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  • King of the World
  • Dawn S. Davies (bio)

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[End Page 164]

You are being romanced by William Wallace, the real one, not the blue-faced, thick-fingered, pre-nutjob Mel Gibson version, while you lie sleeping next to your snoring husband in real life. That kilt, those thick, dirty thighs, all that bushy chest hair, the crust of Scottish sweat dried over older layers of Scottish sweat, smelling of bog moss and political passion. He grabs you by the hair and stretches your neck taut and you wake up at civil dawn, the boulders of the Highlands disappearing into Ikea curtains and coordinated wall art from Marshalls Home Goods, Your seven-year-old is standing at the side of your bed with paths of tears coursing down her cheeks and a mutilated hamster in her soft, cupped hands. [End Page 165]

“You left my bedroom door open again,” she says.

Damn that stinking cairn terrier. He bided his time until you were all asleep, didn’t he, waiting for a still night, driven nearly mad by the daily smell of the cedar bedding in the dark or the little turds of buried poo or the hamster snatch he could smell from as far away as the laundry room he was locked in while the girls played with the fuzzy hors d’oeuvre. He waited until the Labrador was asleep so he could enjoy the carnage alone, after watching the girls’ half-cracked bedroom door that you left open when you went in to check on them in the middle of the night, waiting until the nearly oppressive presunrise hours when the birds were still dreaming on their perches, while he knew you were all deep into your REM, to slink along the walls of the living room and slip into the bedroom, climb upon the hope chest, leap onto the dresser and knock the Habitrail to the ground, releasing the hamster to run for its life before he made a sport of it. The cairn didn’t have the decency to consume the animal but left it with neck bent and broken in a tiny patch of dark blood, eyes dull and empty, for your daughters to find.

“This is the worst day ever,” this daughter says to you through her tears, through her deep sorrow, while you sit up and take the hamster from her, wrapping it in the bottom of your nightie. That is the first hamster the cairn gets to. There will be four more.

Rocky weighed in at fifteen pounds. All work, no play. He hated fetch, he hated chasing or being chased, he hated tug-of-war and disdained any kind of toy unless it was stuffed with peanut butter for him to eat. He regularly patrolled the perimeter of our property, keeping out stray lizards, flying birds, crooked crabs, canal ducks, neighborhood cats and other creatures, real or imagined. His greatest foes were the fish that leaped for their lives in the canal, tempting him with loud smacks of their fat white bellies against the water to jump in after them, though he would never voluntarily go into water of any sort. He would stand at the sea wall and retch at the fish with all his might, his back legs pointing out rigidly behind him, his anus winking in and out with each bark, afraid to take a false step lest he splash into the brackish water and melt like grubby sugar. Yet when we threw the double kayak down, he would beg to go with us for a ride. We lifted him over the seawall and into the boat, where he positioned himself at the pointed bow, legs locked, standing in silence and leading with his nose—the king of the world. [End Page 166]

At dark he snapped through the dog door, called to midnight sentry duty by the whispers of tree frogs, the sniffling of possums and raccoons on the other side of the fence no one dared cross. He barked at the glinting stars in the night sky that perhaps, to him, were the eyes of his foes, foes that never blinked...


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pp. 164-182
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