Substitute for Love
by Kyle Hemmings
So you’re a reborn bachelor in a city of stray dogs. You listen to them bark and whine each night outside your window after you’ve flossed, fallen asleep midway through Leno. Imagine translating canine distress from a distance. Imagine a dog yelping, “Rescue me, as I have rescued so many of you. What a strange breed you are. Maybe you deserve to be lonely.”
On either side of the cage, you size each other up, maybe a love at first sight. She’s an Airedale Terrier with a dense coat of tan and grizzle. You name her Emily after the woman who left you with an empty water bowl and too many bones to pick.
It’s not easy at first. Emily can be tenacious. Especially when you must wrestle with her in the bathtub. Or keep her from squirming in the car. She can sense a veterinarian’s long needle. There’s a history of parasites.
Sharing your hunger for warmth, she snuggles next to your legs in a bed that is too long for the both of you. When fully fed, her eyes betray an old love of otter-rivers, of rat-catching, a collective dog unconscious of never letting go. Breakfast brings a new sense of security: the sound of her tongue slapping, licking water while you wolf down two hardboiled eggs and three slices of seven-grain toast, crusts trimmed off.
As time goes by, you suspect Emily understands you, maybe more than you think. She tilts her head and stares at you with her big dark eyes as if to say, Two misfits are better than one. I’m here to the end.
About Kyle Hemmings
Kyle Hemmings is the author of the chapbooks: Fuzzy Logic (Punkin Press), Amsterdam & Other Love Songs (Flutter Press), Avenue C (Scars Publications), Cat People (Scars), Anime Junkie (Scars), and Tokyo Girls in Science Fiction (NAP), Hojo Boy (TenPages Press), The Truth about Onions (Good Samaritan), and the e-book short-story collection: You Never Die in Wholes (Good Story Press). His work has appeared in Arsenic Lobster, BLIP, Decomp, Thunderclap Press, Juked, Smokelong Quarterly, Short Story America, Wigleaf,Storyglossia, Elimae, Match Book, This Zine Will Save Your Life, and Connotation Press. Kyle lives and writes in New Jersey.