The Dog House Association Rules by Leigh Allison Wilson
The ruckus began when the Beagles moved into the neighborhood. On that very first day the extended Beagle family gathered around the For Sale sign on their new front lawn. Within minutes two pups tore the bright red Sold ribbon from the sign and dashed across the grass, heedless of a mother’s languid remonstrations. Late into the night the many Beagles peed around the stake, defecated on the sidewalk, and barked obscenities to and fro with gusto.
The cats, for the most part indifferent to the activities of commoners like the Beagles, took umbrage. “Who among us,” the cats asked each other, “is without civic responsibilities?” All of us, they hissed angrily, unused to confabulation and confused by the negative. “The dogs are very bad.”
Dealings between cat and dog degenerated. The cats accused the Labs of thievery. This was true: they often roamed the neighborhood, picking up objects off of front lawns and taking them home to hide. Yet the Labs were an amicable clan, as inclined to bring objects as to take them, and the cats had more than once benefited from their friendly confusion. Nevertheless, the multi-ethnic colors of the Lab family—brown and yellow and black—did nothing to quiet the suspicions of the xenophobic cats.
The Association was formed. The cats elected a leader, a former alley-dwelling Tabby with a scar on one ear. She had the unique ability to sleep through slanderous diatribes and then, as if electrified, to strike out at opponents ruthlessly just when they were feeling safe. Nevertheless the cats were confounded to discover that, although they were many, they were not a majority in the neighborhood. They needed allies.
The Gecko family, initially approached, would have none of the Association. They were recondite and quick thinkers, irritated by the clumsy feline overtures, and mindful of the many tails they had lost over the years to sportive cats of low IQ.
Disinclined, too, were the agoraphobic Goldfishes. Aloof, melancholy, haunted by a racial memory of small rooms and uncertain gods, they could place no hope in the idea of an association. Also, hemmed in as they were by invisible strictures, they were unable to attend any votes.
More promising were the Terriers. They had no allegiance to their own kind. Dogs they might be, but due to a contretemps no living Terrier even remembered, the family stubbornly feuded with all other dogs and had chips on their shoulders that could not be dislodged by supplication or blows to the head. Unfortunately for the cats, however, the Terriers were despised by the Hamsters, the Guinea-Pigs, the Gerbils. For every Terrier pro vote there would be a dozen nay votes from the rodents.
The cats fell to bickering among each other, tempers flared, an eye was lost. In the end they created The Dog House Association Rules without bothering to hold a vote. Many covenants, conditions and restrictions were contemplated, but the Association ultimately had just one rule: No dogs allowed.
Although the cats had not bothered with written rules, the entire neighborhood felt that something seemed to be in effect. The naturally gregarious dog families became subdued and listless, spoke very little, stared down at their feet, developed limps, appeared to enter old age, and finally one by one lumbered away from their homes, lost to all sense of belonging.
Afterwards there was a period in which the cats reveled in their success. They no longer awoke to the sight of an immense nose pressed against their windowpanes, or heard the late night howls of lovemaking, or glimpsed the gluttonous barbeques and the white canine smiles. All this was gone.
After a while the cats noticed that newcomers were swarming into the vacuum the dogs had left in the neighborhood. These interlopers had strange names. The Carpenter-Ants. The Termites. The numerous family members did not smile at all. They were small and did not shake hands. They were rarely seen, but when seen marched in perfect order. It was suspected that they were involved in underground construction, imbued with hungry purpose, kith and kin to no one and nothing.
Winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award in short fiction, Leigh Allison Wilson has published two collections of short stories. Her fiction and essays have appeared in The Georgia Review, Harper’s, The Kenyon Review, Mademoiselle, The Southern Review, The Washington Post, and elsewhere. Her flash fiction has been read on NPR’s Selected Shorts. She teaches at SUNY Oswego.