Academic journal article Chicago Review

Waiting for the Dog to Sleep

Academic journal article Chicago Review

Waiting for the Dog to Sleep

Article excerpt

I'm in an old doghouse, cramped up, my knees touching my chin. Through the gaps in the planks I see an expansive square, empty as far as the saplings bordering it. This used to be my village. Yesterday was the end of the demolition, the last hut was taken apart. The villagers left in dozens of wagons for their new homes in the city. The area is supposed to be forested. I hid myself. I'm in the doghouse. I didn't want to leave.

The sun is still shining low in front of me, but I'm in the shadow of the watchdog, which is sitting stiffly balanced on its front legs. It hasn't slept for many hours. It has been trying not to sleep with all its might. I have faith in the dog's vigilance: it's the reason why I can sometimes doze off. I see the gamekeepers and the ranger still standing there; they are staring at the doghouse, the last one in this wasteland, they are waiting for the dog to sleep. Behind them tower heaps of forest saplings.

Sometimes the dog's head falls in mortal exhaustion. Then the gamekeepers come a few steps closer. The dog snaps back to consciousness in the blink of an eye and bares his fangs. The gamekeepers back up beyond the chain's radius, and the dog bites into his own flank with a gaping wide open mouth, warding off sleep with pain. And again he sits as straight as an effigy, eye to eye with the people. Once, he kept watch over the property next door; since it's no longer there, he's only got himself to watch out for.

I don't know when I dozed off; I was woken up again. I see the dog baring his fangs and digging his teeth into his own body, I see the gamekeepers backing off to a safe distance. I hear: "Mr. Forest Ranger, requesting permission, please." "No," says the ranger, "For the time being you're not allowed. According to the statutes, stray dogs are shot in the woods. Let's wait; he'll fall asleep, we'll forest around him, and then."

The dog bites away the sleep, much as he once dove into the fleas tangled up in his curls. I'm grateful to him, though he doesn't even know that I'm here, in his house. It's broad daylight, but his eyelids are closing to the darkness of sleep.

I'm woken by a brief whimper. It's the dog calling out for the first and last time. …

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