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Bradley sits across the table from Melinda, & the Dachshund paces the floor between them begging for pork gristle. The house is quiet & cold. Bradley eases back from the table, back from his untouched food, tries to coax the words from his lips. He feels a cough climbing his throat, so he chokes it back down with a gulp of well water, metallic, pennies in his mouth. He watches Melinda hunch over her plate like an old woman at a soup kitchen. He wants to clear his throat, to say we need to talk, to shout look at me! But he only watches the top of her head as she forks in another mouthful of peas. A single pea slips from her lips like a secret, falls to the splintered kitchen floor. Danger’s ears perk—he laps the pea into his mouth just long enough to realize it’s a pea. As glob of slobber slings from Danger’s mouth, the unchewed pea a fetus in its amniotic fluid, & the dinner goes on.

* * *

Danger the Dachshund sits across the table from Melinda, and Bradley the human bitch paces the floor between them begging for a pea. The house is quiet & cold. Danger snarls and chomps, slinging bone fragments & pork gristle from the table to the splintered kitchen floor. Bradley paws at Melinda’s foot, slides his soft metacarpal pad tenderly against her calf. He sniffs at the hem of her skirt, his wet nose dotting her skin where the fabric meets her thighs. His ears perk as he listens to her muted laughter seeping through the table—he knows Danger is up there telling jokes he could never understand.       

Bradley tries to bark, but a cough gathers in his throat, so he saunters across the floor, his toenails clicking the hardwood, to the day-old stagnated water in his bowl & laps it down. He turns from his bowl, water oozing from his mouth to form pools around his feet, & watches Melinda fork peas into her mouth. A single pea pops from the corner gate of her smile, rolls down her blouse, onto the table—it teeters on the ledge, refuses to fall. Bradley jumps to snag the pea from the table’s edge, but Melinda smacks his nose, smashes the pea into the table. He whimpers in the corner, & the dinner goes on.

* * *

Nobody sits across the table from Melinda, and Danger the Dachshund reads the newspaper that was strewn about in the corner for him to piss on. The house is quiet & cold. He reads an obituary for a young boy, eaten by Leukemia, survived by a mom & dad & a Dachshund. Melinda hovers over her bowl, fork in hand, casting a God-sized shadow over the world of her food. She forks-up an enormous bite of pea-sized Bradleys, thrusts them into her mouth and chews. They want to scream for help, to ask her to slow down, but she just keeps chomping her canines through their squeaky heads. A single Bradley pries from a seam in her lips & falls to the table, rolls to the edge & teeters, covered in saliva, waiting for whatever comes next.