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Taking the Dog for a Walk



A cold wind starts high above the house, sailing unchanging clouds across a blue sky. The wind lowers and whispers over the roofs, the shingles, the hollow chimneys. As the wind reaches the ground, where the one man in the suburban street pauses while his dog stretches the leash, it brings a dry scent of nothing. The man eases the dog closer. It sniffs around his feet without sniffing his feet. The wind goes, he rolls his shoulders, and the dog pulls. He follows.

With its nose low enough to rub the pavement, the dog darts one way and then the other. The dog sniffs from the middle of the street, to the gutter, to the curb, to the dirt patch. When it finds a coiled pile or crumpled bits of feces, it sniffs longer. The man continues. The leash tightens. The dog stays. Its head moves in minute bobs above some other dog’s fecal trace. The man pulls and the dog stays.

Another wind comes, stronger. The man’s hair is blown out of its part. His jacket flows and attempts to break free. The man shivers and pulls, and the dog stays. He groans but can’t hear over the wind.

The wind intensifies. The man pitches, but the leash keeps him in place. The dog turns its head but keeps feet planted. The man rights himself and faces the wind. It stings his face, numbs his nose and ears. He shields his face. He tugs and pulls and pleads with the leash, but the dog sniffs.

The man’s feet lift. Suspended, his legs wave like a flag at half-mast. His free hand searches the air. The wind pushes, he holds the leash, and the dog sniffs the same patch of dead grass.

The man grasps the leash with trembling hands. He pulls, climbing in reverse, hand over hand. He lowers a few inches, reaches and lowers a few more. His fingers slip and the wind takes him until shoulder and wrist pop, anchored by the loop at the leash’s end. The wind rushes and fills his ears. When he calls, he hears only the wind. He calls louder, throat scratching. The dog turns its head, eyes dark and brown, tongue sticking out.

The wind increases. Dry grass and leaves swirl high in the air where the clouds run past a gray sky. The dog sniffs the harness. It claws the clip and the harness loosens. The man flies. He spins and ascends. The dog, growing smaller with each of his revolutions, circles and squats. The man closes his eyes and lets the leash trail like a tail for a human kite.

This story was written by Bennett Durkan, a graduate of Stephen F. Austin. His fiction has appeared in "Agave," "Sediments," and "Birds Piled Loosely." His poetry has appeared in "Ikleftiko," "FIVE2ONE," and "The Red River Review."
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