Ed brushed his teeth one at a time. Ed counted the hairs on his head. Ed was a very peculiar man. His fingernails were never filthy. If any dirt clung to him at all, he would emit a high pitch (almost supersonic) whine until he removed it. His mirror at home was marked with a grid so that he could map out portions of his body. He drew footprints on his bathmat so that when he looked in the mirror, he was always the same distance. His face fell in quadrants C-4, C-5, D-4, D-5 and if he stood sideways, and his belly touched G7, he knew he had gained weight.
Ed was happy with the way he was and didn't want to change a thing. But one day, a dog showed up on his doorstep. It had been raining, and the dog was obviously a stray who rolled in the mud before taking refuge in the shelter of Ed's doorway. When Ed opened the door, he nearly stepped on it. His shiney black shoes were four inches from being thrown away. The dog looked up at Ed and wagged its tail. He made no attempt to move. Ed closed the door and waited. Five minutes passed, then ten minutes. He opened the door a crack and peeked out. The dog was still there. He closed it again.
Now that he was ten minutes late, he missed walking past Mr. Gardblox, the florist opening up his shop. He would have sprayed the sidewalk down by now and Ed would have to cross the street to avoid getting his shoes wet. The coffee shop customers would have changed by now. The black man in the suit who always got a mocha would already be on his way out, and the blond with the big teeth would be annoying someone else today with her comments on the weather.
Ed peeked out again. The dog is still there. He walked over to the phone and picked up the receiver. Before he dialed, he realized that he didn't really know how to tell his boss that he would be late because a homeless dirty dog is blocking his door. He put the phone down. His wrinkled forehead began to sweat. Rationality must have left for work without him because he started talking to himself.
"It's just a dog. Just tell it to shoo."
He opened the door a little and whispered the word "shoo." The dog didn't move. He closed it again.
"Think Mr. Brown, think."
He always referred to himself formally. Only his neighbor called him Ed, and he only found out because the mailman misdelivered a bank statement once.
"You are smarter than a dog. How to we get that dog to move?"
His idea came slowly, like the lights turning on in a theater at the closing credits. He would have to sacrifice dinner. He walked over to the fridge and took out a piece of raw red meat. He held it at arms length, and with his other hand, held a bowl under it so it wouldn't drip. His hands being occupied, he had great difficulty with the door but finally opened it enough to hold the meat dripping over the dirty dog. The dog stood up, and with a flick of the wrist, Ed tossed the piece of meet about four feet away. The dog went after it immediately. The smeared mud on the door step made Ed's stomach churn. Ed returned to the kitchen to wash his hands in the custom of surgeons.
Five minutes later, Ed opened the door to leave but the dog was back. Instead of lying in the way, it was sitting instead. His tongue was hanging out and his tail wagging. His brown eyes were eyeing the briefcase that Ed was carrying. Ed froze a second too long and the dog tried to come in the house. Ed shut the door quick, but not before the dog touched Ed's leg.
From Ed's reaction to the mud on his pants, you would have thought he was shot. He screamed and wiggled out of them right there in his living room. A shower was in order.
As the steaming hot water ran rained down on him, Ed scrubbed himself with a brillo pad until his skin turned red. This dog was going to make him lose his job. He redressed in clean clothes and picked up the phone again. This time, he was turning the dog in.
The emergency operator admonished him for using 911 for such a call, but would call animal control anyways.
Ed peeked out from behind his curtains as animal control came and knocked on his door.
"You call about a dog?" The name Grant was embroidered into the man's overalls. He was just as shaggy as the dog and almost as muddy. If Ed didn't see the dog there before, he would have thought that Grant left the mud mess on the door step. The dog was gone.
After dismissing animal control, Ed made an amazing leap over the mud spot. Once on the other side, he walked around the house to the hose and, wearing his special hose gloves, he hosed off the front stoop. Reasoning that it would dry by the time he got home, he put the hose away and walked to work, all the while trying to figure out how he was going to explain this to his boss.
At the corner, as was his custom, he looked both ways and over his shoulder to make sure that no cars were coming up behind him to turn right and smash him into smithereens, his eye caught something brown and muddy walking his way. The dog was following him!
He was planning on skipping the coffee, but ducked inside the coffee shop anyway and closed the glass door behind him. The dog just sat outside and stared at him. For some reason, the people walking by seemed to take no notice of the dog and walked right by him. The barrista, Paige, just started making his drink.
"A little late today?" She asked with her usual smile.
"Yes." Ed looked down when he talked. He always looked down when he talked. He couldn't hold his head up and form words at the same time. "All on account of the dog."
"Oh, you have a dog?" Paige smiled, but Ed didn't see it since his head was still down.
"Oh heaven's no. That dog out there." Ed pointed a shaky finger at the door. Paige looked confused.
"What dog?" Ed pointed. The dog smiled. Paige lifted her shoulders.
"I don't see a dog."
Ed's eyes got wide and he looked up at Paige. "You don't?"
"Nope." Paige handed Ed his normal black decaf coffee with three creamers on the side. Ed liked to add it himself because he didn't like the cream that was on the bottom of the little cup. Ed didn't like other people touching anything he was going to consume. The only exception was Paige. Ed never figured out why. "Well," Paige said. "It seems to me like you might be late for work."
"Yes, I am." Ed realized. He wondered if there was a back door. He was frozen in the coffee shop.
Suddenly, the dog got up and walked through the door. All of the people in the coffee shop and on the street stopped where they were and stared at Ed. He hardly noticed. He just started at the dog. The dog sat in front of him and waited.
"Touch the dog." Paige said from behind the counter.
"I can't" Ed said.
"Touch the dog." She repeated.
Shaking with fear, Ed reached out his hand and inched it slowly towards the dogs head. The hairs on the back of his neck were all standing up. His coffee in his other hand was shaking so much it was spilling on Ed's pants, but he didn't even notice. Sweat dripped off his eyebrows. His teeth chattered. All of his attention was on the hand that was slowly moving towards the dogs head.
The mud and hair felt cold between his fingers, but only for a second. A flash of light burst forth and Ed jumped out of bed. Dirty clothes were strewn all over the floor in an effort to hide the carpet from the musky air. Last night's dinner was sitting out on the bookshelf where he had placed it and cups half full of soda were on every surface.
Ed went to the bathroom and left the door open. He wiped the grease off the mirror and peered at his own bloodshot eyes. He turned the sink on and ran his head under the stream for a few seconds before rummaging through the piles of clothes to find a stained t-shirt and ragged jeans. He smelled the milk before pouring his cereal and scratched himself while yawning. His hair looked as if it were trying to escape from his head, but was anchored on at the root as if chained for a uncommitted crime. The cereal poured out in a fine dust of crumbs. Ed opened the front door to go to the store, but there was a dog in his way. It was lying in the doorstep. Pure white and crystal clean. It had a collar and a tag, and as Ed bent down to pet it and look at the tag, he reeled back. Both his name and phone number were on the tag.
Ed jumped up out of bed. It had all been a dream. He got up, showered, brushed, put on his uniform, and left to go battle the space aliens.
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