Black and White

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Follow the destruction of a marriage through the eyes of their dog. Rated for language and violence.

Submitted: April 29, 2014

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Submitted: April 29, 2014

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Black and White

I remember when I was a puppy. It wasn’t like this.

“Where the fuck is my leather jacket?”

My paw itched, so I was chewing on it. My ears fell back at the sudden intrusion of sound. The sound of the blow dryer stopped. It fell to the sink. I picked up my head to look around the corner of the small one bedroom house. We’d been here for two, no, three weeks. We moved from an apartment. It was small. Most of the time I had to be locked in the kitchen. There was a gate they put in the doorway. They hadn’t put it up here yet. But the yard was fenced in. So, they sometimes just left me out there.

“What the fuck are you yelling about?”

“My jacket. Fuck is my jacket, bitch?”

I heard her step out of the bathroom. My eyes darted across the room, following the lights of cars pass over the window. There was a lamp on in the corner so the shadows looked like they were chasing each other. The shapes galloped in front of the boxes that were stacked all over the new house. They had said something about renting. I wasn’t there when they signed. They left me at the apartment. The floors were carpeted here. I liked how it felt in between my toes.

“I don’t fucking know, okay?”

“You packed everything, so where is it?”

“I don’t know where it is. Why didn’t you keep it out?”

Her voice was nicer than his. I could always feel his voice. Like nails down my back. My head lifted and I watched her come out of the narrow hallway. There was a bathroom and across from that was their bedroom. I used to be able to sleep in there. But he didn’t like it. He sounded like he was in the kitchen. He was moving things. I kept hearing, ping, ping, clunk. It sounded like pots.

“I don’t know. Maybe because I thought that after three weeks we’d be fucking out of boxes?”

“Oh, and that’s my fault?”

“Yeah, it is. I work my ass off and you just sit around the house.”

“I’m trying to go to school, dumb ass.”

“Oh, those little online classes that let you print out a degree when you’re done.”

“Yeah.”

“You piece of shit. Why don’t you just fucking clean?”

“Because you are living here too. We live here together, asshole.”

I saw her legs walk out and she was standing in the doorframe to the kitchen. The floor changed. I would slip when I ran to the back door. The cupboards were all tall. My food bowl was next to the door. I jumped up and trotted to where she was standing to see what was going. She pushed me back gently with her foot. I moved back next to her.

“You want me to help?”

“Yeah,”

I looked into the kitchen. He was standing next to a wooden table. I used to chew on the legs. It was when I was a puppy. I didn’t do it anymore. He was wearing a white tank top. His hair was cut close to his head. He had the tattoo of a bird that spanned over his collar bone. He kept swinging a bottle around.

“Okay.”

He took one of his large hands and pushed his fingers under a box that was sitting on the table. He tossed it over and the pans smashed into the floor. I jumped behind her legs. She jerked back.

“What the fuck, asshole?”

“I’m helping. I’m getting us unpacked.”

“You are such a bastard.”

“You’re such a fucking bitch.”

He stumbled to the counter. He threw another box. And then another.

“Would you fucking stop?”

“Why? I’m fucking sick of living out of a fucking box.”

She ran up to him and grabbed a box out of his hands. I stayed by the side of the doorway and looked in. He struggled with her. She grabbed his forearms, big, beefy, hairy things. He jerked away from her and threw the box over his shoulder. This one hit the wall with a shattering sound. I hid behind the wall.

“You fucking scratched me!”

“You pulled away. I didn’t do it on purpose!”

I tightened my jaws. I felt my teeth grind into each other and shifted my bottom one from side to side. It caused my ears to feel numb. My mouth hurt later, but it was worth it when they were fighting. I had learned that trick about a year ago. It was the first time they yelled so loud the cops were called. They locked me in the kitchen that time.

“That was all of our dishes!”

“You fucking scratched me.”

“You know what, I’m not even sorry. You are such an asshole when you’re drunk.”

“And you’re such a pleasure when you are sober.”

“Would you just stop throwing shit? Jesus Christ.”

“I can’t find fucking anything in this house. I just want one thing. One fucking thing. I just want my jacket.”

“It’s not going to be in the kitchen, idiot.”

I started hearing the banging again. My jaws still clenched together, I cautiously stepped into the doorway again. She was bending over and picking up pans. She was piling them in the sink. Her dark hair kept falling over her eyes. She was in a pair of short that rode up so I could see the bottom half of her butt and a tank top. The bra was sticking out over top, a line of skin separating the two.

“You didn’t fucking label anything. Most of it just says ‘my stuff’ or ‘his stuff’.”

“That’s how the apartment was organized, wasn’t it?”

“Fuck does that matter? You know what, it doesn’t. You’re hiding shit from me.”

“Why the fuck would I be hiding shit from you?”

“This is all just a fucking game to you, isn’t it?”

I heard someone barking in the distance. The bottle he was holding swished when he swung his hand to his chest. Some of the liquid splashed on the floor. It smelled like wheat. Grass almost. I had licked it up before. It burnt my tongue.

“You know what, yeah, this is a game. We were fucking stupid thinking we could play fucking house. You are nothing but a piece of shit bastard.”

“You know what, I tried for you, okay? We got married. We’re renting a house. We got a fucking dog who sure as shit doesn’t like me.”

“He might like you if you would stop fucking kicking him.”

“That thing’s so stupid. It just stands under my feet all the fucking time. It’s asking for it.”

“You’re such a dick.”

“You know what, this is it. Alert the fucking presses because this is the All-American Dream.”

“Fuck you. You aren’t trying. You’re nothing but a lazy, drunk asshole. You just married me to babysit you, you white trash piece of shit.”

Her back was turned to him. He stepped away from the table. His footsteps were steady. Suddenly, the alcohol didn’t seem to be pushing him in different directions when he walked. He came up to stand directly behind her. His hands were on either side of her hips. The bottle was dangling from between his fingers and the counter. His body blocked hers. I could only see the top of her head.

“What did you say?”

Some of her hair moved when he softly spoke into it.

“What?”

He thumped his hands on the counter and then grabbed her and twisted her around. He threw the bottle and it shattered on the far wall of the kitchen. My ears hovered back and I felt a growl bubble in my throat.

“You are nothing but a piece of welfare shit that would still be sucking on your mom’s tits if she hadn’t kicked you out the second you turned eighteen. You are nothing. You will always be nothing.”

He pulled his right arm back and a fist slammed into her face.

I remembered the first apartment kitchen. He had come home from work and hushed me. He pushed me out of the way and turned into the kitchen. He caught her around the waist and she squealed. He pulled her into a kiss. I ran up and barked at their feet, my tail wagging. She separated and picked me up, pulling me between them. I licked her chin and she laughed. He laughed and he reached down and stroked my head. She put me down and they headed to the bedroom and closed the door.

She fell to the ground and I felt it in my nails.

“I’m nothing? I’m nothing! You’re fucking dirt. You’re mud. You’ve been stuck on my shoe for too long. And you know what you have to do to get it off? Just kick it off.”

His leg pulled back and he kicked her in the stomach. She crumpled into herself.

“Scrap it off on a concrete curb.”

He kicked again. I barked and ran as fast as my short legs could carry me. I ran between the two of them, my teeth bared. I barked at him, growled. Anything I could think of. I went for his jeans.

“Let go! Jesus fucking Christ!”

I held on as he shook me. He grabbed me by the scruff of the neck opened the backdoor. I could hear the crickets and saw the backlight on across the alleyway behind the house. He threw me onto the concrete. Most of the yard was concrete. There was a little tree, but half of the branches were broken. Birds didn’t even sit in it. I shook my body and barked. I screamed as I heard him go back to her. I kept hearing the slap of skin on skin. At some point I stopped barking so he could hear me, I just kept barking hoping it was loud enough to block out the sound of him beating her.

My throat began to tighten. I whimpered. I curled into an exhausted ball outside of the metal door. I looked up and the light was still on in the kitchen. I didn’t hear him anymore. The front door slammed. I jumped up and ran to the chain link fence. I thought I could see him. I heard a car door slam. The tires squealed on the road.

I scuttled to the door and scratched at it. She had to be okay. She had to be. I let out a little bark.

She came to the door and opened it. Her face was bleeding and one arm was wrapped around her middle. I came in and stood in front of her, jumping up onto her calves. She closed the door and slide down against it until she was sitting in front of me. She stretched out her hand and started petting my head.

“Shhh.”

She kept saying it.

“Shhh.”

--------------------

 

“Come on, baby. We’re going on a trip.”

She knelt in front of me. Her cheek was so dark. She had a band-aid over it. She clipped my leash on. Her back pack rattled against her back. She only had one strap on. The door opened. He was standing there. He had bags under his eyes. White bandages were wrapped around one of his fists.

“Rachel.”

“No.”

“Rachel, I’m sorry.”

She sighed and stood up. He had closed the front door and I watched as he stopped at the sight of her. My leash was wrapped around her wrist.

“Jesus Christ. Your face.”

“Yeah.”

“Jesus, I’m so sorry.”

“I’m leaving.”

He shook his head. Twice. He was wearing the same thing he was wearing the night before. His shirt was speckled with blood. It was hers. He stepped forward and stood in front of her. He reached out a hand to touch her and then brought it back to fist at his side.

“No, don’t, please. It won’t ever happen again. I love you.”

She wavered, but wrapped my leather leash around her hand one more time, making it tighter.

“I love you too. But I can’t anymore.”

“This was the first time. I never wanted to hurt you.”

“You hurt me every day.”

“No. I love you. I love you more than anything.”

“I know.”

“Then don’t leave.”

He walked closer to her. He put his hands gently on her arms. I stared up at her, wanting to bite him, but she looked down at me. Her eyes were shimmering.

“I have to leave.”

“I can change. I love you. We can work this out. Please.”

“Please, don’t make this worse.”

She pleaded. She turned her face away from him. His hands ran up her shoulders and gently rested on her shoulders. His head fell into her chest. He wiped his face into her skin. He was crying.

“I can’t live without you. Please.”

Her hands came up and they wrapped into his hair. She started stroking him. I barked.

“Shut up.”

He called down to me. She stopped and pulled away from him.

“Goodbye.”

“Rachel, don’t. I won’t let you. I love you. You have to believe me. I love you. I love you. I love you.”

She shook out of his grasp and reached down to her wheeled suitcase. She pulled the leash and I walked in front of her. I pulled a bit, wanting out. Needing to be outside. Now.

“No. Stop. You are killing me.”

She opened the door. He was holding onto her suitcase. She let it go and he stumbled backwards.

“We’re killing each other.”

She caught up to me. She let me lead us to the car. It was cloudy and the wind was tickling my nose. I sneezed and ran through the long grass that surrounded the cement sidewalk the lead to the front of the house. I wasn’t leading anymore. She was running next to me. I looked up and tried to run faster. She stayed by my side.

The street was lined with cars. None of the houses had driveways or garages. We reached the car and she ran into it with a thud. Her keys jangled in her hand and she shoved it into the door opening it. She picked me up to jump over the center. I sat in the front seat with my head sticking out of the unrolled window. She reached over and tied the leash around the window crank. I suddenly could smell salt. I looked over to her. Her hands were folded in her lap and her chin was tucked into her chest.

I went up and licked her face. It was wet. She started to play with my ear.

“We can do this, baby.”


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