It was a three-layer day with the furnace out and I was drunk.
Keanu Reeves started it. Several of his movies were on Netflix. I’d brought home a six-pack, and whenever Keanu said “Whoa,” or spoke in an English accent I swallowed some brew. I was bulging with clothes like a homeless man in a cold snap. Drinking like that, like a wino in my freezing living room, seemed like a good idea. I even wore fingerless gloves.
JoAnne wasn’t into it. She had one beer. Halfway through Johnny Mnemonic she dozed off under a comforter and two afghans. It was a three-layer day, like I said.
Under the pile of blankets, Iggy twitched.
I was the only one awake at this point.
The game went downhill fast once I put on Star Trek. I’d run out of beer and switched to vodka soda. I drank every time Mr. Spock said, “Illogical.” I drank every time Scotty said, “I can’t do it, Captain.” I drank every time Dr. McCoy said, “Damn it, Jim.” I drank every time a Red Shirt went down.
I counted at least five Red Shirt deaths.
I ran out of soda and vodka.
Poking the dog through the blankets, I said, “Do you want to go to bed?”
I said, “Bed, Iggy, do you want to go to bed?”
My wife sat up, groaned, and peeled the blankets off him. Iggy stared at me like he didn’t think I was serious. He turned eleven this year. I let him out to go potty, then my wife went potty and then I went potty.
I don’t remember going upstairs, but I do remember Iggy settling at the head of the bed between us. I turned on my side and spooned him.
Then I smelled something like a match being lit.
I switched on the light. I went to the dresser by the foot of the bed and paced like a nervous smoker.
I said, “Fuck, that smells.”
I said, “What the fuck,” and kicked a sock lying on the floor.
“It’s not that bad,” JoAnne said.
“Oh, it’s bad,” I said.
“Then stop sniffing it.”
“It smells like burnt diapers.”
“It smells like rotten eggs, bad pork and peanut butter.”
“It’s not that bad, Jim.”
“It smells like scorched earth.”
“Save it for your story, Mr. Writer.”
“Iggy,” I said. “Dude, what the fuck?”
Iggy blinked at me. His ears were back. Our dog looked like a sea lion.
“It’s because you feed me the same stuff.”
It was my turn to blink.
“Lamb,” Iggy said. “You always give me the lamb flavor. Twice a day. Don’t you know dogs can become allergic to something if you feed them the same thing every day? It happens to people, too.”
He enunciated in a finicky way that sounded almost like an English accent. Way better than Keanu’s.
“Whoa,” I said.
“Whoa is right,” he said.
I threw up in my mouth a little. Pacing the floor felt like walking in a canoe and now that I’d stopped the room caught up with me. The smell didn’t help, though it had eased up some.
“Try the seafood flavor,” Iggy said. “And more raw food. It’s better for my digestion. Even my poops will be smaller.”
“It’s not like your farts don’t stink.”
“Okay.” I felt better now. I picked up one of JoAnne’s shirts lying on the floor.
Judging by the layer of dog hair on it it had been there a while. At the corner of the bed where Iggy got down in the mornings. The collar smelled like corn chips.
It’s a well-known fact that dogs smell like corn chips.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
In the tumult of smells I hadn’t realized how cold I was until I got back in bed and pulled the covers over me.
Iggy crawled under the covers and nestled between JoAnne’s legs. I heard the muffled sound of him breathe in through his nose and then blow the air out of the corner of his mouth. Whenever he does this I like to press my fingers to his cheek and feel it puff on the out-breath. I stared at the ceiling. I got up, grabbed the shirt that smelled like corn chips and put it next to my pillow. I switched off the light.
I listened to JoAnne snore. I listened to Iggy snore. I closed my eyes and felt the room spin around their snoring. I fell into a whirling darkness that smelled of corn chips and burnt diapers and rotten eggs and bad pork and peanut butter and scorched earth and beer and vodka and soda. I had an idea.
“Come on, Iggy. Say it.”
Sometimes he did, if I bribed him with a treat.
I groped around the nightstand and found some kibble.
“Please. Say it.”
I held the kibble under the covers.
“Say, ‘Damn it, Jim.'”
“No, say, ‘Damn it, Jim.’ You know, like Dr. Mc—”
“Because of you I refuse to have lamb now.”
“But it’s all we have.”
He breathed in through his nose. I threw the covers back and reached down to touch his cheek, but he beat me on the out-breath.
Like I said, it was a three-layer day. Layers get between you, like walls do.
-- For the Ig-Meister, who puts up no walls.