THIRTY-FOUR, 2.0

Albert bent over, adjusted the bag at his belt, flicked on his flashlight, and started to crawl under the porch. The smell was unbearable, and Cori would soon be home. Then the yelling would continue. Better to attack the problem head-on, just like his dad used to do.

But Albert was not his father, and would likely let whatever was causing the smell to continue to lay dormant. As he crawled through the dirt, Albert found various toys that the neighbor’s dog left behind over the years, as well as newer “gifts” the dog had probably been relieved to leave.

He didn’t care. The smell was getting to him, again, interrupting the peace and quiet of late. He hoped it wasn’t the neighbor’s dog itself. But a small part of him, a part he couldn’t quite place, wished it was.

That dog.

Ever since they’d moved in, Cori had felt a sense of darkness whenever that dog would pop by. Albert liked to sneak snacks to the dog, and once in a while would take it for a walk whenever the neighbors were gone. But in truth he didn’t even know its name.

He didn’t care. It was a dog, and he loved it. To Cori, it ate and pooped and wrestled rubber toys, because that’s what dogs do. Albert knew that, Cori knew that, even the DOG knew that. What else did she want from it?

His flashlight flickered off then on, off then on. Yet another item in the house for which he’d forgotten to replace the batteries. Just like their smoke detector, just like their TV remote, just like the alarm clock.

Without the alarm clock, ALbert didn’t wake up on time, and Cori didn’t wake up on time. She was always late to work, thanks to Albert. But she never wanted to fix things herself, that’s the trouble with their marriage. Albert was fine, taking a backseat role, allowing her to be the breadwinner.

Twenty-first Century, right? And time moved forward, he was a homebody anyway, didn’t like company, absolutely hated the neighbors. And that DOG! He could hear the barking now, gnawing at the back of his mind, and as he kept crawling further under the porch, towards the house, the barks morphed with shouts from his wife.

“Fix this, do that, why’d you let this go, why’d you let that go, why do I do all of the work, get away from the damn dog, earn some money!” Her voice, so scratching, like metal on metal, worse than the bark of a dog.

He looked back, saw the neighbor’s dog at the edge of the porch, tail wagging, mouth open in playfulness. Albert even let out a smile, before turning to peek under the house and make sure to leave the air freshener next to Cori’s body.

Soon it would decompose fully, and the smell would raise the neighbor’s awareness, but for now he could finally play with the nameless dog without his wife’s nagging him to stop.

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