Dogs

by Maria Brandt

Everyone else went to a club while they stayed behind in the rented U-Haul under the trees. “What do you want to do?” June asked.

“I don’t know,” Anthony said and looked down at the cracked floor. “Let’s go somewhere.”

They walked outside and sat in the grass. She could hear crickets and dogs barking and could still smell the wood burning from a campfire earlier in the night. She knew he sat close though she wasn’t looking at him, she was afraid to look at him.

A light glowed through the window of the trailer next to theirs. She wondered who was inside, maybe a family with small children, maybe an older man watching television by himself, maybe a couple of teenagers like them, terrified and excited for what the night might offer. The door opened and a woman stumbled down the steps. “Hey!” the woman called. “What are you two looking at?”

Anthony stood and June followed, holding his hand tightly. “We’re just sitting here,” he said.

“Don’t just sit there, come on in,” the woman called and stumbled back up, leaving the door open. He turned to June and she nodded. They followed the woman inside.

A man sat at a table with a half-finished bottle of vodka. “Where’s the dog?” he growled.

“We’ve got company,” the woman said.

“So? Where’s the dog?”

“He’s up my ass, you wanna see?” She lifted her skirt and backed into his face. He smacked her and laughed, then poured another drink. “Well,” the woman said, “you kids wanna play some cards?”

Anthony pulled out a chair and June sat, face flushed with anticipation. She felt dangerous and alive, and she knew he did too. The woman took out a pack of red-diamoned cards and started dealing. “You ever play gin?”

“Sure,” Anthony said and winked at June. Her face flushed again.

“How about a smoke?” the man asked.

“Yeah,” June said and took the cigarette he offered. He poured her a glass of vodka and she drank it straight. Anthony held her hand under the table, then his hand moved to her knee, then slowly up her thigh. She pressed her fingers over his knuckles so he couldn’t go any farther. The woman saw what was happening and raised her eyebrows, then wiggled her torso and smiled.

“Where’s that dog?” the man said again, and the woman sat on his lap and kissed him deeply while Anthony tried to free his hand.

Later that night, after three games of gin and four glasses of vodka, before everyone else came home from the club, Anthony climbed on top of June in the U-Haul. He took off her underwear and she let him. He tried to push himself inside her but didn’t quite know how. She laughed a little and cried a little too. She felt how hard he was, then gasped with the pain. When he rolled over and held her and whispered something she couldn’t hear, she closed her eyes and thought about all the dogs that had stopped barking and the quiet that would settle into the trees before morning.

Maria Brandt teaches Creative Writing at Monroe Community College in Rochester, NY, where she lives with her son. Her plays have been finalists in NYC, Boston, Buffalo, DC, and London; read in LA, Valdez, Fort Lauderdale, and Rochester; performed in Boston, NYC, and Rochester; and published by InDigest, Shark Reef, and Chamber Four. Maria also has published short fiction with Rock & Sling, Arts & Letters, upstreet, and The Lindenwood Review. Her novella All the Words won the 2014 Grassic Short Fiction Prize and will be published by Evening Street Press later this year, and her collection NY Plays will be published by Heartland Plays. Maria currently is editing her friend Pam Mills’ forthcoming posthumous memoir Kamastone with Jaded Ibis Press, and she is a founding member of Straw Mat Writers, with whom she co-authored FourPlay for the 2014 First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Dogs”?

    The summer before my junior year in college, I camped in a U-Haul with high-school friends on the eastern end of Long Island. One night, after everyone else left the park to go to a club, the two of us who stayed behind were invited into a neighboring trailer, and we both caught a glimpse of aspects of adult life we never knew existed. This story re-imagines that night.
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