"-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"> Frigg | Spring/Summer 2023 | Do You Know This Dog? | Minette Cummings
artwork for Minette Cummings's flash fiction Lullaby

Do You Know This Dog?
Minette Cummings

Some neighbor tried to give me my own dog. He came to the door with one of those Found Dog flyers and there was Maxie, lying on someone’s couch, staring back at me with his one good eye from someone else’s couch.

“Do you know this dog?” the neighbor asked.

“Why, yes, I do know him,” I said. “That’s my own damn dog. I see him every day. Where is he?” An hour ago, the answer was my backyard.

“He’s at my house.” The neighbor wore a new flannel shirt. His jeans had creases. If he hadn’t stolen my dog, I still wouldn’t like him. “Listen,” he said, “do you have any proof he’s yours? How do I know?”

“Because I’m telling you,” I said, and went to get the leash.

We trudged down the block for a bit, and then the neighbor said, “Do you feed him? He looks half-starved. And how’d he lose the eye?” He seemed now to realize that only a pathological liar would pretend to own a 15-year-old one-eyed incontinent dog, but he had some new concerns. My dog was skinny, sure, but he still ate the kibble I set out for him every morning and night. The eye had been gone a long time. Porcupine. I tried telling this to my neighbor, but he was still talking.

“Your dog could have been hit by a car.” He shook his head as we crossed Division.

“I understand how traffic works,” I said. “I have a kid mowing my yard. He probably left the gate open. I’m not thrilled about it either.”

“Hmm,” the neighbor said.

“When I see him, you’ll see. Maxie will be happy to see me.” I wanted him to understand: this was a love story, not domestic abuse.

“I guess we’ll find out,” he said, turning into his driveway, and then he whipped his head back to stare at me. “I just hope you’re feeding him.” I sighed and closed my eyes.

In the neighbor’s house, Max sprawled on the couch. I never let him up on my furniture, even when he could still make the jump. It’s not good to spoil a dog. They start to get ideas. I tried to see Max how my neighbor saw him, shriveled and feeble, but all I could see was the dog who jumped through the car window when it was down, who ran for ice when he heard the dispenser, who let me pull porcupine quills out of his tail with pliers. Now, Maxie smelled like a bathroom that needed cleaning. His sharp ribs looked like they might slice through his fur with every inhale. It was hard to look.

The neighbor knelt beside him, feeding him from a bottle. Something he had lying around, I suppose, for his neighborhood dog rescues. You could see from the number of coasters on the coffee table that the neighbor thought ahead. Maxie wagged his tail and slurped. He didn’t look at me. I didn’t take offense: I raised him to be good with people.

The neighbor had a way with Maxie, there was no denying it. It was a picture, the neighbor scratching Max in his favorite spot right between the eyes. I squatted down next to the ugly pink couch and picked up the bottle.

A few weeks later, I drove Maxie home from the vet wrapped in a blanket and dug a hole for him behind the barn. I heaved a rock over to mark it. Now when I sit out on the double porch swing smoking my cigar, Max isn’t sitting there next to me, leaning into my shoulder like I’m his own personal beanbag. Last night, the neighbor jogged by my house. He wore an orange vest to reflect car lights. He didn’t stop and talk but gave a little wave.

Minette Cummings’s Comments

This actually happened to me, and the experience caused me to ruminate on what it means to be a neighbor, sharing perhaps a street and a floor plan but in other ways, leading separate lives.

Table of Contents

Frigg: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 61 | Spring/Summer 2023