(originally published The Big Book of Bizarro, Burning Bush Publishing, 2011)
He had done so many cruel things in his life, compulsively, unable to control himself even as he knew that in lashing out he was only making things worse for himself. A wife pushed away, a child who detested him with good reason, jobs lost, a year in prison for pointless violence. And all the time hating himself. He wasn’t a monster. Not really. So when he opened his front door and found the beagle pup sitting there, he looked around for an owner, gave it a bowl of water, and later that afternoon walked the neighborhood looking for “Lost Dog” signs. That night, he fed the pup some scraps.
He worked at home, buying and selling on-line, and as he worked that evening, he was struck by how the pup settled so comfortably into its new home. Home? He corrected himself – not home, temporary surroundings.
The next day, he made up a few “Dog Found” flyers and taped them to lamp posts and trees as he made his way to the market, where he bought dog food. A few days later, he started calling the dog by a name, “Bugsy” as in “Bugsy the Beagle”.
He’d never had a pet before, never been completely and solely responsible for any living thing before, had never had such control, such responsibility. If he failed at this…
He took Bugsy with him almost everywhere he went. On his little sloop, his weekend pleasure boat, when the weather suddenly kicked up and Bugsy was knocked from his feet by the pitch of the boat and still looked at him with complete trust, he grabbed his dog and held him tight. Then, when the weather calmed, he held Bugsy over the side and let go.
The water was so cold that the strength was instantly drained from his arms and his legs, he was completely helpless, but he could see, see clearly the look on his face back on the boat, twisted in agony, a groan of loss and horror and self-loathing.
And then the numbing cold gave way to warmth. He could still see himself in the boat and he wanted to shout out, “You are forgiven, forgiven, forgiven.”