After a long day of spewing hate and fear onto the syndicated airwaves of American broadcast radio, Rush Limbaugh felt hungry. Usually his post-show go-to meal was a spaghetti sandwich: a loaf of Italian bread filled with Chef Boyardee Spaghetti-Os, covered with melted cheese. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rush had been forced to broadcast his show from a makeshift studio in his basement. He had been eating lots of stovetop and microwavable meals. The chair in his studio emitted disconcerting croaks of rebellion whenever he sat down.

Rush needed some exercise.

It had been a long time since he had simply gone for a walk in his neighborhood. A lifetime of leaning forward to shout into a microphone had left him with chronic back pain, and he wondered why he had abandoned the simple pleasure of an afternoon stroll. It was springtime, and the neighborhood trees were blooming. The dewy air smelled of possibility.

Stopping for breath along Eversmile Lane, Rush leaned against a telephone pole. A missing-cat poster was tacked to the pole. The poster showed a serene-looking Maine Coon, a telephone number, and a request to “Call Andrew” if the cat was found. Rush had never been much of an animal person, equating the keeping of pets to tacit support for the welfare state.

That evening, he sat on his back porch, smoking a cigar, thinking about how difficult it was to tell an 18-year-old woman from a 17-year-old girl these days. As thick, pungent clouds of smoke wafted from his mouth, he glanced up and saw a black cat slinking across his backyard fence.

“You’re off to start some shit, aren’t you?” he whispered to the cat. “Probably looking for a little pussy.”

He was jealous of the cat, of its freedom to indulge its primal urges, of its delicate physical prowess.

The next evening, he crouched in the shadows by the fence, waiting with a can of tuna fish, wearing black leather gloves. Just after midnight, he heard the rustling of bushes. A sleek, black shape leapt onto the fence.

“Here, kitty, kitty,” Rush whispered.

The cat stopped, watching him.

Rush opened the can of tuna, set it down in the grass.

“You like tuna, don’t you?”

The cat hopped down onto the grass, sniffed the tuna. Bent its head to dig in. Rush pounced.


The cat-burger was delicious, especially slathered in Frank’s Red Hot. The meat tasted lean and supple. Rush imagined that in consuming the cat, he was not only absorbing its nutrients, but also soaking up its cunning feline soul. The cat became a part of him, a spiritual meshing of murderous instincts.

Rush began sneaking out every night, prowling the neighborhood. Armed with his leather gloves and the virtually limitless supply of Chicken-of-the-Sea his wife had purchased from Costco, Rush learned to think and act like a cat. Cats were the only creatures, other than humans, that routinely killed for sport. Rush respected this. Predators were connected by a deep, cosmic ken. In the animal kingdom, there were those who fed, and those who were fed upon. Man was the alpha predator. All other creatures lived to be eaten.

Rush captured dozens of cats on his evening prowls. Each time he encountered one, he gently offered it a can of tuna, then strangled it off in the bushes somewhere. The next day, after his radio show, he cooked delicious cat tacos or grilled cat kabobs.

Soon, missing-cat posters appeared on nearly every telephone pole in Rush’s neighborhood. Rush stood at his basement window, peering out at the small children roaming by his house with their parents, calling out for their missing pets.

“Here, Jingles!” cried a little boy, holding his mother’s hand. “Come here, Jingles! Come home!”

“Yes, Jingles,” Rush smirked, rubbing his belly. “Come home…”

He knew that he could not continue feeding on the neighborhood cats without eventually drawing attention. He also knew that the American attention span was fickle, easily distracted. Blow smoke in one direction, light a fire in another. Blame someone else.

For an entire week, he dedicated his show to a vitriolic indictment of the Chinese and their age-old stereotypical proclivity for eating the types of animals that caring, conscientious Americans kept as pets.

“If there’s a Chinese restaurant in your neighborhood,” he warned his audience, “make sure you keep Sparky on a leash.”

Meanwhile, Rush grew bored strangling cats. There was not much to do during the coronavirus pandemic, so he mostly sat in his basement watching movies. He watched David Fincher’s Se7en over and over again, memorizing John Doe’s dialogue. He stood in front of his bathroom mirror, cat blood dripping down his face, saying, “it’s more comfortable for you to label me insane,” and, “there’s nothing wrong with a man taking pleasure in his work.”

His favorite part of Se7en was the little sick joke right before the end, when Detective Somerset, played by Morgan Freeman, a black, discovers a dead dog, and John Doe says, “I didn’t do that.”


Down the street, some neighbors he didn’t know very well, possibly of Mexican heritage, had a terrier that barked in shrill, penetrating bleats at random hours of the day and night. Rush suffered from chronic hearing problems, and the little dog’s barks seemed like a jackhammer, drilling directly into his brain. Why would anyone keep such a nasty little creature as a pet? Especially when it could be chopped up and used for pizza toppings?

Rush picked a night when heavy rain gave him auditory and visual cover, slipping off down the street in the matching black tracksuit and ski mask he had purchased on Amazon. Leather gloves were perfect for strangling cats, but to subdue a dog, he needed a sturdier weapon. Deftly, he brandished a tire iron as he slunk across the property line into the Mexicans’ yard. The dog was barking at something near the backyard fence. It didn’t even hear Rush tiptoe up behind it.


Missing-dog posters started appearing on telephone poles, alongside the missing-cat posters. Neighbors on Rush’s Nextdoor app speculated that possibly a coyote was terrorizing the neighborhood. Rush decided to do a radio show on the coyote, blaming a foreign invader for the disappearance of many of his neighborhood’s beloved pets. Later that night, he went outside to his backyard and stood naked in the moonlight, his pale, corpulent flesh dripping with Shih Tzu blood.

The only thing that bothered Rush about his nocturnal slayings was that the victims, so far, were all relatively easy targets. After watching Red Dragon about 20 times and studying the Ralph Fiennes character, Rush admitted that basically anyone could kill a small dog, or a cat. It took a real apex predator to take down a more powerful animal, like a German shepherd, or a St. Bernard. In Red Dragon, the serial killer always killed the family pet before moving in to slaughter the family. Rush drew the line at murdering humans. If he started killing people, who would listen to his show?

There was a family in the neighborhood with a German shepherd, and Rush had once watched from his basement window as the dog defecated on his lawn. The owner, or at least the dog-walker, a pig-tailed little girl, failed to pick up the shit. Fuming, Rush stormed out of his basement to confront the girl, but by the time he huffed all the way upstairs and out the front door, both the dog and the girl were gone.

This happened again about a week later, during a commercial break on his show. Rush scrambled out of his studio, tripping over a tangle of cables beneath his desk, arriving outside to find a fresh, steaming turd beneath his mailbox.

A few days later, the girl and the German shepherd were back. This time, the girl stared directly into Rush’s basement window, her eyes pinched and mean, as if she knew exactly what she was doing, while the dog unloaded on his lawn. Rush stared back at her from the shadows of his basement studio, aghast at the gall of this child, whose parents, by virtue of the fact that they let her walk the dog unsupervised, had clearly voted for Hillary Clinton.

The lawn-shitting German shepherd, Rush decided, would make excellent stew.

For the next few nights, he staked out the house where the German shepherd lived. It was a large, split-level ranch, with trees encircling the backyard. One of these trees had a treehouse built into it, and Rush sat in the treehouse, eating Pomeranian and cheese sandwiches, watching the house. The dog used a doggie door to come and go, usually urinating one final time around eleven o’clock before going to bed. By this time, most of the lights in the house were off, and the property was silent and still. Rush guessed that he could probably sneak into the house through the doggie door, which was large enough to accommodate a German shepherd, and then lure the dog outside with a bag of Purina Beggin’ strips. Then he could bludgeon Fido with his tire iron and drag the carcass home to the sausage grinder.

Rush failed to notice one thing on his nightly stakeouts. Every evening, as he climbed down from the treehouse, a curtain moved minutely in an upstairs window.


It was a moonless night. Rush dressed in his black suit and mask. He wore a black fanny pack with the Beggin’ strips inside. The tire iron, now as natural an extension of his hand as a knife and fork, bobbed in his sweaty grip, as he danced across the cool grass of his neighbors’ lawn.

It had been a long time since Rush Limbaugh had used a doggie door. But some things you never forget. It was simply a matter of angling your shoulders, leading with one arm outstretched, and kind of shimmying your body through the opening.

Sweat poured down his face as he squirmed through the door. The itchy ski mask felt glued to his skin. About halfway in, he realized his mistake. He had crawled in sideways, his shoulders perpendicular to the floor. He should have crawled in on all fours, like a dog. Now his stomach was wedged into the doorframe. He took a deep breath and grunted forward. Something popped in his shoulder. He grimaced in pain.

Suddenly, the kitchen light came on.

For a moment, the kitchen was silent and eerily still, like the desert at high noon. Rush heard soft footsteps on the tile floor. He tried to force himself backward, but his shoulder screamed in pain. He cursed, loudly, and clamped his hand over his mouth.

“What are you doing?” asked a young, feminine voice.

Rush craned his neck to see the family’s nine-year-old daughter standing in the kitchen in her pajamas, pinching one of her pigtails.

“Why are you using the doggie door?”

“I’m a little doggie,” Rush said, pretending to bark.

The girl walked calmly over to him, sitting down on the floor. “Stuck, aren’tcha?”

“Yes,” Rush admitted. “I guess I’m not a little boy anymore.”

She cocked her head, as if considering his dilemma. Then she narrowed her eyes at him. “I know who you are,” she said.

“Do you?” This was not uncommon. People recognized him all the time.

“My daddy says you’re a mean, boorish ignoramus.”

“Is your daddy a Democrat?”

“He’s a meteorologist.”

Rush scoffed.

“I don’t listen to the radio,” the girl continued. “It’s loud and boring. What I want to know is why were you hiding in our treehouse?”

Limbaugh froze. The girl sat just out of his reach, her eyes boring into him, no urgency to her posture. Her finger drew little invisible circles on the floor.

“I wasn’t in your treehouse,” Rush lied, certain he could outsmart a nine-year-old.

“Yes, you were. You almost fell, twice.”

“That wasn’t me.”

“What I also want to know,” the girl said, “is why you’re always watching people’s dogs?”


“My friend Danny, who lives three houses down—the green one—lost his dog, Sandy, last week, and I saw you watching Sandy. You were sitting in the bushes, talking to yourself.”

“You have a wild imagination,” Rush said. “Give me your hand and pull me through. My bursitis is killing me.”

The little girl leaned toward him. “Danny’s dog is gone, and I think you stole him.”

“I did no such thing,” Rush Limbaugh spat. “Now help me, or I’ll tell your mommy and daddy you’re a bad girl. You’ll be in big trouble.”

The girl glanced over her shoulder. “Mommy and Daddy are sleeping,” she said.

She stood up and walked out of the kitchen.

“Hey,” Limbaugh growled. “Get back here…”

He told himself to remain calm, to stay quiet. If her parents woke up and found the second-highest-paid talk radio personality in the country (after Stern) wedged in the doggie door, the scandal would be worse than when he was caught sneaking out of the Dominican Republic with a Caligulan supply of Viagra.

Rush tried to free himself, but every movement sent a bolt of pain through his shoulder. He needed to use a bathroom. Needed to pull the sweaty, itchy mask off his face. Needed food. God, he was hungry. He had skipped dinner, expecting to feast on German shepherd.

The girl returned, holding a dog dish with the name “Fritz” stenciled on it. “You must be hungry,” she said.

“I’m starving,” Limbaugh snarled. “Are you going to help me, or not?”

She set the dog dish down in front of his face. Then she opened the fridge and pulled out a can of beef-flavored dog food. She walked over to the electronic can-opener on the counter, set the can under the blade. Hummed a little tune as the can twisted open. Then she peeled off the top and dumped the contents into the dog dish. “There,” she said, as if she was feeding her dog.

Rush glared at her, but the fight had gone out of him. The dog door was cutting off circulation to his legs and one of his arms. His stomach throbbed from hunger pains. His blood sugar was low, not an uncommon problem for a man his age. He needed the food.

“This is why you’ll never make as much money as a man,” he told the girl, who sat down on the floor again, a few feet away from him.

Using his free hand, Rush pulled his mask off, shoveled the dog food into his face. It wasn’t exactly tasty, but there was a vague beefy flavor. He had almost forgotten what beef tasted like, his diet now consisting mainly of dogs and cats. He pretended the dog food was a juicy cheeseburger, medium-rare, with pickles and onions and ketchup. The food smeared his face, dripped onto the floor, stuck to his shirt and beard.

The little girl turned and whistled. The German shepherd trotted into the kitchen.

Rush stopped eating. Ground beef dribbled down his chin.

The dog looked at him, saw him wedged in its doggie door, saw his face buried in its food dish, eating its food. It lowered its head and growled.

“Good boy,” Rush whispered. “Good dog.”

The German shepherd barked.

“Get him, Fritz!” the little girl cried.

Rush almost had time to scream. The German shepherd lunged at him, plunging its teeth into his face.

The first thing it ate was his tongue.