Monday, December 27, 2010

Essay Rejected by McSweeneys: My New Job (Now Old News)

The bosses are brothers, and they bring their matching-eyed dogs to work. The dogs look like reptiles because of these yellow eyes. It makes them appear confused and ancient. There are two, and they ignore each other. One, a silken monkey food-stealer spaniel thing, barks hysterically at strangers. He lounges in the hallway, looking up with an expression of inexplicable terror. The other is a horse-pill shaped tick of a dog with respiratory problems that causes incessant and periodic honking on the exhale. When one of the bosses introduced her, he said “This is Funny,” in a most un-funny tone of voice. I was looking at the dog, stroking its throat, and I thought my new boss was referring to the sheaf of papers he was holding. Then I realized he too was looking down at his dog. He said it again. “This is Funny.” 
From my desk, in a windowless half-office, I can hear the rhythmic honking rise and fall as Funny lumbers up and down the carpet, searching for someone to smell her breath and comment on her Flying Nun ears. Sometimes she catches a whiff of something interesting and her breathing becomes its own drum fill, a shuffle-ball-change that might be snappy if it happened at regular enough intervals. Snuffly-DOO-snuff-AH! 
The dogs generally keep to themselves, or are ignored. Ignoring the dogs is an athletic act because we have to prove, on a regular basis, that we are in fact ignoring them. Regardless of how severely we ignore, one of the brothers is convinced we are going out of our way to feed his dog our celery or hummus or whatever. “I swear someone is feeding him,” he announced (yelled) a few days ago through a particularly noisy faceful of wasabi peas. Today he banged his sunburned forehead against the wall of my office very slowly, almost a dozen times in a row. DONK. DONK. DONK. I don’t know why, I think it was because I asked about something. His dog is the silky one, always appearing slightly jealous, lurking in doorways waiting for the sound of a spoon against the walls of a single-serving yogurt container. His name is Newman, and I cannot help but think when I look into his brass-button eyes: “New man.” Sometimes I say it aloud. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, someone else will say one of the dog’s names aloud. 
Newman was absent from the company picnic; Funny attended at the end of a length of clothesline. The line stretched from her owner’s belt loop to wherever the closest morsel of barbecued meat might be, which was basically everywhere on everyone’s paper plates. She made new noises, one of which was a snort-honk-grunt combination that actually startled people. We were told, while lying on sheets at the edge of the disc-golf course, that Funny is 75% Beagle with a quarter of indeterminate origin. Her owner had her DNA tested. Newman was submitting to the exact same background check, and the results came back totally Spaniel-free. Smallish shiny completely brown monkey dog wasn’t listed in his chart either: evidently there wasn’t much on his chart due to the complexity and completeness of his genetic emulsification. The afternoon was hazy with the moistness of a nearby hurricane, and yellowjackets hovered around everything.   
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could harness this listlessness, this hunger for whatever? How much energy could be generated by aimless dogs? A dog gym, a facility of treadmills hooked up to generators, could easily power one house, perhaps two, or a small factory’s lighting needs. Run, little things, run.