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It’s the Worst in the Summer

by Destiny Herbert


There is a dog. She is lying down, lethargic, being fried by the summer sun and pavement like a lump of meat in a pan that is most definitely not non-stick. She is too starved and thirsted to even pant against the heat. You see her, the poor, stupid thing, and approach her. She looks to you pleadingly, thumping his tail at the thought of having finally obtained empathy; it probably would have satiated her just as much as a generous bowl of kibble, if not more. But you do not have either and do not offer either. You have a much better idea. This will help her, you think. You get a kick in your step and begin jogging toward him. The drum of his tail quickens, matching the pace of your strides. She almost thinks she has enough energy to rise and address you properly, but can only manage to tilt up her head.

You meet her halfway, stooping—how kind of you! She greedily accepts your pats and scritches. This is almost enough, almost, she thinks with his little doggie brain. That little doggie brain needs some enlightenment, you then think, and you take her fat, wrinkled cheeks in your palms and stifle a laugh because he is just so silly and so funny looking with his cheeks squished together like that. Does she know how silly she looks? Finally, she finds the strength to peel open his mouth and breathe. You stink of onions and beef. You’re just straight-up pungent. Your stench is ten times more offensive on her tongue than in her nose, but her face is still turned up in that oblivious, permanent smile that doggie muzzles make. You can’t help but give her a little smooch before gifting him your cruel, apathetic wisdom.

“Silly baby. Don’t you know? Food will find you if you stop wanting it, if you stop looking for it,” you say, and her doggie smile falls, no longer so permanent, and by the grace of God she gets the gumption to make a meal out of your cheeks and nose and a little bit of your lower lip, too, and she is filled doubly by your flesh, marinated in decades of obliviousness and garnished with hot air, and the sweet satisfaction that comes with shutting you up.


I have never understood those who claim that my simple desire to be loved is precisely what makes me undeserving of it, that desire is the root of all suffering. Really?

All of it?

Has anyone ever achieved success by not wanting it?


“In time, it will come. You are young.”

“In time, if it is meant for you, it will come.”


And I lie in bed, suffocated by my own body heat, wondering if I am meant for it.


But you insist that a brief conversation with a cashier and my dog—my fucking dog—should be enough for me.

Does that same logic apply to her? Could she have remained in her frying pan, a fire lit under her and above her and inside of her, sustained by daydreams of companionship that she has never known tacked onto passerby? Passerby like you?


My favorite food cannot marry me.

A new pair of shoes bought on credit at 2 a.m. cannot be my maid of honor.

My appreciation for the little things cannot attend my funeral.

The nature walks and crafting and journaling and scented candles and bubble baths and naps and retail therapy and animals and positive affirmations and keeping busy can only do so much for me before my stomach collapses in on itself and my bones grow brittle.

So, please, if you see me on the sidewalk with glazed-over eyes and me and my cardboard box cold and dampened by the rain, unless you are going to pick me up and take me home, please just keep walking.


 

Destiny Herbert is a writer of short fiction and poetry; her work exists within the sphere of the nostalgic and the macabre and the intersection of queerness and black womanhood. She is pursuing her Master of Arts in creative writing at the University of West Florida and hopes to either gain footing in the publishing industry or establish a solid reputation as a professional editor upon graduation. She appreciates a good horror novel, JRPGs, and nature walks with her puppy, Nova.

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