The Good Dead Dog
by Shome Dasgupta
There was a dead dog on the road. The dead dog was on its side, its tongue stuck out, and its eyes were closed. It was a mutt. The dead dog's hair was matted and clumped and wet and torn. There were patches of pink and gray skin. The dead dog's gums were dark black—its teeth looked like they gave up a long time ago. The dead dog's paws blended with the dirt on the side of the road.
Pepper crouched down and smelled the dead dog. She had parked the truck on the side of the road to take a look at it. I stood behind her staring at the dead dog's tail, picturing it moving back and forth.
Pepper said, No wounds. She said, It wasn't hit by a car.
There were ants around the dead dog—Pepper brushed them away and told them to quit it.
Pepper said, Maybe old age. She said, Maybe something was hurting on the inside.
What about the other side, I said.
Pepper rolled the dead dog over. There were still no signs of any physical hurt.
Pepper said, Maybe starvation. She said, Maybe dehydration.
She smelled her fingers.
She said, It smells like bubblegum.
The road was freshly paved — it was bright black, and there weren't any potholes. Cars and trucks and eighteen wheelers sped by on the back road. I looked at the back of Pepper's neck, wanting to lick it. She stood up and jogged to the back of her truck and after a lot of clinking and clacking and moving things around, she came back with a shovel.
Where at, I said.
She headed over to a field not too far from the road. There was a house farther down — land must belong to them, acres and acres. We didn’t walk too far in, but Pepper made sure the spot was right for digging. She dug. She stuck the shovel into the earth, and bit by bit, she tossed the dirt aside. We took turns. Pepper was in her bra. Cars honked as they drove by. Pepper flipped all of them off. When she dug, I stared at her pink bra, watching her breasts move up and down and side to side—sweat trickled down the middle. She started to take off her bra.
Keep it on, I said. I said, You look pretty with the pink bra.
Pepper spat. She grabbed her breasts — she ran her hands down her body to her belly button. The field was making her feel this way.
Keep it on, I said.
I said, Another time.
Pepper licked the palms of her hands. I took the shovel from her and started digging. I dug. The dog lay dead. The sky turned gray, and there was the smell of rain. I looked down the road and saw a pale sheet. Pepper sat and rocked back and forth, trying hard not to dig her fingers into the soil, trying hard not to stick her tongue in clay. There were worms.
I said, Good soil.
It looks like it tastes good, Pepper said.
We dug and dug, about four feet in, and we lifted the dead dog and we put it in its grave.
Pepper said, Be good.
Her jeans were unbuttoned, but the zipper was still up. The sun was almost down, and the rain came. We stayed there. We patted the removed clumps of dirt and soil back on top of the dead dog. The dead dog looked happy. I thought I saw its tail move. I thought I saw its tongue move. Pepper tapped my back with the shovel. She threw the shovel away and tackled me. I couldn’t get a hold of her and she had full control over me. She twisted my legs and arms. She rolled me over. The rain came down. The dead dog was in the earth. Pepper stood up and took off her bra. It was dark. Headlights zoomed by, making the raindrops look like lightning bugs. I took off my clothes. Pepper pulled down her jeans. There was nothing. There was nothing, and without saying anything, we ran across the wet field. My feet pushed down hard against the grass. Pepper was ahead of me, the grass didn’t seem to slow her down at all. She was making sounds and noises with her mouth, babbling anything and everything — any thought, any word, any anything.
We stopped and looked around us.
There is no dog, Pepper said.
The dog is dead, I said.
Pepper said, Bury me.
When you’re dead, I said.
Pepper said, Next to the dead dog.
Dog, dog, dog went the dead. Shovel, shovel, shovel, went the dig. Lights, lights, lights, went the head. Bra, bra, bra went the pink. Toe, toe, toe went the mud. Down, down, down went the rain. Hands, hands, hands went the body. Me, me, me went the mercy. Slash, slash, slash went the blades. Dark, dark, dark went the air, and air, air, air went the zoom.
There was wind, and it sparkled every now and then when the cars drove by. The cars and trucks and cars were silent in the rain. The rain was the loudest, and when we ran with the wind, it talked to us, and when we ran against the wind, it shouted.
Wheel, wheel, wheel went the cart. Frog, frog, frog went the leap. Knees, knees, knees went the ground, and body, body, body went the tumble, and blades, blades, blades went the tickle, and blades, blades, blades went the sharp.
Let’s go home, Pepper said.
There were our clothes. Pepper walked past them. She turned around, back to me.
Leave them, Pepper said. She said, Leave them and come with me.
I said, Skin.
We left the dead dog, and we left our clothes. The rain still came down hard — Pepper drove with the windows down. The night was never-ending, and I never wanted it to end. Pepper was singing, and I was shivering.