The Future Is A Blue Dog
Chelsea brought the Billionaire to our dinner party as her plus-one, and he brought along his huge, bright blue dog. It sat where it had been ordered to, ropes of drool descending onto our Walmart carpet, staring at the plate in my hand with an intensity that I found threatening. I was determined to not let it rattle me.
“What breed is he?” I asked, offering the Billionaire the venison meatballs. Daisy and I had been cooking for this party for most of a week.
“Modified mutt,” the Billionaire said. “It’s the future.”
The whole dinner was small plates, meant to be shared. The Billionaire shoved two meatballs into his face and chewed with his mouth open. Somehow, I knew he wanted me to be a little aghast. “Modified how?” I asked.
“The key genes are from an African cichlid,” he said. “That’s a kind of fish.”
I love my sister-in-law, but sometimes Chelsea asks a lot. Knowing about the Billionaire’s messy divorce was unavoidable with all the press coverage. The dog seemed especially attuned to the hog jowl frittata and langusta sausages. And the meatballs.
“What’s his name?” I said.
“Babe,” he said. “Don’t try to pet him.”
The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. “Did you want to cast yourself as a modern Paul Bunyan?” I asked.
“Naw,” the Billionaire smiled. “I just wanted a blue dog. He cost me thirty million dollars.”
He put the plate of meatballs on the floor, and Babe swallowed the contents in a few chomps, circling the plate as his tongue lapped from every angle. His bullwhipping tail swept half of the other plates off the table and onto the floor, and he spun to consume what fell. I had to admit that I envied the dog’s instinct to just go for it.
“I understand you work in one of our warehouses. Is that right, Byron?” the Billionaire said. “With Chelsea?”
“That’s right.” I was surprised he remembered my name, let alone what I did. “I started on the floor and worked up to supervisor. Another drink?” He’d drained his first one in minutes. I told myself he might be as nervous as I was, but that probably wasn’t true.
“Sure,” he said. “Maybe this time make it a triple?”
I turned back to the kitchen to pour his drink, though in our efficiency apartment the kitchen was really the same as the living room and bedroom. We were lucky to find any place at a price we could afford.
My back was turned when it happened, but I heard everything as I fixed the drink. The snort as he saw Angel, our Siamese, peak out from under the couch. The lamp crashing to the floor as Babe leapt across the room, upending the sofa where Chelsea and Daisy sat sharing confidences that no doubt featured Chelsea becoming the next Mrs. Billionaire. Angel’s yowl as the dog’s jaws closed, the crunch. Poor Angel swallowed like a meatball while the women screamed.
I was afraid to turn around but knew I had to eventually.
“Well,” the Billionaire said.
Chelsea and Daisy huddled against the far wall, only a couple of arms’ lengths away, hands over mouths.
I clutched the small paring knife that I’d been using to make flamed double orange peel twists to garnish the Boulevardiers.
“I’m sorry about your cat,” the Billionaire said.
“I loved that cat.” I gestured to the walls to indicate that we couldn’t afford a real child.
“Let me buy you a car,” the Billionaire said.
“We have a car.” It had two-hundred-and-thirty-thousand miles on it, but still, a car.
“Byron,” Chelsea said. “Please?”
Chelsea had a hard life. Two kids and no husband. I tried to give her breaks at the warehouse, but it was hard to play favorites with everyone busting their humps to make quota. She looked terrific in a designer dress he had given her that must have cost thousands.
“I want a boat,” I said.
“Byron,” Daisy said. “What about a promotion?”
She’d redone the hem on her dress to hide the fraying. She deserved nice things.
The Billionaire assessed me with his twisty little half-smile.
I gripped the paring knife hard and tried to look alpha. I’d brought Angel into the marriage. I cleaned the litter box. “I want a sailboat,” I said.
I remembered that boats involved moorage and upkeep. But I was sure as hell not going to back down.
“What color?” the Billionaire said.
I looked into the dog’s eyes, and he looked into mine, and it seemed like we were the same.
“Blue,” I said.
Robert P. Kaye's stories have appeared in Potomac Review, Hobart, Juked, Dr. T. J. Eckleburg Review, Beecher's, Per Contra, The Los Angeles Review, and elsewhere, with details available at www.RobertPKaye.com. He facilitates the Works in Progress open mic at Hugo House and is the co-founder of the Seattle Fiction Federation reading series.