Under August blue sky, on a shining, manicured, grass plaza, Mini watched a sweating, bloated, middle-aged man and his dog sitting on a thin blanket twenty meters away. The man was licking a blue-pink-swirl popsicle, holding it by the wooden stick. His dog was perked up in attention, fixated on the bright colors and the man’s lips. The man finished his lick and extended his arm towards the dog. The dog lapped up the juice dripping down the popsicle, melting from the sun and the man’s saliva. The man brought the popsicle back to his mouth, and took a few more slow licks. In this manner they took turns, ingesting the popsicle together, sharing sugar and saliva.
Later that day Mini was walking his dog home from the plaza under the droning sun. Droopy-eyes, he followed the tug of the dog on the leash. It pulled him towards pungent grass patches in the sidewalk and backwards to dogs that strolled behind. Mini heard a yell:
He widened his eyes and saw Minsuk (Minty), his college friend, leaning out a passenger window, rolling through the street he walked along.
“Is that your dog?”
Minty held his left hand out the window and formed it into a cup. He lifted his right wrist slightly above the cup, and formed pincers with his right fingers, as if using chopsticks in a small ceramic bowl. He mimed twirling the chopsticks around the bowl and lifting food from the bowl to his mouth.
“I’ll eat it!”
Minty rolled away cackling.
Perhaps like digestion, the trickeries of life dissolved that dog from Mini’s life. By fate he was now across the country, perched on a beach, kilometers from the end of a rattling subway line. It was summer again, four years later, and he sat on the coarse grey sand, tucking his toes behind his kneecaps and watching the endless blue lakefront horizon. Again his head and eyes drooped, and he felt like falling into a nap. The tangled heap of sun-stroked friends behind him, however, had a question for him:
“Would you eat a human for ten million dollars?”
The ten million registered in Mini’s head first.
and the bodies shook, gasped, and mumbled.
“That’s a human body! Aren’t you supposed to be vegan?”
“If I’m going for it, I’m going all the way. Y’all pay to eat a cow. I’m getting paid. I’d do it for ten thousand.”
Mini imagined helping his friend fix his tooth, buying his parents a nice meal, taking his partner on road trips and making all the stops they wanted.
“Bro already eats his knuckles. That’s probably why. That’s just the appetizer.”
“Mmmmm. Yesssss. Delicioussssssss.”
Mini’s first dog was a family dog. Mini was an eight-year old boy. His childhood memories are fractured and weathered, but he had images of this dog careening about the house, crashing and breaking things. Out of control, with legs like springs storing potential energy. Ballistic. The dog was a stray from just south of the border. Nobody in his family knew what to do with dogs. His parents were immigrants. Pop grew up in a country where dogs were rats. Nobody wanted to be near that dog’s tongue, licking its nose, anus, food, and paws. Mini felt scared of the creature and frequently confused. He never remembered fawning over doe-eyed little dogs or loyal big dogs as a child. He only knew the word “dog”. The same way he didn’t know anything but “rat” and “cow”.
One day Mini came home from school and the dog was gone. Mom said he ran off and bit a pregnant lady on the fingers so hard she had to get stitches. The lady threatened to sue our family unless they put it down. So mom drove him to the vet and they killed him.
Mini didn’t choose to have a dog in college. The trickeries of life brought one to him. In the first month he did everything he could to build some space between them. He put up a pen, so he wouldn’t have the dog in his bed. But the dog grew anxious, whining, and jumped out onto the bed. So Mini picked up the dog and placed him in the pen, and quickly grabbed a pile of old carboard boxes to make a lid. The dog cried and jumped and clawed until the lid fell off, hopped over the fence and crawled back into bed. So Mini placed the dog back inside and grabbed books to add weight to the lid. By three in the morning the dog was back in bed, Mini was asleep, and cardboard, books, and scotch tape were strewn about inside and around the perimeter of the pen.
Over the next two years the dog inched further up the bed, taking over more space and bedsheets. In the winter the dog pushed up between Mini’s thighs for warmth. One autumn evening Mini woke up with both arms wrapped around the dog, heads sharing a pillow.
Mini once lay snugly and warmly in the sun of a backyard he shared with a past partner. In the gooey glow he felt relaxed and happy. She said,
“My golden retriever boy.”
“What does that mean?”
“You’re just happy, you would do anything as long as I’m there.”
Deceived and disoriented by the trickeries of life, he smiled.
The dog started eating raw foods, per a friend’s recommendation. The food came in a thick, crackling plastic bag. Inside were eight servings of frozen raw meat. Mini didn’t know what the mystery animal was. Every day a packet had to be thawed and split into breakfast and dinner. He never forgot to move the packet from the freezer to the fridge, and sometimes it was his chore to split the meat in two. The meat would be wet and soft – cold thawed flesh. While he prepared the meals, the dog would jump on his leg and dig in his nails. Mini would stop and turn his back to untrain the behavior. When the food was ready, Mini would make him sit, and when Mini placed the dish on the ground and released the command, the dog would instantaneously burst forth and bury his face in the dead cow, pig, or chicken, and the fats would coagulate on the whiskers by his snout and make it sticky, or the blood would dribble to the hair below his mouth and dry off to become crunchy.
One time Mini was asked:
“Would you die for him?”
In the time of this dog, Mini’s brother told him that some scientists in England classified what species are sentient and non-sentient, with a cut-off line somewhere between shark and lobster and clam. In his room Mini wondered what that meant. If he could eat plants, could he eat a mussel? He thought of his dog, and asked why he couldn’t be eaten; like a grape, a cricket, a cow?
Mini wondered why no human would eat his own body. If he died on a field, surely hyenas or vultures would find him. If he died in the sea, surely the tiger sharks or a school of fish would consume his flesh, and the seafloor detritus feeders would dissolve his hair, skin, and nails.
But no human would slice off his tender belly-fat, to sear on a barbeque with chimichurri sauce. He wouldn’t be packaged into eight servings of organic raw dog meat. He wondered how many serving he might be. He wondered if all his flesh would be in the same few packets, or if it all gets scrambled up, so many humans can be traced to one thick crinkling plastic zip-locked bag.
And if they wanted his meat healthy, he couldn’t die from disease or old age. So he wondered how they would kill him, if he would die under the eye of a human or a machine.
He wondered why cow taste good to human. Cow to dog. If dog taste good to human. Human to dog. Human to human. Dog to dog.
At the house of a friend of a friend, the friend of the friend learned of Mini’s mixed race and proclaimed:
“So you’re a mutt!”
She had a scruffy dog, perhaps mixed-race. The dog was known for getting lost and bathing in mud, for barking, for soliciting pity, and for sometimes playing too rough.
Memories rumbled around his subconscious from time to time. Memories attached to middle school boyhood. He once explained to his classmate what it meant to be vegetarian. When it finally clicked his classmate said:
“SO YOU’VE NEVER TRIED BACON?!”
“Never tried bacon.”
“That’s so sad! You have to try it. When you’re sleeping I’m going to shove it down your throat.”
One time his friend Kya offered him a hot dog at lunch.
“Sorry, I’m vegetarian.”
“This is vegetarian, my mom’s vegetarian and she always packs me this shit.”
Mini took the sausage and ate it. His stomach was tense and anxious, but he was pretty sure it tasted like the tofu dogs he ate at home.
Image: Francisco Goya, The Dog. Circa 1819–1823, Oil mural on plaster transferred to canvas. Museo del Prado, Madrid