaned on his mop with a thoughtful air. “Well, sir, I wouldn’t know much about that, but I’ve been married for almost eight years now, that I can tell you.”

“Eight years?!”

“That’s right.” There was a distinct note of pride in the janitor’s voice. “Eight years of pullin’ the leash, if you know what I mean.”

“How… how did you do that?”

The Boxer stuck the mop into the wringer.

“It ain’t easy, sir, that’s for sure.” He started wiping the floor. “But you gotta keep goin’.”

“Do you love your wife very much?”

The janitor shrugged his shoulders.

“Sure I do.”

“You don’t sound very… enthusiastic about it.” Reggie smiled.

The janitor smiled back.

“I dunno what that there word means, sir. But I do love my Becky, ain’t no doubt about that. You know, sir, each time she tells me ‘Ike…’ I’m Ike, by the way,” he interrupted himself, sticking out his powerful forepaw.

“Reggie.”

They shook paws.

“As I was sayin’ – each time my Becky tells me ‘Ike, you gotta do this and that’ – you know how bitchy bitches can be, sir – I have half a mind to go get drunk in a pub and never come back. But then…” Ike stopped mopping the floor and dreamily gazed at the window. “Then I remind myself that I married her, you know… sir. I married her, and I loved her. She is mine, Becky is. Till death do us part, that kind of thing. We do bark at each other, that we do. But I gotta stick to her, sir. I gotta love her. It’s just a choice you do, sir. Every day, you do this choice. And you just keep goin’.”

Reggie turned away and lowered his head.

 

VI

On the same day two years later, Reggie’s wife pointed at the large garbage bag in the corner of their kitchen and said:

“Reginald! We’ve been married for almost six months, and you still keep forgetting to take out the trash.”

“I’ll get right on it,” Reggie said.

Outside, Csaba Kutyus was chasing a butterfly, his tongue almost touching the pavement.

“Yo, pooch!” He shouted at Reggie. “I haven’t seen you in weeks! We need to keep the band going, you piece of crooked tail.”

“Sorry, Csaba, I’ve been busy. We’ll do a rehearsal next Monday, okay?”

“Okay, okay… You’re busy?  Busy doing what?”

Reggie smiled, displaying a set of strong, white teeth.

“Loving.”

And he emptied the contents of the trash bag into the dumpster.

 

THE END


© Copyright 2017 Oleg Roschin. All rights reserved.

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