The following is an excerpt from Paul Shirley’s piece for Cartel III (Fall, 2012), which can be purchased for $2.99 as an Amazon Kindle e-book or as a PDF.


It’s a story as old and stale as the cops-and-donuts joke: you got married or engaged or started living together and six months later, bored of the daily routine of House Hunters, Downton Abbey and a rapidly disintegrating sex life, you had a revelation:

We should get a pet!

A cat was out of the question because, you know, Rachel’s kind of allergic, and, well, you can’t take a cat to the Canyon for a walk, at least not without looking like a Manson disciple. So what other option was there, really? At least not until they engineer miniature giraffes. Like, super-miniature; I’m talking a foot-and-a-half tall. Imagine how goddamn awesome that would be: you’re hosting a dinner party and Jeremiah the Mini-Giraffe comes rolling out of the kitchen-

Anyway, yeah, so you drove to the local animal shelter or pet store or to the puppy mill down by the grain elevator.

And you bought yourself a dog.

If it had stopped there, everything would have been the second track on Pump: F.I.N.E. fine.

You could have told us once about Barkley (yes, we know, it’s from Sesame Street) and we would have said, “Oh, cool!” and that would have been the end of it. We wouldn’t have meant it, but that would have been OK because it’s part of the social compact to which we’ve all agreed: we say things like “That’s great!” and “Oh, cool,” when people tell us about their dogs or their new girlfriends or their jobs, even if we stopped listening four words into what turned out to be a six-paragraph soliloquy on why your boss’s attitude toward your hourly cigarette breaks makes him a sadist.

But it didn’t stop with one mention. And as far as I can tell, you’re going to keep talking about Barkley (yes, I realize it’s also the name of your favorite ex-basketball player) for as long as I know you. You’re currently at eight name-checks per conversation, and it’s killing our friendship.

Not because I don’t care about you and your problems; sometimes your problems are worth pondering, especially that one about those pictures your co-worker feels compelled to send you late at night.

No, our friendship is suffering because your canine-related tribulations are non-problems, because I don’t think Barkley likes his life (and you) nearly as much as you think he does, and because talking about all of it has turned you into an insufferable fool.


We all know – or can imagine – what it’s like to have a dog. They need a few things, chief among them food, water, shelter, and a place to defecate. And just about any place will do for that last one, so it might not even count.

Do you remember that special kid from Mr. Kolber’s seventh-grade Language Arts class? Yeah, Benjamin. The one who drank your pee when you told him it was Mello Yello.

He knew these things.

Which is why it’s so appalling to me and every other sentient being that crosses your path that you continue to act as if it’s a surprise that, yes, your dog needs to be fed every day, and that, yes, he’s going to bark from time to time – occasionally at odd hours like six in the morning – and that, yes, if you wait too long, he’s probably going to lay cable on the microfiber blanket you accidentally left on the couch after Storage Wars.



To read the rest, including 8 other creations that will make you think, laugh, and wonder, buy Cartel now. (Kindle or PDF.)
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