by Amy Rossi
In this neighborhood, everyone has a dog and no one is prepared for it. The dogs are never seen, like the first wife in a Victorian novel. They don’t have to be seen to be real and everywhere. The same walls that are supposed to push the heat outside let the sound of the dogs’ discontent in. And the cold in the winter. It may seem like winter can’t touch this place but when your olive oil freezes or when the foam of your mattress hardens against memory, it becomes clear that winter has a different sort of power here. The dogs do not distinguish between a hot day or a cold one, between sun or the kind of torrential downpour that would be the storm of the century in any other state. All day they bark, one setting off the other in a domino of discord and just when you think you’ve become accustomed to the sound, it stops. The most satisfying feeling in the world isn’t pleasure but the abatement of pain. It’s not a silence you can trust. The moment you lower your defenses and your shoulders, the barking begins again, louder, more insistent. And it is not the noise or the persistence that gets you but the fact that you are home for it, here for it, and while all the people who got dogs even though they were not home enough to tend to the dogs are out doing whatever it is that keeps them away for so long, you are inside, expecting one day you will wake up and your life will be different and you will be the kind of person who is needed for ten, eleven, twelve hours at a stretch, a person with a purpose, but not today, you’re not, it is just you and the dogs and you could scream for hours too.
I lived in Louisiana for three years. It is truly unlike anywhere else I've been, where you brush your teeth before bed while ignoring the sound of a Rottweiler-sized cockroach having a party behind the shower curtain and wake up with a two-foot long vine sprouted through your window. Sometimes crawfish boil spice sang on my lips. Sometimes we mixed cocktails for pre-noon parades. Sometimes running a simple errand was measured against a football schedule. Sometimes—more than some- times—I'd step outside and it would smell like boiling brussels sprouts. And also: the dogs. I've been gone for well over a year now, and this is my first real Louisiana story.
Amy Rossi is the managing editor of Split Lip Magazine. Her fiction has recently appeared in CHEAP POP, Third Point Press, and Jellyfish Review. You can find more of her work, as well as her hair metal blog, at amyrossi.com, and you can find her in a room by quoting Road House.