Where are those dogs? she says, and I say, Where else. Upstairs, on the bed. This is your fault, she says, you were too permissive. Maybe, I say. But I seem to recall an incident involving red wine. I was just tired, she says, they took advantage. And where were you? Taking pictures, I say, and she says, Fink. We listen for the snoring of the one, the circling of the other, or spiraling, and the sighing, as if our bed were the most hopelessly uncomfortable place a dog had ever tried to sleep. In a few hours we’ll coax them onto their pillows with treats, wait for them to curl up, tuck them under their blankets, turn off the light, and mount the stairs, quietly. All this, even though we know that a few hours later, in the dead of night, they’ll arrive, bobbing their heads like draft horses, their blankets left snarled on the stairs. They’ll get between us, pry us apart with their crowbar legs and rabbit feet and hard little nails. They’ll get on top of our pillows, burrow under our sheets with their damp snouts and the stones of their heads, persistent as a seep, something our home should be insured against. Another fur-clad plague, a wind that bangs open shutters, snuffs candles. If somehow they manage not to wake us, we’ll find them there in the morning, sleeping the sleep of the innocent, even as they evict us from our bed, our dreams, our lives.
I think I hear them, she says, looking at the ceiling. I hold my breath, say, I think that’s the water heater, and she says, Maybe. We shouldn’t disturb them, I say, and she says, They’ve had a tough day. They work so hard. So, I say, eyeing the two round pillows on the floor. Which one do you want? She says, The bigger one, of course. So we race for it, tussle. We’re still tussling when the barking starts. Shhh, she says, they’ve heard us. We wait on the bigger of the two pillows for the pair of thumps, the scramble down the stairs, the clicking nails and jingling collars, the earnestness of their investigation. We’re both staring at the ceiling now, as though we could hear better that way. I have not let go of her wrists. I think the coast is clear, I whisper, and she whispers, They might have been barking in their sleep. It’s been known to happen, I say. Sonbarkulism. Sonruffulism, she corrects me, and I say, Ah. They’re herding us, she says. They dream we’re cattle, and the bed is a pasture. A prairie, I say. Prairies are for buffalo, she says, and I say, Not necessarily. There, she says. They’re done. They’ve had a tough day, I say, and she says, It’s true. They take so much on themselves. Everything, I say, everything. Slowly, I let go of her wrists. Okay, she says. It’s time for you to go on your pillow. C’mon. On your pillow. Now. Snuggle up. And I say, I am on my pillow. It’s time for you to go on your pillow. It’s only fair, I’m bigger. Might doesn’t make right, she says. We tussle again, shushing each other the whole time. I growl once or twice, and when she bites my thumb I howl softly and crawl over to the smaller pillow.
We’re observing each other like fledglings in adjacent nests when she says, You know, this really isn’t bad, and I say, Not at all. I had no idea how good they’ve got it. This is, like, the seat of power, she says. Can you feel it? Maybe the bigger pillow, I say, and she says, No, really. It’s like a, a throne. You could rule a kingdom from a pillow like this. Yeah? I say. Well. I feel like an alien in a flying saucer. I make whirring and laser-beam noises until she shushes me again, saying, You’ll wake them, they’ll come down, they’ll make us go upstairs, they’ll ruin everything. I hold my breath, waiting for the barking to begin again. When it doesn’t I say, We should do this more often. Once a week, at least. A sabbath, she says: And on the seventh day, they rested on their dogs’ beds. Or carnival, I say. We’ll make dog masks, and she says, And human masks for them. Make them walk on their hind legs. Bipedalism, I say, see how they like it. They don’t know how good they’ve got it, she says, and I say, If they did, we’d never get them off of these things. You’re comfortable, right? She nods. There’s just one problem. Just one? You’re so far away. You could drag your bed closer, she says, and I say, You could drag your bed closer. She pegs me with a dog toy, whump, and I say, Right in the kisser. Turn off the light, she says, and I say, Really? Yeah, turn it off. And then, in the dark: That’s better. What do they call the club for people who’ve fucked on their dogs’ beds? I say. The Canine Club? Is it kinky? Would it be considered a form of bestiality? She says, Don’t push your luck.
I reach out until I find her fingertips, say, You okay? She sighs, says, I think so, and I say, I think so, too. So. Are you ready to go upstairs? Ruin their little party? Bang pots and pans, flop down on top of them? She says, I don’t think so. Not yet. You’re right, I say, they’ll tear us to pieces, they’ll still be asleep dreaming of rabbits. Besides, they got there first. She says, It’s not that. I just don’t think I have the energy to climb those stairs. It’s been a tough day, I say. She says nothing. Then she says, with a painful eagerness I don’t recognize: Let them stay there. Just for tonight. I mean, we can sleep here, can’t we? Please? Sure, I say. Why not. Of course.
She has something else to say, I can feel it. And for a moment I’m sure what I feel are not her fingers, but rough, dollop pads with bristles of fur between them, and hard little nails. A foot, limp and small as a child’s, small enough that I could wrap my fingers all the way around it.
Hey, she says. Hear that? She is jubilant. And I, who can’t hear anything, say, Yes.