);

THE ELEPHANT EATS THE DOG by Wayland Tracy

I’ve rested my eyes upon the kit cat clock that keeps manic vigil of my darkening apartment. Either this or another video of fish eating birds, and I’ve figured out how all those end.

Its eyes shift front door to back door, synchronized with pendulum tail, sixty back-and-fourths to the minute. A maroon coat with white beard and a clock face on its belly grasped tightly by claws. And a bowtie. And ears like devil horns. Surely the devil keeps time, is timely, time of our lives. But I’m waiting for those eyes to break rhythm, waiting for those orbs of seeming mechanical animation to meet my own and grant me something of a different something, and no, I don’t think it will be good but that’s not what different means.

I’m drinking gin and juice, cranberry juice and gin poured from a broken bottle and even seasoned with the elusive glass flakes that could not be filtered out with fork. I think of Snoop Dogg. I think we could have been friends, but time feels thin now, wavering like mist in the sun, yes, but no who cares, it wavers like the ghost of my grandmother visiting me on the can. I could cry now as I did then, but I’m far too stupid these days. Won’t allow it. I’m sorry, Snoop. Besides, weed makes me doomful and I’m so goddamned tired of being the big bummer.

The gin and juice and glass goes down a little scratchy, but I believe in paying for my vices. I paved the road with five beers. I dropped the sixth after the fifth and let it pool on the kitchen floor. In time it will evaporate, glass and all, and my apartment will be pillaged by old friends and landlord, all matter renewed in the great cycle, kissed cheek and wreathed neck. My deposit withheld. That’s why I don’t clean unless it stinks.

Gin is for all seasons, as is all booze. Don’t be a fool. A Kansas summer is like an old farmer beating you unconscious with a haybale. So you drink gin and tonic with extra lime and oh so much ice. A big glass. Steal the ice from the front of a gas station. A big glass to peer through the bottom and see the future.

I imagine, I must, the cat looks to steal a lover or pull one over a on fool. I am overlooked, time and again passed over. Ha. I actually know the cat to be a dragon hoarding over its treasure, yes, it collects the time I drop at the threshold every evening, and that is why it pays me no mind. I had time and I used it to jack-off before work. Grace up and gone with the beer bottles and sardine cans.

I sneeze something awful, a god-hollering achoo that expels my precious blood through mouth and nose. Kansas is very bad for allergies. It subdues me every year, the gears precise in my sinuses, every year. My cough can only be dried out by smoke. The medicine weakens my blood.

My blood. My blood is sprayed across my arm and speckled on the couch. My mind shouts, Cranberry juice! but no, you fool, it is my blood. That makes sense. Undesirable but expected and all together honestly pretty cool. I take a picture and post it on Twitter with the words, Blood in the sneeze is worth two teens in the trees. I had made my profile private and blocked all my followers. I don’t even get it. It’s not funny.

I had the bottle opened before I opened my car door. Terribly parched and illogical. It jolted my head and kicked my empty stomach as the sun belched in my face. An old woman sat in the passenger seat of the car next to mine with her window cracked as might be done for a dog. She said, Take it easy, young man. As I lifted fist with bottle, middle finger pointed to heaven, the gin slipped from my sweaty hand, nosediving into the asphalt and snapping its neck.

I’m starting to hear whispers beneath the clicks of the cat. Like the voices I’ve heard before sleep, pieces of conversations floating through a crowd. But something else. This now, here, hear it just enough to know its real, one voice sickly sweet and not stopping for air. The mouth is painted on. Eyes frantic search.

The pain is thickening. The scratches in my throat have crawled into my guts and are working it like dogs in a rat nest. Reminds me of the time I had pneumonia as a child. From that I learned the benefits of suffering. No one expects anything of you, me, the contorted and moaning pile of puke and cold sweat. Akin to the dead but with all the advantages of the living: being alive.

I had poured out two water bottles and filled them with the gin I had managed to save. The glass shards floated like dazzling alien fish. Ah, you see? Delusion is simply a positive frame of mind. However, I’ll cut to the chase. The tonic water was missing cap and flat; the limes were rock and rotten. So fuck all that. However, as God gave Noah the rainbow, he gave me a bottle of cranberry juice, at one time intended to be drunk before a drug test. These are the winding currents of shitsville—trust them.

Do you believe in demons? Neither do I. If you said yes, then sure, why not. I tend not to believe in anything, which breeds endless maybes, a hopeless burden. But these whispers. Aren’t all whispers sinister? Didn’t she whisper in ways? Sinister? Sinister, sin, evil, devil, demon, hell? I think perhaps this is a case in which the answer is correct but the question is wrong, like shooting Ted Nugent with a silver bullet. So I call my friend, the priest.

We had gone to high school together, a Catholic institution—uniforms, gym mass, homophobia, plenty of pot, etc. We waited together for our mothers after school. He gave me the lunch he didn’t eat. I admired him because he was quiet and funny without crudeness or vulgarity. And he never condemned me as so many tried. Our lives are on opposite sides of the baptismal font, so to speak. I haven’t seen him in over a year. Love and solitude and all that shit.

Ring. Ring. Pour, sip, ring.

Soft and unsure, he says, Oh, hi Wayland.

Hey, buddy, what’s up?

Oh, you know. Just thinking I guess.

Someone’s gotta do it. I tried once and my hair started falling out.

He laughs like an ill man. It’s easier than saying something.

He says, You sound kind of ill. Are you okay?

No, not ill. Could use some blessings, sure. Always. But the thing is my clock. It’s talking to me. Probably not serious, but you know.

He’s silent. I cough blood into my fist. This has lost its charm. At last, I make out a word from the slick whispers: pejorative.

Are you… Are you on drugs?

No, Jacob, listen…

I think you’re on drugs.

No. I’ve been drinking glass. I know, I know. But it is a Tuesday night!

He doesn’t laugh. He sighs. Let’s get lunch soon.

Ok. Yeah. But don’t transubstantiate it this time.

Again.

You know the church has programs…

Yes, I know. Let’s get lunch.

He hangs up and I finish my drink.

One time at mass, I took the eucharist from the priest and pocketed it. Later, in the hallways, I licked it and stuck it to my forehead, then shook and spoke in mock tongues for the amusement of some friends. Jacob saw me and cried. Right there, in front of everybody, and they looked at him as you might a horse taking a shit in a parade and laughed. He didn’t need any more of that.

I hear the whispers with more clarity, like I’m tuning into a new frequency, but they’re jumbled and missing something, or I am. I cup my ears to the cat. Close my eyes.

collective damage and fusion             guilty parties      beguiled and bled through

the management of waste        you have painted       the gaul

you have      tasted and never once      I watch        I watch     I watch and never once

 this faux misery         entrusted to the blind and        guilty parties         never

     seldom sought in a seething pit I know        the opportunities arise

I used to talk with this homeless guy back in that time when I wandered downtown in the bad hours. Named Mislow and plagued with the creeps. He moved in escape. He conducted our chance meetings like a general losing the war. Crickets crawled over his bare feet and sang within the caves of his rags. He had told me that moles invaded the city offices through the sewers, that g-men were rounding up vagrants for weapons testing. He told me the truths as never before imagined, in hi-def technicolor 3D explosions. I offered him cigarettes and anything else I had to share. Secrets swapped for secrets. I’ll look over your shoulder if you look over mine. I gave him a hunting knife and he slipped it into the labyrinth of his garments. Said I’d get him a gun if I could. He reminded me of my father.

I told him one night that I planned on falling in love soon. A girl who gave me the day. With music and laughter and so fond touches on my face. It was to be. But it halted him, his eyes, hands, and lips. He had finally pinpointed an enemy, the deceiver lying low in my chest. He punched me in the gut, knocking the wind out, grabbed me by the shirt and said with a spray of garbage juice, You want pussy, fine. But these are the times of war.

Last I saw of him was a mugshot after he stabbed a cop.

I’m on the second water bottle of gin and trying to remember if alcohol is a blood thinner. Regardless. I add more cranberry juice to put it in as fast as it comes out. Mindful. Such a cheap word.

Now rhythm. Droning. It appears the cat has found its mantra: the elephant eats the dog.

I have had no luck in fixing anything by smashing it. This, a life of handcrafted logic, an artisan belief system. Everything works until it doesn’t. I have the brain of a lizard wearing a beret. The elephant eats the dog.

My hands shake, spilling my drink over and over and now I sit feeling silly and soaked in blood, gin and juice. Those eyes aren’t slowing down, though, and I don’t believe they will ever stop, not for me. Suspicion creates the future. The desire to fuck and love and be reborn creates the future. My blood creates the future. The tracking and ticky tocking of time finds the future too late. The future, in all its wisdom, whispered into your ear the dreams you had in your crib.

Now, a sound of world crumble and rattlesnake, an offbeat screech: the tell-tale buzz of my phone left on the floor. It shines in the darkness like an end of a tunnel. The name on the screen cannot be, a mistake and malfunction of our collective dumbass unconscious, surely. It rings and rings and rings.

The elephant eats the dog.

Read Next: RECUERDA, OR THE CALL OF THE COMMON NIGHTHAWK by Jonah Solheim