“Stupid crappy mutt! She smells like butt! What the hell were you thinking? To get a dog so stinking!”
Steve undid the leash and threw it into his catch-all corner. “Do you know what she was trying to eat out there? Do you?! Poop! It’s goop! Who wanted a dog? You! And now I’m walking her to pee? Me! I don’t care how sick you supposedly are. You take her!”
While Steve towered and glowered, the dog cowered in the corner and emitted a quiet “woof, woof.”
Mary sighed. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to get sick. She’s a dog. Vet said she doesn’t yet know any better.”
Mary’s attempts to placate Steve touched a gentle part of him inside. A part he gated and hated. As always, it made him angrier. “I don’t need a damned dog! I have you!I work hard all day to put a roof over your head. Roof! Roof! Last month, she tried to eat that poison philanderer plant. She’ll put anything in her mangy mouth. If she doesn’t stop eating turds, mark my words! I’ll make you cook her for dinner!”
Mary waited for Steve’s rant to ebb. “I read on the web today about a dog who ate corn cobs. Surgeon had to cut him open. You’d think dogs would know what was good for them, but apparently, they don’t.”
“Naturally I’m right! I’m bright. She’s just one more bitch too stupid to know what’s good for her! Reminder: last week, I bought a meat grinder for her food.”
“Thank you, Steve. I’m sure I’ll be able to make really good use of that. And, it will save money on dog chow. And how!”
Steve sneered and growled and uttered something unintelligible.
The puppy chanced a growl of her own. Steve ignored it. Instead he snarled at Mary. “What in the Holy Name of Hell are you watching now?”
Mary replied, “A movie. Almost over. Do you … ?”
Steve barked, “Another damned True Crime Docudrama? Jesus, Mary. Turn on the realnews!”
Mary bit her lip and then obeyed; flipped on White Nation. She shook her head. She couldn’t get over how ugly the man being interviewed was. She wondered again why so many seemed to adore him. She had long ago learned not to share her opinion. Steve was absolutely certain White Nation News was the one source to be believed. He’d thrown her entire inheritance into a “sure-fire” White Nation get rich quick scheme. Hadn’t panned out as planned. Steve’s addiction to “Tricks to Get Rich Quick” showed no signs of relief. Not satisfied with enough, he remained sure the next scheme would make him wealthy beyond belief.
Mary saw something dark and evil behind the interviewee’s dead eyes and painted orange face. But Steve was dead sure he was America’s salvation, or at least White America, the “Real” America, as Steve liked to say, not the “gay, black, liberal, smart-ass, immigrant, foreigners trying to take over the country.”
Steve leaned forward, face glowing blood red. Mary glanced over; saw it as lit by the TV. Steve, eyes ever glued to the tube, barked another order: “Beer Here!”
Mary gathered her strength. No matter how she explained it, Steve couldn’t conceive of “Long COVID.” He didn’t really believe in COVID; he thought it all a hoax invented by liberal folks. That’s what his favorite podcasts claimed. Yet he bought ivermectin, “just in case.”
Mary sat up; nearly fainted; rose and traipsed to the fridge. Steve didn’t notice the Oxy capsule she emptied into his beer. She quietly placed his Bud on the end table. She fell back again in her chair, too exhausted to continue her Agatha Christie. She couldn’t stand White Nation News. From beginning to end, she thought it in bad taste; noxious and possibly poisonous. She tried to think back to an earlier time when Steve was nice. She couldn’t think of such a time. She decided maybe that was a good thing, under the circumstances.
After a few doctored beers, Steve sprawled comatose. Although they had agreed to share dog duties, it was always Mary who fed her.
Until she had quit three days earlier.
Mary stopped the microwave before it beeped; shuffled over to the snoring Steve and poured the Pyrex beaker of hot bacon grease into his torn polka-dot boxer shorts. Hungry puppy didn’t even wait for it to cool before chowing down like a hungry hog.
“Good dog!” Choking back tears, Mary whispered, “Good dog!”