Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Diligence

This story first appeared (as in I put it there) on Polite Fictions in slightly less edited form.


dancers

The dog entered on the south east end of the Experience just as the evening show was starting overhead. Little knots of people, t-shirts clinging to their shoulders and love handles, gazed up at the LED lights, not noticing the dog as it slipped between them, tacking back and forth up the Strip.

Darryl caught the dog on monitor 05 as it crossed into the camera's field of view. The dog had its eyes on the people, alert for danger, watching the families - for someone it recognized, maybe, or just on the lookout to avoid potential threats. Children, adults, all unpredictable.

Check this out, Darryl said. Aaron swung his chair around and they watched the dog together, a wolfhound from the size of it. Something big and rangy, with a long carbine barrel of a snout and tongues of grey fur streaming from its legs.

You think it's one of those dogs from the news? Aaron wondered. Darryl knew what he meant, had seen the stories about the animal shelters filling up with dogs from foreclosed and abandoned houses. Some people walk away from the mortgage and they just leave the dogs and cats behind. Assholes, thought Darryl, although he also knew that sometimes a person got tossed out by the bailiff and the pets were left to roam the neighborhoods. Sometimes your life broke and your dog is one of its pieces. Nothing to be done about it, but sometimes the animals were a problem. This was the first he'd seen it with his own eyes. Better call the cops, Aaron said.

Darryl nodded, but what he really wanted to say was Let's hold on. Hold on just a second. For what, he wasn't sure. For the dog to score its way through the grid of monitors as it made its way up the block? For a child to reach out and pet some lost animal with crazy marbles for eyes? Maybe just to see where that dog thought he was going.

The dog zagged out of monitor 05. Darryl switched his eyes to monitor 08 just seconds before it trotted into view and halted in front of a woman in a motorized chair. The dog skirted a wide crescent around the woman, who barely acknowledged the animal beyond a glance as she motored on. She thumbed the joystick on the armrest, and the chair picked up speed and moved off, bound for monitor 07.

The cameras implanted along the edges of the Fremont Street Experience captured everything that happened on the street below. All the people who stopped to watch the LED light show with its resolving and dissolving images of guitars and chorus girls, or sat at a bench and gazed at nothing, with the interior gaze of the disastrously broke, or just ignored the show altogether and passed along, scalps and shoulders dimpled with points of light. The camera collected them all. The ones who didn't bother to look up had somewhere to go, except there was nowhere in particular to go in this part of town. A hotel room, a casino, a few bars, a Walgreen's off the strip. Sometimes Darryl caught his father wobbling along the street, clutching a plastic yard of neon-tinted booze, on his way from a bar to a casino or back again, throwing Darryl's mother's money away in smaller and larger chunks, peeling off the whole family's future, one binge at a time.

Darryl hoped that his dad would be walking down the Strip at that very moment. Darryl hoped that he would find the dog and take him home, and maybe the dog would keep him there, keep him from straying back out to the Experience. But no, that wouldn't work, Darryl's dad had been keeping all kinds of places, motel rooms here and there, apartments belonging to various women who worked at Nevada's or the Palace or wherever. He lived in between: jobs, houses, women, families too probably. One day he'd die in between, and his body would be divided between all his lives. But putting that pisser in the ground: that job, Darryl knew, would be handed off to him.

Darryl switched his attention back to the dog. A man was petting the animal, and for an embarrassing instant Darryl thought it really was his father. The cracked red corona of skull with white hair flaring and then dripping down the skull, the reddened shelf of forehead and the belly bulging out against a plain white shirt - it was all dad's. But the man was almost certainly a tourist - just something about the way he was taking in the sights. Just the way he looked at things told Darryl everything he needed to know. Darryl switched to a camera directly overhead and swiveled the joystick clockwise, zooming in on that sunburned bald spot, closer and closer until it seemed that he was almost touching the top of the man's skull.

Sometimes Darryl felt that boring in this close to the surface would let him in, to what was beneath the surface, as if an approach so smooth and invisible could actually penetrate. In those moments he felt - believed, even - that he could see with the eyes of the people he watched: that tourist petting the dog and smiling at it, the dog looking back, ceasing for a moment from darting its gaze back and forth, for a moment relaxing into the man's affections, believing briefly that it might be close to home. Go on then, Darryl thought as he picked up the phone, go on and take that dog home.

2 comments:

You can call me, 'Sir' said...

Very well done.

Maggie May said...

Just yesterday my eight year old daughter Lola asked me what my least favorite name for a man was. I said ' Daryl. '