Mom's Dalmatian Dog
A spotted thing, unruly as fuck. Always digging up the begonias, pissing on Dad's favorite chair. Dad didn't think much of the dog, and one day he either died or took off — who remembers — and Mom got the idea to dress up the dog in Dad's clothes. "Maybe," she reasoned, "if we treated the dog more human, he'd be more likely to behave."
She took it one step further. She decided to taste the kibble she was pouring into the dog's bowl. Taste it for herself, the way she did with Dad's supper. Not for reasons of poison, of course, but just to check if it's done. "Your father hates a fleshy steak," she always liked to say. Now, when she licked the kibble, she scrunched up her face. "Like a burnt-out tire," she said. From then on, steak every night for the dog.
Of course, I ate baloney sandwiches. Mom couldn't afford steak for me, too. She always treated me this way when Dad was around. After he wasn't, I thought things would change.
One morning, I woke up to see the dog dressed in Dad's denim shirt. "It covers the spots," Mom said, "which is bad, but it keeps him from getting sunburn." The dog was calming down. No more fouling the furniture, and Mom even taught him to nose up small pockets of soil where she could drop in begonia seeds. When the dog stepped back, obedient and proud, Mom booped him on the nose and cooed, "Looks like someone's looking for an extra helping of steak."
Soon, the dog was wearing Dad's berets and sitting upright in his armchair. She pulled out Dad's favorite Doc Martens and put them on the dog's front paws. "Too bad" she said, "that your father had only two feet." I asked Mom if she thought the dog ever missed his dog-ness. "You know, barking at strangers, that kind of thing." I said, "that could be hard to give up."
"I'll tell you this," Mom said, "I wish this dog were human," She said she wanted a husband who was willing to change for her the way the dog had. "I mean," she said, "someone who cared enough to make me happy."
Two months later, the dog was gone. Again, Mom couldn't say what happened. She stopped planting begonias, or any flowers for that matter, and tore up the ones she had planted with the dog which were now beginning to bloom. She just sat there on the damp dirt for what seemed forever, Dad's beret and denim shirt on the ground next to her and the empty Doc Martens, opened and untied as if waiting to see whatever could fill them next.
In the future, this is how women are made. Built in a factory. Maybe in Akron. Maybe in France.
They will be made from a blueprint. There will be focus groups to choose what goes into the perfect woman.
Someone in the focus group will raise a tentative hand. Isn't there a danger to building a woman from a blueprint? How will we tell them apart? What's to stop someone from sleeping with my wife and saying it was a natural mistake? That someone will be asked to leave the meeting. The rest of them will go to lunch.
After lunch, the rest of them will come back, breath soured with blue cheese or vodka. Very little will get done after that. The man who was asked to leave will slip back in unnoticed. Adjusted now, back to his blueprint self, and indistinguishable to the naked eye.
Francine Witte's poetry and flash fiction have appeared in Wigleaf, Mid-American Review, Lost Balloon, Stonecoast Review, Moon Candy Review and many others. Her latest books are "Dressed Wrong for All This," (Flash,) "The Theory of Flesh" (Poetry,) and "The Way of the Wind" (novella.) She lives in NYC.