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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 12 page 21


He could never live with himself if he dared carry out the heinous act playing in his mind. He couldn't bear the thought of the guilt that would surely follow him if he did, a guilt screaming louder than the barking of the dog from above.

To subdue the sinister film playing behind shut eyes, he tries to focus solely on the dog itself, tries to understand why it is barking, why it chose that day of all days, that time of all times, to torment him. Suddenly, it comes to him, like a flash. The dog is not barking to aggravate him, the dog is crying for help. And he is not the only person burdened by the torturous sound, he is the only person lucky enough to hear the poor animal's pleas, the only person granted the opportunity to help it. Yes, of course, that had to be it.

His breathing settles down, his twitching subsides. He closes his eyes, a final test, and is rewarded with yet another vision, except this one does not involve him hurting the animal. This new vision involves him saving it. He opens his eyes. He is a good man, no question about it.

No longer incensed by the dog barking, he feels pity for the animal crying. He closes his eyes again, and continues watching the heartening movie playing in his mind. He sees the dog's face brighten at the sight of him, squirming in his cradling grasp, trying to get close to him. He sees the dog thrust its mouth toward him in an effort to lick his face, and he feels the appreciative warmth of the dog's breath.

He puts on a pair of shoes with holes in the front, walks to his door, opens it, stands in the hallway, leans against the staircase and peers up at the door of the apartment directly above. He climbs the stairs. When he reaches the apartment, he hears the pattering of paws darting toward the door, then he hears frantic scratching against the other side of the door. The barking stops, and is replaced by enthusiastic panting. He hadn't even freed the dog yet, and its cries ceased, just by virtue of his presence on this side of the door. He feels so confident, so good about his actions that he can't understand why he didn't think of this at the onset.

He jiggles the doorknob, but it doesn't open. The dog jumps against the other side of the door. It's so excited, so happy, and all because of him, all because of his drive to free it. He jiggles the doorknob again, more vigorously this time, but just as before, his effort is fruitless. He steps back, and the dog stops panting and once again starts barking, crying. He pleads with the dog, shouts at the animal, saying he is trying his best, that he wants nothing more than to help it stop crying. He grabs the doorknob again, and this time jostles and twists it with such power that with a violent snap the door bursts open.