Doghearted by Patrick Kindig

There was a man who lived alone. Sometimes he would turn on the light in his apartment & there would be June bugs in his bed. Sometimes he would turn on the light & turn it off again because he could not bear to look in the hall mirror.

The man used to live with a dog. He did this until one day he went to work & left a bottle of antidepressants open & the dog got into it & died. The man liked to take his medicine with peanut butter & the dog smelled it on the bottle’s rim & ate everything inside.

When the man came home & found the medicine bottle empty & the dog dead on the bathroom floor, he did not know what to do. He stared at the dog & then at the medicine bottle & then at the dog, then he went into the kitchen to make a sandwich. There was no peanut butter left so he ate six slices of bread, plain.

After he buried the dog, the man thought he would not be able to go on, but he did. He stopped buying peanut butter. He stopped taking his antidepressants. Safer, he thought.

When people visited him after that, he would show them the shrine he had built for the dog in the bathroom: the door of the medicine cabinet gone, the shelves filled with photos & squeak toys & scraps of old jerky.

This was the dog, he would say, pointing to the shrine. That was him.

His visitors would smile & nod & nervously sip their drinks, think, god, what happened to him.

When they left, he would pour himself a glass of wine & turn off the lights. He would go into the bathroom & lean against the sink. Where the mirror should have been, there was only the shrine, all those photos of the dog. He would look at them & look at them until he was ready to sleep.

Patrick Kindig is currently a PhD candidate in Indiana University’s Department of English. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Dry Spell (Porkbelly Press 2016) and all the catholic gods (Seven Kitchens Press, forthcoming), and his writing has recently appeared in The Journal, Third Coast, Meridian, DIAGRAM, and other journals.