a short fiction by Harry Mathews
Late in the summer of my eleventh year, I decided to butcher our neighbors’ Afghan hound. One afternoon I went out to stalk him as he prowled around backyards, hoping to lure him with a red plastic bowl full of sugared water that had been laced with poison. I caught up with him just when he’d soiled our very own cosmos patch, an event that was actually a bright spot in the proceedings because it justified them. He wasn’t a mean dog, or a bright dog, just a soiler. Hence my longing to butcher him. There was another reason. He not only soiled sidewalks and gardens: he embarrassed me again and again with his great stalk of a penis. It was as though he waited till I was near him to start making water, he would lift his leg and brandish his dong as if it were some kind of lure, a lure meant for me, when it was anything but a lure, it made me blush and squirm and yearn to dissolve in the bright summer haze.
I was standing there, after setting down the bowl of water in the dog’s general vicinity, when the butcher, who was passing by, stopped and looked at me. He had a stalk of alfalfa in his teeth, a stalk quivering green against the red and white of his soiled smock. I suddenly felt hungry looking at that smock soiled with the blood of pigs and beeves, something that I knew shouldn’t normally lure a boy like me. The butcher, chewing on his stalk, asked me what I was doing. “You don’t look exactly bright standing there like some kind of drooping asshole.”
I turned to the butcher and indicated the nosing dog, now approaching the red bowl of water. I said, “You got any idea what’s in that bowl of water? Sugar and rat poison.”
The butcher glanced around. Did he notice our soiled flower bed? In any case, when I asked him, “By the way, how do you butcher a big dog like him?,” it was as though a lure of spellbinding fascination had risen before the butcher’s eyes. His gaze grew almost frighteningly bright, his mouth opened and the spittle-spotted stalk of alfalfa started sliding down his smock. I pointed this out to him. “The stalk - “
“Fuck the stalk, sonny. First thing we gotta do is get rid of that water. No way to eat the fella if his meat’s all soiled with rat stuff. I’ll go fetch a nice bone, we’ll lure him over with that, I’ll get an icepick to fix his brain, then we can butcher him together. I’m no slouch as a dog-butcher, believe me. I’ve stalked dachshunds in Central Park in my time. With a turd for lure.”
I started making water in my pants. Even my socks were soiled. I’d never guessed the butcher was so bright.