Hyde was saying that just as the porcupine had its quills and the lion itsstrength, mankind had its superior brain to outwit predators and impose order on the world. In response, Ronny turned to me and rappedhis knuckles on the cover of his blue notebook, as if Hyde had beentalking about whatever madness was written inside.
The next day I told my mom I had to work on a group project and tookthe bus to Ronny’s house after school. From his stop we crossed throughyards littered with beer cans, dog dirt, laundry baskets, and the occasional mattress. We walked through a loose stand of pines, then woundup behind Ronny’s house, a bungalow with white aluminum siding thatwas beginning to buckle. The grass looked ripped-up in places and toolong in others. An old push mower was lying on a patch of bare dirt, andRonny explained that he had mowed in anticipation of company.
Inside, Ronny’s father was snoring on the sofa in front of the localnews. There was an afghan over his one-and-a-half legs and a handle ofWild Turkey under his remaining arm. The sound of Ronny letting thescreen door slap shut disturbed his sleep enough for him to mumble,“Fuck you,” but wasn’t enough to wake him. He only readjusted his gripon the Wild Turkey before starting to snore again. The way he was lyingwith his mouth open made it look like his run-in at the bar had happened earlier that afternoon. I was sad to realize how much he remindedme of my mother, the way I always found her after school looking obliterated by the day.
“Come on,” Ronny said, heading back to the kitchen. “We’ve got shit
The first experiment of the afternoon involved Ronny’s dog, Knife,
who was in the habit of chewing the crotch out of Ronny’s underwear.
Ronny had me bring a pair of my own underwear to see if this behavior
was specific to his crotch or a broader phenomenon. The experiment he
designed involved soaking our underwear in separate bowls of water on
the kitchen counter. He then prepared two dishes of dog food, one with
a splash of my underwear water and another with a splash of his, before
calling Knife into the room to see which he preferred.
There was the sound of Knife jumping to the floor in some unseenback room and the gentle tinkle of his collar as he wandered out to thekitchen, where he showed himself to be a black pit bull mix with wide-set eyes full of boredom. He scanned the kitchen floor for food, thentrotted over and emptied both bowls in seconds, licking the floor around