By Brendan Gillen
My name is Stay. I know this because that’s what Baby says when he looks right at my face. And it’s what he says before he gives me nibbles to eat and before we go on walks and before he throws the stick. Baby is my friend. I know his name is Baby because that’s what my other friend says when she looks right at his face. Her name is Baby, too. I know this because that’s what he says to her when he puts his mouth on hers. He doesn’t do that anymore that much.
We live in a box inside of a bigger box on a street lined with other bigger boxes that look the same. But I never get confused because our box smells like a hundred different things at once that I know so well. Tennis balls and dust and meat and shoes and the mouse that lives in the stove. These are just some of the things I know.
I think I must be pretty big. I think this because the box feels close, close like before I was born and the world felt tighter. So sometimes I knock things. But not on purpose because why would I do that? Baby must think I do it on purpose because when I knock things—like the little square with Baby and Baby smiling inside, or the plant, or the food—Baby makes me go inside an even smaller box for a while. I don’t think he’s a bad friend, no, I just think he gets tired.
That’s why I like outside. Outside is more open like now when Baby says my name and puts the rope on me that keeps him close. He doesn’t tell Baby we’re going. He usually tells Baby we’re going, so I ruff to let her know, and he hushes me shutup shutup, so I do because I’m not bad. I don’t think he’s a mean friend, no, not every time.
We go outside, and I take the lead because I know where to go. I love outside. There is the street and directions everywhere, like up, down, around, and over there. Up is Baby and other people in front of their boxes. Even more up are things like sticks and leaves and the big blue ceiling. Down is other dogs I stop to meet and sniff and we dance and my toenails clickclickclick. There’s Easy who is so small and yellow and smells new like a sweater. There’s Carl with the brown curls all over. And there’s Whosagoodboy who has a bulky head and smells way bigger. I go to where there are a lot of smells because why I don’t know. I add my smells to them. Today it’s pee, and if I could clean up, I would. Baby knows not to look at me because then I can’t go.
We walk and walk and then the park. But I don’t know this park. Fewer dogs and more trees and I ruff to let Baby know this is the wrong park, and he tells me shutup, so I do because I’m not bad. And anyway there are holes. And squirrels! And the sticks that fit right in my teeth and taste like dirt but sweeter. I pick one up and it’s so sweet and good but Baby says dropit and pulls the rope, so I do, and we go.
And then there is a big tree with leaves all over and a lady below with a dog. Her face looks okay and maybe nice but the dog doesn’t. He sees me coming and he growls mean, so I growl too and dig in with my feet. But Baby yanks the rope so we go closer. And closer and so close. Baby says Baby’s name, and the lady says Baby, too. But it’s not the Baby I know. The dog has sharp ears and a sharp nose and looks sharp in the eyes. So I ruff, and the lady looks down at my face and says Whosagoodboy, but that’s not my name, so I ruff again. Then she puts her mouth on Baby’s mouth, and they stay like that for a long time. The dog doesn’t have a name.
We go back to the bigger box and then up to our smaller box, and Baby says Baby’s name. I get excited and dance a little because she’s my friend. And there she is! and her face is wet and where is she going? She is trying to go outside. I love outside. She is trying to go outside, and Baby says my name, so I ruff and he says shutup shutup shutup, and Baby is running outside. Baby follows her, and his eyes are big, and he yells my name, so I ruff, and I try to follow, and he says shutup shutup, and then I am alone. I am alone in our smaller box. Now I see the little square with Baby and Baby smiling inside is broken, but I don’t think it was me this time. I go inside the even smaller box just in case even though I’m not bad. And then I wait. And wait. I wait and wait and wait to hear my name.