It’s day eight of the hostage situation—and I’m the hostage. Well, not exactly, since I could probably leave, but I don’t try. It’s better that I stay with her. From time to time I race to the kitchen and have a sip of water and a few of the Cheerios she left on the table to keep me alive before going back—it’s not like I can go to the corner store. Still, I manage pee and other—you know, other stuff. So, I’m a hostage, right?

 

#

 

Day three of the hostage situation. Sorry, day ten. Three goes before eight, while ten comes after it. I’ve never been good at numbers. Words either. I understand a not-very-huge-number of them. A hundred, I think is what they call it. Anyway, two nights have passed and she’s still in the living room, on our sofa, under our blanket, and I’m with her. Not that I mind about the blanket, but the TV’s off and I’m bored.

 

#

 

Ran out of Cheerios. She’s not eating, but I’m hungry and there’s no food anywhere. No TV either.

 

#

 

Finally she decides to get up and see what’s in the fridge. For my sake, I guess, because she says she’s fine. Something she’s keeping in there smells like a sweet wine, and it makes her cough and retch. Which is good for me—she won’t eat anything and I get a bite or two, since I don’t mind the stench.

 

#

 

Day fourteen of the hostage situation, which is now less hostage-ey since we actually left the house to visit the post box. On the way I spotted some enemies and had to take them to task—after all, I’m the King, not them. To be exact, I’m the King of Toys. It sounds like a joke, but today, inhaling gusts of fresh air and watching the leaves swirling over the stairs at the gate, I feel like the King of Everything.

 

#

 

Yet another day and things still aren’t really normal. There’s food and water, though. I have some bread crumbs from under the table that I lovingly collected as they fell when she was eating. She’s gone out somewhere.

 

#

 

She’s been gone for a long time and I’m worried. I pace the house and grind my teeth, which hurt and irritate me and I need to do Bad. I have the feeling that something’s gone wrong, that she won’t be back. Where is she? Why is it taking so long? Did she lie down on a bench in the park and just stay there? Is she lying there the way she did here? She hasn’t even got a blanket, for Christ’s sake! Where is she? My teeth won’t stop throbbing and I really need to pee.

 

#

 

She comes back and tells me that she was only out for a little while. Yeah, right. And I did Bad. She says she’s going to kill me and she says Fuck. And the terrible word: Shelter. I know she won’t do any of it, though. It’d be a regicide. I’m the King. So I just sit and listen to her rant. I’m not afraid. I’m all smiles, actually, because she’s finally come back.

 

#

 

I wake up in the middle of the night and throw up on the bed. She wakes up and hugs me. I suppose Bad is also bad for the stomach.

 

#

 

She leaves again and I’m obedient and sleep on the sofa like I’m supposed to because I’m tired after my sleepless night. Why did she go to work? She should’ve stayed with me. I know, I know—she was lying around on the couch at home for a long time and has to catch up and so on. But I’m sick—or rather, I was sick—and I need her, and she’s not here. I yawn and stretch and sit up to look out at some pigeons who’ve invaded the window sill. Motherfuckers. They’re even worse than the bike riders that smoke as they go past the fence.

 

#

 

A couple days pass the same way: she leaves, she comes back. In the end, she says she won’t work anymore because they told her to… I don’t know how to explain it. To go home and to stay there. She’s worried and cries and nothing makes her happy, even the rat I bring home for dinner. Why is she so sad? After all, she gets to stay home with me. Weird.

 

#

 

She’s better. What day is this? Actually, who cares? A day after the rat, I suppose. She takes me for a walk and, just as we reach the passage above the highway, lets me off the leash. I love the moment when the link unhooks, click. I break into a run, touring my domain and telling my subjects what I think of their fuckups. As King, I have to be harsh, and secretly I enjoy it. So I run, barely touching the ground, and she can’t keep up with me. I burst into the bushes, bees and flies escaping to both sides. I crawl under the twigs and squint to protect my eyes. When I’m through, I speed up, because I suddenly realize that I don’t hear her calling me. I don’t hear her footsteps. I can’t smell her—the odor of car exhaust has swallowed her scent, the voracious bitch.

 

I look and see her on the passage, sitting on the rail. I know it’s Bad, very Bad. She’s told me a thousand times: High Up is Bad, no Table, no Top, they’re High. I choke on the air and dig my claws in the ground, rushing back to… I don’t know what. I decide to bark like crazy—barking is always Good Boy. I bay like a mad hound, like I’ve gone rabid despite my Vaccination. I growl, and snarl, and tears run down my snout.

 

#

 

Day fifty-something, and a hundred, and X, and everything. She’s gone. She won’t be back, I think. I stay at her sister’s. Sister has a rabbit, Steven, but I don’t feel like chasing him. Sister says I was a Good Boy. Well, I wasn’t, or she wouldn’t be gone.

 

#

 

Days later, much later. I don’t eat. A King doesn’t eat when his Queen is gone. Sister says I’ll die. I just blink and sigh and she’s crying. I can’t cry, but I’m sad. I wag my tail twice to cheer her up, but I doesn’t work.

 

#

 

Later, lots later. Sister puts me in her bag. Normally I’d jump out—I don’t put up with that kind of thing—but I’m weak and sick. She tells me Quiet. Normally I hate Quiet but I feel dead already so Quiet isn’t a problem. I close my eyes and fall asleep as we get on the bus and travel the city, not even watching for enemies I should scare away.

 

A scent of Vaccination wakes me up as we get off. If she brought me to the Vaccination I swear, despite my weakness, I’ll bite her—bite much, and with blood, like I bit the rat such a long time ago. Or I’ll kill Steven in a cruel way. I start to thrash around inside the bag, but it’s zipped up and I can’t get out. I try to tear the fabric, but it’s strong.

 

Sister tells me to calm down and talks to someone, and I do calm down because I’m trying to make out the words. Maybe they’ll say something I understand. Did they say Shelter? No, they said shelf, I think. Do they mean the shelf of candies at the supermarket that I raided that one time? No, they said… Shirley?

 

Sister says thanks and moves on. Her sneakers squeak against the floor, just like at the Vaccination. But I don’t try to break free, because I feel something. I raise my head and try to identify it, to understand.

 

A door creaks, and we stop. I hold my breath. Now I can feel it. I start to yelp quietly and Sister opens the bag. I leap out, and I hit the floor because I have no time to flip around and land on my feet. I get up quickly—a King never shows when he’s in pain. I look up, because I’m a mighty King, but small.

 

And there she is. On the bed, which is white and pristine. Shirley.

 

I jump on the white comforter and launch myself at her, kissing her hands and face. She says I’m her King and that I shouldn’t be here, because it’s a kind of Human Vaccination. But I don’t care. She’ll get her injection and we’ll go home. And I’ll always stay close to her.

 

***

 

* Explanatory note: the King of the Toys is a nickname for Miniature Pinschers, one of the toy breeds of dog. Because they’re courageous, strong, and self-confident, they’re called the kings of the world of miniature lap dogs. Pinchers are a lot of things, but I can assure you they’re not lap dogs. For more information, see this page.

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