It took Hobkins an hour and a half to get home. He wasn’t sure where he was going, and went the wrong direction twice before he recognized a street name. A homeless man asked for spare change and Hobkins handed him his wallet. He passed a pink Beetle parked on the corner and he smashed its window. The color made him angry.

Hobkins remembered breaking the pool cue against the wall. The splintered half was sharp. A part of him wanted to swing at the guy, right on the back of the head, or stab him maybe. A squirrel ran in front of him, and he tried to kick it.

Rowdy was waiting at the door. Hobkins dropped onto the couch and threw the cushion over his head. Rowdy licked his wrists. He could hear two people having sex in the apartment above him.

“What’s wrong with me?” he said, throwing the cushion across the room.

Rowdy sat on his chest and licked his face.

“It’s over, bud,” Hobkins said.

He kissed the dog’s nose and gave him a pat on the head.

“Maybe I should just go back to Chicago.”

Rowdy moved closer to his chin. Hobkins put his arms around him and hugged.

“I don’t even know,” Hobkins said. “Guys like us got nothing to look ahead to.”

For a second he didn’t recognize his own voice. It sounded strange, foreign.

The people in the apartment above him were getting louder. He held Rowdy tightly, felt his fur against his arms and his cheek. Lynn was calling him, the phone buzzing on the table next to him. He mumbled and tried to turn his words into a song. He thought about Lynn and that look of fear she had, like he was a monster. He felt the warmth from Rowdy. He thought about driving in Chicago in the snow and what it would look like heading towards the lights instead of away. Lynn called again and the buzz sounded louder. He thought about that one game of Irish Mercy where he told kids to slap his head and how he was so stupid not to say it. The man having sex grunted as Rowdy whimpered and kicked him twice in the stomach. And he thought about the time Jess told him about the evil things back in Arizona.

“You ever get paranoid that someone you knew was one of those monsters?” Hobkins had asked her.

Rowdy was restless in his hug. He was thrashing around.

“If I did I wouldn’t be able to look at anyone the same way again,” she said.

Then he wasn’t thinking at all.


Michael WelchMichael Welch is the winner of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies’ Florence Kahn Memorial Award and the author of the upcoming chapbook, But Sometimes I Remember.