“Too close for comfort?”

“That’s not it.”

A ripe-red, double-winged, dizzy maple key lands in Craig’s green table condiment. Craig flinches. An oblivious gray squirrel runs over Gill’s feet. Nothing.

“Maybe it was mutual.”

“What? —A dog can’t give consent.”

“Is that a law?”

“I don’t know. Probably. You mean jurisprudently?”


A flock (is it?) of house sparrows—females, brunettes—lands on the deck. It’s intimidating the way they arrive all at once, ugly and hopping.

“It was right by the Prospect Expressway. In the mini parkparkette.”

The “—ettes” feel forced—bring on a twinge. Both men swallow hard, then get past it.

“Out in the open then?”

“I witnessed the whole incident out the basement egress window of my…” Craig gulps, “…kitchenette.”

There’s that ending again. It won’t go away. Guess it’s more natural than compelled.

“From below then?”

An unambiguous, wide-angle, involved perspective.


“I bet.”

“Hurt my neck.”

“Sounds to me like it was above board though. Nobody hiding anything.”

“I wouldn’t go that far.”

“It goes to the intention of the parties—so, how many does that make?”

“A dog’s not a party.”

“In what sense?”

“Any sense you got.”

“Two then?”



“Fuck you.”

A spotted lanternfly lands on the rim of Gill’s baseball cap. It’s a pink-red, glowering, invasive species from likewise-red and hostile China. Big Ag America is pleading with folks to kill, poleax, patriotically, squash the buggers. But Craig, capless (full-on bald, burnt, crusted over, conceded to cancer in the image of God), and Gill (full beard and head of hair), capped (enough said), in Farrell’s Kitchen and Bar’s backyard patio—hot, buzzing, semi-shaded, well-fenced and sentinelled by grime-gray planter boxes cracking hordes of ivies—are measuring out the afternoon in peace and pints.

A second lanternfly perches on Gill’s cap.

“Tell me about the man.”

“The rapist?”

“That’s to be determined by a jury of his peers.”

“What do you mean—other dog rapists?”

Craig has a fuse. Not necessarily a short one, but all the same. And Gill is Craig’s oldest friend but he isn’t a best friend. Craig doesn’t have a best friend. He’s married.

“I’m getting a mental image.”

“I’m sorry I mentioned it. Want another beer?”

Gill beams, submits as evidence his drained foamy glass. Two more flies appear—confident bastards (but they have their own troubles)—on Gill’s cap.

Craig walks away, eagerly but pacing himself, downplaying, squinting (not as easy as it looks) into Farrell’s where he visits the restroom, afterwards lingers in a snug nook by the dartboard, then browses the myriad on-tap selections at the bar (he doesn’t want to leave). So, finally, he slots, anonymously, securely, between two business-types sweating out their suits. It’s stifling, lacking the breeze that was a godsend and buoyant outside, yet Craig prefers it here—enclosed, dark, bluish-purple—he is purblind among related, amorphous, or (who’s to say?) resolving, drowsy shapes. Pop songs make it like heaven on a teary loop. The bartender is writing his memoir on his phone.

Whereas Gill continues, conscientiously in full hell (and sun) now, to picture first a golden retriever, then a dachshund. The dachshund, undersized, makes an obvious better case for the prosecution, and because retrievers tend to be up for just about anything.

“Any other detail?”

“The dog looked embarrassed.”


Gill doesn’t let it go, hunches. Lanternflies occupy his cap and shoulders. He looks like a statue (of a five-star general strategizing custody of a muddy trench). A squad (is it?) of flies line up along the back of his chair, they round the rim of Gill’s glass. Gill sniffs the residue of an aromatic hop he strains to identify. Sun concentrates. A brown-yellow paste of fly eggs reinforce the underside of Gill’s chair of corroding painted metal. Sparrows—staccato, soulless, copies, industrious like battery-operated toys—encircle.

Two young strangers, women: one, “Shit! You have a lanternfly on your back.”

The fly is indeed unambiguous, swollen with tree juice, guilty.

The back is oblique, white, flat, polyester, betraying the fly.

The women, one dumpy, the other shapely—insufferable silhouettes—the first slaps the fly off the second who in turn stomps, double-(no) triple-eradicates the fly.

“Has to be done,” they trill in unison, laugh, high-five, depart in directions.