one dalmatian
by Mark Walling


Rafferty walked toward home, tapered shadow touching the steps a half block before he did. When he arrived, he stood at the steps, glancing back at his shadow, which leaned into the street.

Rafferty walked around his house to the alley, wary of trees and shadows. A black dog growled and barked. Rafferty shook, hands flying to guard his face. He heard a chain, witnessed a glint in the moonlight. Rafferty barked at the dog. He picked up a rock, squeezed a mark into his palm, stalked to the front of his house. He stared at his bedroom window, which reflected a pale arc of light. He hurled the rock through the window.

Rafferty peered through the side window, watching television. The shadow of his hands placed rabbit ears atop the set.

Rafferty sat on his back steps, lighting cigarettes he didn't smoke. He huffed the ashes into the grass, standing the butts in a row. The breeze blew them over. Rafferty stood them up, watched them fall.

Rafferty lay on the roof, looking at stars. He saw a plane's lights, traced its line across the sky, sought another when it was gone. Sitting, he fired rocks at teenagers in passing cars.

Rafferty slipped a rope around the chimney, stuck his head through a poor noose, feet dangling off the roof. A white cat creeping down the alley froze when the black dog barked. Hissing, the cat crouched, watched the dog bark.


Rafferty walked home, found a dalmatian in his front yard, sniffing the hedge. The dog cowered when it saw Rafferty, then approached when he whistled. Rafferty patted the dog's head, rubbed its floppy ears, stroked its back. The dog stood at the glass door, staring in at Rafferty.

Rafferty tightened a third bungie cord onto the gate. Paws abreast the bar, the dog licked Rafferty's hands. Rafferty smacked the dog lightly on the head, said stay. When he returned, the dog was across the street, digging beside a neighbor's tree.

Rafferty freed the chain and the dog from the back porch support lying on the grass. He threw the support at the dog, then hooked the chain to the fence.

painting by Andrew Feuk

Rafferty ran with the dog on a leash in the evenings. The dalmatian pulled Rafferty the first mile. They both panted and strolled the second. A boy in a red, white, and blue shirt at the corner, slumped on the curb, bare feet tracing the bars of the rain gutter, stared. "Dalmatians are real?"

Rafferty walked the dog around a tree, unwinding the wrapped chain around its trunk. The dog jumped on Rafferty, who struck it on the skull with his fist, booting it in the ribs. The dog hummed a breathy whimper. Rafferty kicked it again, listening to a sound he hated.

Rafferty observed the dog jog to the fence whenever he entered the animal's vision. Rafferty crossed the yard to the other side of the house, kicked the house. The dog appeared. Rafferty crossed again, scuffed the clover. The dog appeared. Rafferty opened the gate. Tail wagging, bead bobbing on the dog. Rafferty walked to the back gate. The dog followed. Rafferty returned to the front. The dog followed. Rafferty walked to both sides, entered the house, turning to find the dalmatian. Rafferty opened the door. "What kind of animal desires so much from one not its kind?" he asked. Turning, he saw his reflection in the glass, dog at his side.

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