Clean Slate

My dog is small and old and he has an old man’s problems. Namely, that he has a hard time taking shits. He’s not doing too bad, considering I found him half-dead on the side of the road. I was half-dead too, or fully dead. I’m not really sure.

I don’t have a pulse, and I’m pretty sure I’m not breathing. Also, I’m cold enough that I get frost on my fingers when I sleep outside. I’m not even sure of my name anymore. All I remember is waking up in the tall grass next to a highway and having a sense that I’d lost something. When I tried to remember anything about myself – where I lived, what I did, who my family was – I hit this white wall of nothingness. Then I found the dog, who seemed to be in pretty much the same position. He doesn’t have a name either. It’s okay though; we don’t talk much.

So, one night I was standing there, pondering the great white gap of my memory. Dog was having his usual difficulties. I held his leash while he sniffed and circled, gearing himself up for the struggle of defecating when I noticed a man step out of the apartments near me. He was smoking and talking on a cell phone. It wasn’t a happy conversation.

“Shut up.” He said with a heavy Philly accent, “this is important.” I kept my head down, but my ears open.

“So I’m watching this dog take a shit. He keeps walking around, but nothing is happening.”

I couldn’t believe it. This guy was narrating my dog’s bowel movement. I looked up at him, but he seemed completely focused on my dog, listening to the phone. After a moment he exploded. “What? Are you kidding me, Squint? I have front row seats to this dog’s asshole!” He took a drag on his cigarette, as if to calm himself before continuing. “The dog, he’s still trying. He’s shakin’ and squeezin’ and everything, but there’s just no shit coming out.”

“You know what?” he yelled into the phone. “That’s life!”

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. Cell phone guy was right. Life is shit. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor; as long as you are alive, you’ll have something to bother you. Bills, school, kids, a spouse, an ex-spouse, a job, no job – the list is endless. The only way off this shitty merry-go-round is death. It was just so bleakly funny.

“You laughing at me?” he asked, his accent getting even thicker.

I put my hand over my mouth, trying to hide my smile. “I didn’t mean to…” the giggles caught up with me before I could finish my sentence.

Cell phone guy turned red. “You think this is funny? Like, fuckin’ hilarious?”

I looked down at Dog, who had just finished laying a huge turd on the grass. He looked at me with a big canine smile and seemed really proud of his accomplishment.

“What’s your name?” Cell phone guy took a few steps forward, doing his best to look threatening.

“I don’t know.” I shook my head, laughing even harder. “I seriously have no idea!”

Cell phone guy didn’t seem to know how to take my answer. “Well,” he paused, obviously trying to think of what to say, “You better hope I don’t find out who you are. I don’t put up with this kinda shit from slags off the street.”

Image by Melanie Hill

“Oh, okay. Sure.” I pulled on Dog’s leash, still giggling. We got down to the end of the block before I looked back at the guy. He was still standing in the middle of the sidewalk, staring at us. I waved goodbye and turned the corner. The street ahead of us was completely empty, a perfect small town scene lit by the glow of a full moon.

Me and Dog do a lot of walking at night now. I can’t speak for Dog, but I use the time to think. Maybe me and Dog don’t need names or histories. Maybe I don’t need a pulse. Maybe having those things is a kind of burden, something you have to maintain and live up to. I’m not sure if that’s right, but the idea does give me hope.

Melissa Milazzo lives in San Diego, California with her novelist husband Tone Milazzo and an illiterate dog. She enjoys not having to explain herself to others and letting stories speak for themselves. You can find her online at:

Author: MelissaMilazzo

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