Dog Boy Takes the Week Off

Dog Boy Jenkins, having known for quite some time that he didn’t like the idea of spending his whole life working, didn’t do anything about it until the day after his 33rd birthday. His co-workers had thrown him a big party the night before (like most people, Dog Boy’s friends were his co-workers; he didn’t like them very much but it was difficult to cultivate new ones) and he had had a lot to drink, as had everyone. He liked to drink and he liked to drink a lot. He passed out at around 2:30 AM and awoke six hours later to find his house unpopulated, cluttered and reeking of malt liquor. The television was on and every channel was repeating news of some hurricane in the south. Dog Boy Jenkins was supposed to be at work in 22 hours, but he decided he would take the week off instead.

Dog Boy Jenkins’ first name was Keith, but no one had called him that for many years. His parents were both dead and maybe if he’d had a wife she’d have called him Keith but he didn’t even have a girlfriend. The nickname originated in grade school. A greasy, malevolent child who was a de facto bully due to rank fatness and a seeming inability to touch people without knocking them over had tagged him thus in reference to Keith’s canine grin, yelping laugh and habit of snarling when angry or threatened. From there, the nickname spread like a virulent contagion: he never used it himself, but schoolmates who followed him into junior high carried the virus. From hated high school he joined the service and was untainted by the name until a stint in the Middle East, where the navigator on his tank crew turned out to be a teammate from his awful Pop Warner team, and soon everyone from the cookie to the CO was calling him Dog Boy. A standard four-year tour of duty, a slip of shrapnel in his right shoulder, and ever-increasing amounts of alcohol and dissatisfaction later, he was back in Chicago to work in a car mall as an electronics jockey, fixing minor switching problems in cars he could never hope to afford.

Over a year passed with no mention of the hated name, but who eventually came in with a routing error in the suspension system of a garishly outfitted Lexus but his Fort Leonard Wood bunkmate, newly rich from a frivolous lawsuit. A brief back-slapping reunion in front of his co-workers and he was Dog Boy Jenkins once again. Eight years later and he had even come to think of himself that way; he even introduced himself as such. “Keith” was now a foreign-sounding artifice he only used when filing official documents. At his 33rd birthday party someone gave him a novelty vanity plate for his junked-out GM beater that read “DOGBOY” but he thought it was stupid, and one of the first things he did on waking up was to throw it away. He hated vanity plates.

He spent the first part of the day in bed, getting up every now and then to take in water and get rid of it again, stretching and turning, staring at the bedroom door or the ceiling, finding himself short of even the barest willpower needed to leave his house. When he finally got up he wandered onto the front porch to pick up his newspaper, but after reading the headlines he decided he was better off in bed. He checked his mailbox automatically, even though he knew it was Sunday. Having already decided he was going to take the week off, he spent much of the day in a sort of low-grade worrying haze, rehearsing excuse-laden conversations in his head, constantly refining and perfecting his story. He ate some scrambled eggs, watched television, read some old letters from an ex-girlfriend he found in a closet, and took a long hot shower, all the while going over the discussion that would take place when he called in sick the next morning. He found himself actually wishing that Monday would come as quickly as possible so he could get it over with and enjoy the week. In this way, he thought, work dominates your life even when you aren’t doing it. Finally after his shower he picked up the phone and decided to call in early. It was 7:34 PM. He got the answering service.

“Uh, I’m not gonna come in tomorrow,” he said. “I quit.” Dog Boy looked at the ceiling as if in deep concentration, gathering the strength to continue.

“Fuck all y’all,” he spat. “I don’t like none of you. Don’t try and call me either.” He hung up the phone and as an afterthought, made an obscene gesture symbolizing male masturbation.

“Please do not use me as a reference,” he giggled dementedly, his voice falling into that doglike bark. In a show of commitment to his decision, he hauled a flat, black 9mm automatic pistol out of his closet and shot the phone. It took him three tries but it was worth it to see it shatter into a billion fragments of plastic.  He shot the TV as well. If he had stopped to think about what he was doing, he wouldn’t have gone through with it at all. Who would?

But he didn’t think about it, and so he stuffed a box of ammunition into his jeans pockets and went out into the garage. He stuffed a few rags under the garage door and fired up the car, expecting to suffocate on the fumes within a few minutes. When he did not, he realized that he had no notion of how the process even worked, and besides, he had a gun.  He reacted with the sort of extreme annoyance and anger that always accompanies having done something laughably foolish, so he climbed out of the back seat emptied the remainder of the clip into his car. The sound of the pistol discharging in the confines of the garage temporarily deafened him.

He let the empty clip drop from the pistol and sat on a pile of newspapers, loading in a new one. His head felt like a church bell clapper. It was at this point that he very nearly shot himself, but he noticed an article in a grease-stained old copy of Time magazine about the opulent, hemmed-off estates of the very rich in southern California.

“I’d like to live in one of those houses with a private beach,” he said out loud, unable to hear himself. “That’d be cool.”

He sat in the garage until 3:18 AM Monday morning, doing nothing more than reading old copies of Sports Illustrated, Time and Motor Trend. Then he went back inside and got a road atlas, a bottle of drugstore vodka, a baseball cap, a small tool kit, an old Korean camera with no film in it that he thought might be broken, and a blue windbreaker that read “Mechanics Local 701 Bowling All-Stars” across the back. He put the cap on and the rest he tossed into a Chicago bulls gym bag. Then he set fire to his house and walked off into the night.

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