“It can be as simple as just having a little corner in your room where you have a light, and a book like ‘The Never Ending Story’ that brings you to where you feel okay, and maybe use that as jumping board for some new ideas and write some stuff.” – Spooki Tavi
“Darrius and Barker” Fiction. Based on a True Frustration.
By Christopher Penn
This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional
He had told her he didn’t want one, that it wouldn’t like him, and that the pairing would be mutually destructive to all parties to no avail. By five ‘o clock, she had gone, and the dumb little sucker sat right in the center of Darrius’ non-movable trailer home like a freaky rock that was cursed with animation and could move and make noise and shit.
Darrius just sat in his busted armchair and looked at the dog for a bit. He knew that eventually one of them would have to do something, and he thought the dog knew it too, but neither of them could move. They just sat, on the cusp of a new era, sizing each other up.
It occurred to Darrius that the dog would need a name. His mother had insisted on him coming up with the name to “begin their relationship.” The least creative middle-child of an uncreative family, Darrius literally could not think of anything. He simply kept staring down at his present like he was trying to watch his front-porch tomatoes grow.
Suddenly the dog made the first move. It was as if the thing had exploded! It leaped up, catapulted it’s small, dense mass onto Darrius’ second-hand bed with an audible thud, and began an ear-splitting bay with his front paws on the window sill, and his rear paws on the pillow.
Darrius was stunned, he couldn’t move, then he became angry. The thing was getting its dirty paws all over his bed, and he didn’t want to wash it today.
“Hey! What are you doing?! Stop that, you’re ruining my bed!” Darrius shouted as he came over to the dog and lifted him around his belly and plopped him down, panting and smiling, back on the floor where he belonged. Darrius smiled to one side.
“Heh, that’s what I’ll call you; ‘Barker.’ Like Parker but with a ‘B.’ How’s that; you like that Barker?”
Barker looked at Darrius with big listening puppy eyes, then seemed to dismiss him and resumed panting heavily and set off seemingly to explore the trailer. Darrius turned to his bed and gave it a rough brush-over with his hand. He got most of the dirt that may or may not have been from Barker off and straightened the sheets when he sniffed involuntarily and froze in terror.
“Awww shit.” He said and whipped around. “Awww shit!” He popped open the screen door and tossed Barker outside before grabbing a whole roll of paper towels to clean up the mess he had on his hands.
Darrius had never been so stressed in his life. His mother had gotten him Barker for companionship, but all the companionship he was feeling was a newfound appreciation for babysitters and stay-at-home parents. He simply could not keep up with his new pet. Barker would run from one distraction to another, one mess to another, and he was always barking.
Darrius made house-breaking a priority, so he found some pet-training videos at the department store he worked at and watched them in his free time on Tuesday, which was his day off. By the end of that week, there were no more accidents, but the trailer’s newest resident was showing no signs of improvement anywhere else. Every day Darrius would walk around the trailer park with Barker first thing in the morning, during a quick trip back home over Darrius’ lunch hour, and last thing in the evening. The dog was always straining the end of the leash, yanking Darrius around neighbor’s driveways and trashcans with surprising strength for such a little body, and he always did his business in the least convenient places. Whenever Darrius was around, he had so much energy the new owner was afraid Barker would tear the whole trailer down, and a few times he started to; ripping couch cushions to shreds and chewing off the corner of the faux-wood cabinet that held his dog-chow. Darrius had fallen to the habit of locking everything down with hatches and clasps (hence the apparent need to chew through a cabinet) and putting anything valuable or useful out of reach from Barker. The trailer’s counters and chairs were soon piled high with magazines, shoes, and boxes to escape Barker’s insatiable habit. And always, at every turn, Barker never seemed to stop barking.
The trailer floor was bare except for its basic cheap linoleum. Darrius only had one chair to sit and eat in. Neighbors had complained about Barker’s non-stop noise, so Darrius had no choice but to lock him up inside all day. Neighbors still complained, so Darrius resorted to drawing the blinds on every window, and even when Barker could no longer peek around the tacked-down shades, he continued to bark, seemingly at nothing. Darrius spent one ungodly night going to sleep amid barking, waking up to barking, and recalling hearing barking in his sleep.
The strain rose and rose until a string finally snapped in Darrius’ head. He shouted at Barker in the middle of his home.
“What do you want from me, huh?! What could possibly be the matter?! You have a full food dish, nothing is out of place, you can’t see outside, your actual chew toy is right there! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up, shut up, shut up!”
Barker continued unabated, and for fear of throwing one of his precious possessions, Darrius left his home altogether to take himself on a walk. As he went along, he kicked gravel out of the roads and grumbled about how much neater and calmer his life had been before his mother thought to get him a dog. He had had his whole lunch hour to himself, mostly to spend reading. In the evenings he’d only prepare a hamburger helper meal for one and eat it watching TV until he fell asleep. After that, he could brush his teeth or shower if he needed it before getting in bed and sleeping until the next day when he would do it again. Now his house, his time, and his life were no longer his, they were his dog’s.
Darrius rounded the corner to his lot and paused uneasily. He listened and hurried onto his front porch where his neglected tomatoes were looking a bit wilted. He opened the front door to Barker curled up like a little bagel right in the middle of the floor, sleeping. It occurred to Darrius that he never really saw Barker like that, and he was struck by just how comfortable he looked, sleeping as soundly and victoriously as if he had just chased off an army of cats.
Darrius thought a bit, then quietly cleaned up around Barker, returning rugs and furniture, repopulating his shoe-matt, and opening the blinds away from his bed. The next day his mother called, and he thanked her for Barker and told her the dog was great for him. They had had a good walk this morning, and though Barker was a bit of a nuisance, sometimes he had decided to just tolerate it at the moment and try to prevent any issues down the road. He said the neighbors had complained a bit, but he thought they were getting used to him too. And to top it all off, he had met a neighbor he hadn’t seen before walking her dog at the same time as he was. They had agreed to try and walk together more often, and dog sit for each other if necessary.
All in all, he was really thankful for Barker.