KR OnlineFiction

Said Yes

Eight months ago this coming Tuesday a person I now understand to have been the devil offered me a deal, and I accepted, and the deal was this: president-elect Donald J. Trump will be turned into a small white female dog and Hillary Clinton will become our nation’s first female president, and she will be a truly historic one. She will be both good and great. She will be the president we all hoped she would prove to be. In 2018, the Democrats may even get the House and Senate back. In exchange, you must accept Donald J. Trump in dog form as a member of your own family and care for him as your cherished pet for the duration of his natural life. But: you cannot expose him to harm nor drive him to harm himself nor allow him to bring himself to harm. He must attain a normal lifespan for his breed. Or her breed, rather.

I said yes, of course. I thought it was a thought experiment.

But I mean, I would like to hope that I would have said yes regardless. I read print media. I’d seen the guy’s tweets. What thinking person wouldn’t understand the gravity of the situation?

So the next thing I know, here was a little white female dog. She was a terrier mix. She was cute, if you like that kind of dog, which I don’t.

Ha, ha, I laughed.

Ha, ha, the person said. He was a scruffy college-aged kid who was canvassing for a political group with a vaguely totalitarian-sounding name. The Real Thought Policy Institute? Or the Think Now Policy Institute? Something like that.

He walked away.

Hey! I shouted. You can’t leave this dog here! But he didn’t turn around.

One thing I need to say is that I live in Brooklyn, in a small one-bedroom apartment, not ideal for a dog. Especially not a high-strung dog, as Alice turned out to be. We named her Alice, my boyfriend and I, thinking it was a through-the-looking-glass moment, because the first thing I did after I slid into my mules and grabbed my keys and went into the street after the canvasser, who was nowhere in sight, was to text my boyfriend about what had happened, and at virtually the same moment I sent my text, he texted me with: !!!!!!!!. I thought he was responding to my story, but no. He was thinking I’d seen the news that Donald J. Trump had vanished in the Bahamas, leaving behind proof he’d stolen the election and giving the electors no choice but to make Hillary Clinton, winner of the popular vote and arguably the most qualified candidate in our country’s history, our next president. It was a crazy coincidence, sure, but it proved nothing. Another insane New York encounter, that was all. You might think we’re dim, but we aren’t. He went to Bowdoin, and I went to a Seven Sisters college, and we both got in not because our parents were rich but on our own merits. He maintained a 4.0 GPA. I did not, though I did graduate with high honors. In my defense, I was a physics major and a math minor, and they are both tough fields. So when I say that we didn’t believe the dog was Trump, include that in your calculations.

At this point Alice was in my building’s hallway. I opened the door and she waltzed inside.

She had no collar, but she let me touch her neck. She sat obediently as I moved her fur around, looking to see if I had missed it in the wiry white curls. But then, a few seconds later, she started humping my leg. I pushed her away, and she began again. I pushed her away harder.

“Bad dog,” I said. She snarled.

I backed up against the wall and grabbed one of our Acapulco wire chairs.

Alice squatted and peed on the floor.

By the time my boyfriend got home, I had called several no-kill shelters. They all said they were full, except for one upstate. We decided we would drive the dog there ourselves over the weekend. We named her Alice, and my boyfriend went online to reserve a Zipcar and before doing so opened Twitter. That’s when he found the picture. Right after Trump had been discovered missing, a small white dog had been spotted in his hotel room. No one could say where the dog was now.

A troubled quiet fell over us as we read the article together on his laptop screen. We knew then. There was no question. The dog in the photograph was Alice. We knew for sure when we went on Instagram and found an attractive picture of Ivanka Trump—though of course all pictures of her are attractive, at least in an uncanny valley sort of way—and held up the laptop screen to show Alice and Alice stopped pacing and whining and sat obediently and began to pant with desire.

It was creepy. We closed the computer.

I haven’t mentioned this, but we already owned a dog. He was a big sweet sedentary old Bernese mountain dog named Henry with a white chest and streak on his face and snout and black and tan markings. Our landlord knew we had a dog. We were approved for a dog. At first we thought: OK, well, at least our place is pet-friendly, and maybe the dogs will like each other. Henry was sleeping when Alice arrived. When he woke up and trundled down the hall, she began to bark at him in a nasty, territorial way. She tried to block him from reaching us. We had to scoot her aside with a broom. Poor Henry looked terrified.

Alice settled down. She wouldn’t come to Alice, though. We tried Dog, and Good Dog, and Good Girl, and finally Donald, and though she looked alert and growled softly when we said Donald, she still would not come. Donald Trump, my boyfriend tried. Alice wagged her tail. Still, she did not approach. People joked during the debates that it drove him crazy to be addressed in an informal manner, so I said hesitantly, Mr. Trump? and Alice came right away.

We settled on Alice when we were talking about her to each other and MT for commands, or rather requests, since Alice made clear she would under no circumstances respond to commands. She wagged her tail when we explained that MT was short for Mr. Trump. I felt a stab of compassion for her when I saw how happy the name made her feel. Don’t we all want respect? It was a compromise we found we could live with.

What we couldn’t live with: Alice attacking our friend’s baby.

It happened that first week. Things had mostly gone OK, though Alice required a lot of attention and was terrorizing Henry, flying into a jealous rage if we paid any attention to the poor guy. We tried showing her Twitter on the old iPad we never use, thinking maybe she could entertain herself by scrolling through with her nose, but she appeared to have lost the ability to read, if she ever had it. We had a few tricks, though. We would break out a mirror sometimes, and she would sit in front of it, entranced by the image of the dog before her.

Anyway, our friend was supposed to come over for dinner on Friday night, a little get together to cheer each other up about the election, and we hurried to finish cooking the meal, which we’d mostly prepared the night before, except for the fish. As my boyfriend was pulling the fish from the oven, our friend arrived. She settled in on the couch with her three-month-old boy, and no sooner had I begun to smile at the baby than Alice jumped up on the couch and lunged. It was only our friend’s quick reflexes that saved the baby’s face. Alice tore a gash in my friend’s hand, and she screamed and I took the baby as she ran to the sink. My boyfriend locked Alice in the bathroom. We cleaned the wound and I went to the ER with my friend, who needed stitches and, it turned out, a rabies test.

In the meantime, my boyfriend came to the ER to pick us up in a taxi, which he paid to wait for us, and to apologize again to our friend and escort her home. When we got back to our own apartment, things had taken a turn for the worse. He’d let Alice out of the bathroom because she was throwing herself at the door, and he said she seemed calm once out. But when we got back, there was dog shit everywhere. She had shat all over the apartment. Henry, it was apparent from the size of the dog shit, had shat, too. He was quaking in our bedroom. Alice was strutting around, pleased with herself. It took us three and a half hours to clean the place. We had to pick up the mess, some of which was runny, and move the furniture outside into the hallway or onto our small concrete stoop so we could disinfect all the floors. It was the most unpleasant three and a half hours of my life. I seriously considered leaving Alice there and booking a hotel room for me and my boyfriend and Henry, whatever the cost, and paying a person the next day to clean the place up, but we were exhausted and besides it felt too humiliating to hire a person to do this job we knew on a moral level we should be doing ourselves. When we finally finished disinfecting the whole apartment and returned all the furniture to its place, Alice curled up on the small velvet dog bed we’d bought her and fell asleep. Henry kept quaking.

We got into bed around three forty-five am. I had never looked forward to sleep as much as that night. I stretched out my feet and felt a wet spot. What the hell? I said. I retracted my feet. My boyfriend groaned.

I got out of bed and threw back the covers, and yes, there it was: Alice had crawled down underneath the comforter and pissed at the bottom of the bed. The mattress was soaked. We had to disinfect the mattress as best we could, lug the sheets and blankets to the washer in the basement, and sleep in a nest of guest sheets on the top half of the mattress while the bottom half dried. Sneaky, vindictive little fucker, my boyfriend said when Alice came in to watch us clean. She immediately began to bang herself against the wall. I had never seen anything like it. She threw her whole body into it. She looked like an extra in an exorcism movie. She dented the drywall.

We can’t let her hurt herself! I said to my boyfriend. Good girl, Alice! I said to her. She kept banging. I mean MT! I corrected. Good girl, Mr. Trump!

She’s manipulative, too, he whispered as we fell asleep.

You can guess how things went: she terrorized us. If we didn’t feed her steak on a china platter, she banged into the wall. If we didn’t call her Mr. Trump, or at least MT, she banged into the wall. If we removed her mirror or the life-size picture of Ivanka’s head we printed out and laminated for her, she banged into the wall. She had a weird predilection for a photograph of Fabio. We played her Slovenian language acquisition tapes, which she seemed to like, along with cable news and all the recent fashion magazines. She sniffed them and ripped out pages she liked and slept with those pages in her dog bed. She wanted to be taken for walks constantly. She wanted to be petted constantly. If we paid attention to Henry she was apt to go crazy. She was racist as fuck, too, growling at our non-white friends through the window. We’d learned our lesson with the baby and no longer had people over. We went out instead. Never for long, though. Alice made sure of that.

Of course she had rabies. Our friend called with the news. A long series of shots for our friend. A quick death for Alice. That was what was on the horizon when the infection reached her brain, as it seemed already to have done. My one fear was we wouldn’t have fulfilled the contract, but if she’d come to us with rabies, well, then, what could we do? It wasn’t our fault. Surely the guy would see that. We celebrated, briefly, hoping Alice would soon be toast, but no: it turned out she tested negative. Somehow she had the ability to transmit rabies without herself suffering its ill effects.

We went on like this for a bit. Clinton took office. The economy improved. She managed to pass reasonable climate change policies. We were on the road to raising the minimum wage and outlawing private prisons and instituting federal parental leave. The country was swayed by the Democrats’ arguments. The House and Senate looked possible.

Alice made nice with Henry. For a time, she even allowed Henry to move around the apartment freely. She wanted our adoration desperately and could, if needed, behave herself. Things were looking up. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit we felt a little smug. Sí se puede! If the country only knew it had us to thank!

But we hadn’t counted on how erratic, how absolutely deviant, she was.

In quick succession, she attempted to get me to play with her one afternoon while I was working on my computer on the couch. I ignored her. She slapped the keyboard hard with her paw, breaking the H, J, and M keys. Later that day, even though I was paying attention to her, she batted my new iPhone from my hand. The screen shattered. Next she chewed up our leather couch. Then she howled as if she was the one who had been injured by her own bad behavior. Hundreds of dollars worth of damage in less than twenty-four hours. But that was hardly the most unnerving thing. Unprovoked, she bit us both. We had to begin the rabies shots. One dose of immune globulin, four more intramuscular shots in the deltoid. And one night shortly thereafter my boyfriend woke to find her hovering over his face, teeth bared. I was afraid I was going to lose my eyes, he said. Or my nose.

You still might, I said.

It is true that exercising power in a traditional dictatorship does indeed contain a necessary element of improvisation, he said. Vlacav Havel had become a call-and-response in our household, a method of understanding our prison. He continued, I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient.

After that we tried to make her sleep in a crate. Of course she refused to eat. We had no choice but to let her out. She demands access to the entire apartment at all times, even, yes, the bathroom. We have no privacy. No security, no peace. Since her hunger strike, she has only grown more vain, manipulative, self-obsessed, violent, dangerous. Ugly, too. It’s become clear to me that when I told myself others might find her cute, I was lying to myself. Not even terrier-lovers find her cute. I’ve shown them pictures. Worst of all, we had to give Henry away. He’d been my dog since he was a puppy, and at nine years old, he was old for a Bernese mountain dog, so that was hard on all of us. His new owners say he cried and cried for me. My boyfriend and I visited him a few times, but it seemed to depress him more, and Alice went crazy when she smelled him on us, so we stopped. It was like a death. I miss my sweet boy so much. And when we gave up on Henry, we gave up on sex, the lack of privacy being unbearable, and on the possibility of having a baby of our own, too, which we were ambivalent about but leaning toward doing before Alice arrived. So now we live alone with Alice. More and more I find the idea of growing old without having had a child terrifying in a way I can’t yet name. I suspect I will only feel it more with age. We can barely sleep. I jolt awake in the night. So does he. We’re always tired, and we are growing unkind. I am afraid we will come to hate each other. It’s exhausting and scary, living with a thing that wishes you ill. But we have no choice. Even if we suspect Trump will somehow become president despite our sacrifice, the devil being who he is, we have a moral responsibility to do our best within the parameters. So now here we are, catering to her, praising her no matter what shitty thing she does, letting her ruin our lives like the miserable little fucking fascist she is. It’s us or the country, and all because I made one single ill-informed decision. All because I answered one single question wrong.

Cara Blue Adams is the recipient of the Kenyon Review Short Fiction Prize and the Missouri Review Peden Prize and was named one of Narrative’s “15 Below 30.” She has been awarded scholarships and fellowships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the VCCA. An assistant professor of creative writing at Seton Hall University, she lives in Brooklyn.