Visual art by Ben Mcnutt.
Ms. Lucy Hatchett had always wanted a dog, and throughout the years living with her father, he had always told her that if she got one
“I sure as hell am not going to pay for it. They’re too much money, they make you waste away your life at the god-forbidden vet’s office, and they take too much time to keep in shape. That’s not to mention that if any goddamn kid walks by and has a disagreement with the bitch, and he gets bit, then you’ll have to deal with some bullshit government lawsuit. Those pansy government lawyers always have their hands in my pockets.”
The old Mr. Hatchett had long been a radical conservative, with a history of tax-evasion and numerous DUI’s. The federal court filed numerous cases against him around the time that he died, and once they were settled, the fees were large enough to take away any inheritance that Lucy and her brother would have received had they had not been incurred.
So, because of her Father’s enjoining, Lucy denied herself one of the biggest wants of her life. That is, until she realized that she didn’t have to anymore, on her sixty-second birthday, on October 10th, 1982.
It was an absolutely dreadful afternoon. The streets were swallowed by a blustering wind, and having recently broken her cane, Lucy found it near impossible to traverse the city without clinging to the buildings. Her pension check for the month had just arrived in the post, and along with it the bill for her brother’s cremation, who before his death had been her last remaining relative. Her brother had really been the only person in her entire life who she could honestly call a friend. They had been through their entire life together, right up until Charles joined the army. Because of his extraordinary military talent, the service had promised his sister and him a completely paid for college education. He was happy about this, as it meant they could both rise from the depressed economic status they had so long inhabited.
After the war, however, Charles had proceeded to get extraordinarily rich through the entertainment industry, as he became a show runner of a highly successful television show. He had managed this after saving the life of one of the Privates under his command by performing an in-battle emergency surgery, entailing the incredibly gory removal of a fifty caliber bullet from his buttocks. The Private, left eternally grateful, had then asked what could be done to repay Charles, and said that his father was a television network executive and he could get him an interview. The interview went spectacularly, certainly the circumstances helping, so Charles was assigned to a new, sure-to-be-hit show. He then married and had children with a French woman named Élise, who happened to be playing the title role on Charles’s show, and she absolutely despised Lucy. Maybe it was Lucy’s awkwardly positioned nose, her fascination with kitsch and deco art, her habit of forgetting everything, which she had developed even before she suffered from dementia – but whatever the reason, Élise mandated that as long as she was married to Charles, she would not take the aesthetic insult of having to lay eyes on her. They didn’t, and immediately after Charles’s fatal episode of pulmonary edema, Élise found it classy enough to simply forward the hospital and cremation bills to Lucy, while she enjoyed the life insurance.
Lucy had just finished paying off the bill for the emergency room, and you can imagine how thrilled she was once she discovered that she had been sent the one for the cremation as well from her darling and most esteemed sister in law, Élise Beaulieu. Lucy was feeling lonely, desperate, and distraught over this chain of events, but as soon as she walked around a corner coming home from the post office and saw the Good Times Pet Rescue Center, a light went up on her face.
Inside the Center was a cage of howling, yapping, pit bulls. They rustled around in juvenile tomfoolery, and one particularly rowdy pup found it amusing to pounce on the smaller ones and harass them with youthful skullduggery. Ms. Lucy Hatchett was absolutely enthralled by them, and spent a solid minute observing the nuances of their coats – one was shockingly white, another night black with a white eye spot, and yet another was completely chocolate brown. She noticed some foamy spittle emerging from his mouth, but figured it must be merely drool, and not anything contagious. She entered the center and immediately approached the adoption counter, leaned over and said to the clerk,
“How much for the puppies?”
“How many do you want?” He replied.
“All of them.”
“Well…sixty dollars each.”
“Still, all of them.”
The clerk, obviously of significantly inferior intelligence to the average person, gave Lucy an expression of complete and utter disbelief. He managed by shifting his face in such a lucid way it was almost as if you could see the gears clicking together, to issue a quieted and slurred:
Lucy had no patience for the clerks mundane babbling, she was buying dogs, for Christ’s sake; so, making the calculation of six-hundred-and-sixty dollars herself, judging it too intricate a task for the clerk, she wrote a check and pushed it across the counter. She knew at this point that the only way she could afford this as well as all of the other expenses that would occur upon her in the next month, along with the cremation bill, would be to get a Pay-day loan – one that would charge her exorbitant interests so that she would probably never be able to pay off, except perhaps, post-mortem. But, of this she was nescient, and so she didn’t care – she figured that she could just pay it off next month, not realizing that when next month came around she’d have to be paying off an entire new set of expenses. Pushing the simpleton to carry on again, she said calmly,
“Here, now just give me all the paperwork to sign so I can get back to my flat as soon as possible.”
After many minutes of fluttering signatures and glancing over legal papers and the clerk mindlessly shuffling around and continuously handing Lucy the wrong documents for signage, she eventually made it out of Good Times. Lucy, and the crate of all of her newly purchased dogs, were going to be driven back to her address at 561 C, Grange street, by the shelter shuttle, but as complications arose involving the driver, that was no longer an option. The complications being that the driver had pretended that he had chronic bronchitis as an excuse to explain why he was “unable” to transport Lucy, while in reality, he had just taken a lovely F.O.B. Italian woman back to her hotel with her new poodle (Good Times Good!), and had then arranged a date at the local Thai restaurant for Saturday night – he figured that there’s a minimal amount of garlic in Thai. The reason he had claimed illness to avoid transporting Lucy was that for him, a hip and groovy young man, to be transporting some nasty crone was on-the-job social suicide. So, he left her to her own devices as to transportation to her residence.
In a slight flummox, Lucy sucked up her frustration with the young buffoon, and trotted out of the door with her dogs. As she exited the premises, a rank odor began to emanate from the crate. She had not noticed it before, but the inside of the crate that she held the puppies in was covered in their excrement and other sorts of bodily fluids. It had obviously never had been washed once, and so not only was it covered with the newly produced soil of her dogs, but also the excreta of all the dogs before them. Lucy wondered if the people at Good Times had done anything correctly anywise – whether they’d given the dogs their shots, had them fixed, etcetera – and came to the conclusion that they probably had not, given the presented intelligence of storefront employee.
While on her way back to her apartment, traveling down the streets of her city, Lucy, with the box of yipping puppies, came across a large patch of black ice on the sidewalk. Her visibility was impaired by the size of the crate, not to mention the already-acquired hindrance of the blustery wind. As she came across this patch of black ice, she had absolutely no idea that it was there, instead, it merely happened upon her; so down she went, landing on her already sore back and her rump, letting loose of the crate and having it slide down the sidewalk a few feet. All of the people that walked by her merely stepped around her and her dogs, ignoring the dilemma that they faced. One of the pedestrians actually kicked the crate into the building Lucy had fallen next to to remove it farther from their beeline. Lucy did manage to get back on her feet, but needed to spend the rest of the journey back carefully traversing the various sections of imminent and immediate danger that plagued the path. Once she did, after much arduous questing, arrive home, she set the dogs loose in the house, allowing them to fulfill their every will to roughhouse. After doing so, she collapsed with exhaustion onto her couch, as she had not eaten all day.
So, to solve this problem, Lucy then went out for a quick trip to the Pay-day loan center to get an advance for next month, then the bank to deposit her pension check and the Pay-day check, and then to the corner store to get some food for her and the dogs. She had absolutely no idea of the quantity of food that was necessary for eleven dogs, so she simply purchased an entire case, and while in the process of buying the dog food, forgetting to buy food for herself and even the fact that she was hungry. The cashier asked Lucy if she would like a ticket for the next national lottery, and Lucy did. She then bought one with the same numbers she’d been using as long as she could remember, 101082, and then left the store to go home. After returning to her apartment, carefully placing the case of dog food by the door and the ticket inside a drawer of a nearby dresser, she found that every single chair in the apartment had been knocked over, that all the kitsch on her coffee table had been smashed to bits, and that dog hair now inhabited every surface of her house, and let out a blood curdling scream that could’ve given any person an aneurism. However, she quickly recovered from her initial shock, and resolved that she would speak to her newly acquired pets, in a simple, parental manner.
“Come here, puppies!” she called, in a faux-gleeful manner, to which, surprisingly, all eleven of the mid-size pups came barreling into the room.
“Now look here,” she said in the relative tone of a pretentious vice-principal, “I know that none of you have probably had a parent before, so you’re unaware how this is supposed to work. You should know that I’ve also never been a parent myself before this, so you might need to cut me a break, now and then. So, here are the rules of the house:” (She now began a series of confused facial maneuvers, perfectly fitting to her following impromptu postulations. Absent minded cheek biting, lip curling, single brow wrinkling and so on, with vocal inflection to match the movements.) “No sitting on my chair. The red leather one. It was a gift from my brother, and your hairs, I’d imagine, are dreadful to clean. Also, no TV after seven. I’ve got to take my Lisinopril at night, and it makes me very sleepy, so the noise from the TV just gives me a headache. I’ve got a bad heart, you see. That’s why I take my Lisinopril.”
The dogs, at this point, were observing her intently, watching her soliloquize as if they held what she said as a matter of the utmost importance.
“Third,” she continued, “Is that you may not go out at night. Also, no sleepovers, is that clear with all of you? I expect a nod from everyone.” The dogs moaned.
“Good enough. Alright then, off to bed. It’s late.”
It was, in fact, only seven, but, as the day of rushing about the city and picking up the dogs from the shelter had worn her out, she went to bed, forgetting to feed both the dogs and herself. She, aside from the little disaster in the setting room, was rather satisfied with today’s events – maybe these delightful little dogs would help her make it through the rest of life, week by week. At least, she hoped so. They nipped at her heels as she walked into her bedroom, but as soon as she took out her hearing aid, the building seemed, to her, as calm and tranquil as a pastoral lake.
* * *
The following morning, Ms. Lucy Hatchett awoke not to a blood curdling noise, but to an earth shaking rumble, startling her to consciousness. She quickly donned her hearing aid, rocketed out the bedroom door, and found that two of the dogs had been fighting, the chocolate brown one and a white one. The brown one had prevailed, broken its opponents neck, and had proceeded to eviscerate it. The remnants of the cadaver were being ravenously swallowed by the rest of them Lucy panicked, and for a moment was stunned, trying to figure out what way was best to navigate between the dog kidneys and intestines, lifting her bare foot up, almost putting it down but just in time realizing that what she thought was linoleum was actually stomach lining. The pups, in particular the brown one, mistook her surprise for anger and shriveled into the corners, leaving the mess of organs alone as she stood there – almost as if they expected her to beat them.
Eventually, Lucy sucked it up and ran through a patch of floor, still soaked with blood, but had just had the piece it had been covered by stomached by a dog, and booked out her front door in her pajamas. She went to her corner grocery store to buy another case of dog food, forgetting about the case that remained untouched in her apartment. She was also convinced by the cashier to buy another national lottery ticket, number 101082. And again, she went off to her home.
Upon arrival to her apartment, she set the case down next to the door next to the other case, crammed the ticket inside the drawer, and yelled for the dogs to come. She then began her second monologue as a pet owner:
“Now listen. This. Is. Unacceptable! I know that you were hungry, but family is family! I never really had a good one either…my father always would tell me that I was useless, and that his want for me was about as equal as that of his want of a dog…but he was a terrible man. I’ve always wanted dogs, you know, my entire life, I figured they’d be such good companions. I hope I was right…but, I guess, dogs are like people. People are never very kind to each other either, you know. Most of the time. Especially the ones I’ve known. I’ve always read about the greats of our world, the Nelson Mandela’s and Dr. King’s, but I’ve never met any. Anyways, you should learn to get along with each other. Just remember to eat, so that you won’t get grumpy!”
By this time, poor old Ms. Lucy Hatchett had again forgotten that she had purchased food, and again forgot that she needed to feed her beloved dogs, and carried out the rest of the day on her usual routine. A quick stop down to the Congregationalist church to do some volunteer work involving organizing old sermon papers, which she had absolutely no clue as to why she was doing, then, a trip to the grocery store to pick up the night’s dinner (chicken, rice, and green beans), and then went back to her house, already completely exhausted, to curl up in her red leather chair to read Brontë’s Agnes Gray, for the umpteenth time.
Recently, Lucy had been becoming more and more upset. The dogs, although she still loved them, had not successfully filled the hole in her life that she had hoped they would. She had always lacked a family, since the departure of her brother – never having gotten along well with her parents and having been single her entire life. Except for the dogs, she’d never truly loved anything or anyone – and even them, she had still yet to name, as she continually forgot that she was “supposed” to.
She didn’t really have many friends, either – there were the old crones at the church worthy only for gossip-mongering, their husbands alive and well, and making sure that Lucy knew it. There was the young postman who always gave her a smile, while stealing her Netflix deliveries, the sweet young lady cashier down at the grocery store who sold her 101082 multiple times a week for the same lottery. There was also a pharmacist who had taken her out to coffee once, fifteen years ago, the month after her father died. He’d wanted to ask her out ever since they’d gone to middle school together, and simply had never bothered before because of the frightening nature of Lucy’s father; but even he was shrouded in bad intentions, as recently, he’d been trying to figure out a way to sneak Rohypnol, or another genus of date-rape drug, into Lucy’s monthly batch of Lisinopril. All of the people who claimed to be her “friends” really just wanted to exploit her, in one way or another – although, Lucy remained painfully unaware of all of it.
There was no one in the entire city who gave a single damn whether or not Lucy was alive. This was because no one ever paid attention – she was allowed by the community to rot, to become a living shell of a person, someone only worth extorting, to the point that no matter how hard she tried, she could never become healthy again on her own. And there she was, with her dogs, signed over to her without them being tested for or given shots for any standard diseases. They might as well have had rabies, they had been so mistreated by their previous owners and the employees at Good Times.
It was because of this, paired with her impending age that Lucy had been sleeping longer than was healthy – upwards of thirteen hours, on some days. So, by the time seven o’clock rolled around, she was 150 pages into Agnes Gray and already half asleep. Then, again forgetting to feed both the dogs and herself, she wished them a good night, sweet dreams, swallowed the gaping hole in her soul, and went to bed.
* * *
The next morning, yet another dog had been killed and eaten by the Chocolate brown pitbull. And the next day. And the next. And the next. Ms. Lucy Hatchett resolved to buy a new crate of dog food so that they wouldn’t attack each other, again, and again, and again; Lucy also forgot to feed herself and the dogs, again, and again, and again. A permanent blood stain resided around the kill spot, which Lucy dutifully cleaned. That is, until ten days after her birthday, ten days of not eating, and ten days of finding dog carcasses in her hallway every morning.
On October 20th, 1982, Lucy awoke at ten a.m. She entered the living room to make herself her pot of morning tea, and began to read Agnes Gray, yet again. While she did so, the Chocolate-brown pitbull came out of the living room and into the kitchen, quietly and with guile, to watch his Mother. Her pot of tea was done now, and she dutifully fixed it up with a cube of sugar and a splash of milk. Then, she went over to her cabinet to grab a cup of water and her heart medication from her shoulder bag on the counter. At the counter, when she pulled out the bottle of Lisinopril and tried to open it, she found that she was too weak. She tried and tried again, with all the strength that she had left, and with her last ounce of energy, made the bottle relinquish its cap. The strength it took to do so, however, was the last bit in her body – she collapsed to the floor in exhaustion, letting loose of the bottle as she fell. The bottle of Lisinopril, now open, had scattered its contents all around the kitchen floor.
The last remaining dog of the eleven that Ms. Lucy Hatchett had adopted, the chocolate brown , now made its way into the kitchen. It then, slowly and without any tarrying, continued into the kitchen, foaming at the mouth. Seeing the dog in its condition scared her to bits and pieces – that combined with her ultimate exhaustion is what led to her simply passing out. The dog proceeded to raze Lucy’s half-corpse in a frenzy worthy of a Norse Berserker, annihilating every single shred of her, leaving behind nothing but gnawed on bones. He then spied the small, pinkish pills spread around the floor, and gulped up every last one of them. But a half hour later, he began to stumble around sleepily, leaving behind him a trail of diarrhea and expectorant. He wandered around crashing into furniture, and eventually, out of exhaustion, also became inert at his mother’s side. They, Lucy and her beloved dog, were not found until a week after their deaths. By then, a pestilent smell had taken over the entire neighborhood, and left an imprint as to where the world had failed them both.