To you, I’m Sam. Sam, the one who’s brown from head to toe. Sam, the one who would just as soon bite your hand off as chow down on a bowl of rotten meat and stagnate water. They say to never bite the hand that feeds you, but your hand comes in this cage for more reasons than one.
Today, you let your bony hands rattle against the bars. You know how much I hate that, but you do it to me anyway. You laugh it off with a toothy grin before tempting me with the rattling of rock-hard kibble. I salivate, I rub my nose against those cold black bars. You give in to my desire. The metal rods part ways, and soon enough a bowl of brown is sitting in front of me.
I’m thankful, sure. I won’t bite you. But I’ve been in here far too long to classify you as anything higher than the filth that layers the bottom of this cell. If it wasn’t for that daily bowl of muck, well, let’s just say your hand would look one hell of a lot bonier.
Today, though, I was feeling more than just hungry. I know you’d just assume it was my time of the year, or I had caught some disease. Perhaps you’re right. I itch, you see. It’s not the good type of itch either. It’s a shroud that covers my ears in sharp pain one minute, and thick numbness another. It dominates every second of my day. Prickling needles: Half a million for each ear. I lift my foot to tend it, and it comes back bloody. Six teeth inch across the floorboard.
“It looks like a damn pomegranate.”
Your friend is pretty observant.
“Yeah, he’s got it pretty bad,” you say. You open up the cage, and I try to stop you but I can’t. I’m digging my claws into hard plastic, my paws are wrapping around bars; you pull, and I tug. Your fingers dig into my ribs. I let go.
Because whats the point?
The operating table is only a corridor away, yet the journey wracks me terribly. I can feel your arms wrap around my back, warm, yet sinister. There is no sanity in this place you call the Clinic, so I writhe around your shoulder hoping for some sort of rationality.
“C’mon Sammy, we’re not gonna’ hurt yeh’, not one bit!” You take me in one hand and place me on the cold, eggshell porcelain.
I’m sure I look a decrepit husk, four legs and two dozen claws rattling against the counter. I’m rocking all right. You could at least have the frankness to point it out for me.
“He’s shaking, the poor thing.” Your friend chuckles. Didn’t I say he was the observant one?
“Oh, now you’d be shaking too if you had it as bad as him.”
“I bet its pretty common around here.” Your friend is making all the conversation, yet you sit there rummaging through your off-white cupboards.
“You betcha’.” Out comes the silver tool that could only be the alarming melding of two miniature knives. While dunking it in smelly water you continue your retort: “We’ve even got a name for it around here. We call it the bug.”
“I think there’s a few more than that.”
“Yeah, well, a bug’s a bug.” The twin knives surface, hover, before drying instantaneously. “Hold him down, I want a clean tug - no leftover bits.”
Two hands suppress my hind legs, another pushes my head to the table. I’ve only one eye available. And you know what it sees? Two ugly mugs looking down on me, and, of course, a silver instrument as pretty as a swastika.
What happens next is nothing short of excruciating. The instrument digs deep into my scalp, giving a sharp prick before dropping a tooth on the porcelain. It clicks as it falls, and begins wriggling as soon as it’s done spinning.
One after another they continue falling until we’ve got a miniature army parading around the operating table. I know your done by the satisfying sigh, and the fact that you’ve chucked the instrument to the sink.
“Damn, you’ve got to do that to mine sometime,” your friend says, and I’m put back into my cell.
Of course, that was all a week ago. The same procedure has been repeated on two other dogs of the same condition. I see you walk by, carrying them in your arms like struggling babies. And you know what? They look just like pomegranates, the ears, I mean. The bugs are packed in close together like that seedy fruit, sucking on skin just as red and raw.
To think, I was in that same boat. The numb ears, the sharp pin-pricks, the feeling of constant hunger. You fed me well, I can admit, but you also liberated me from a captor I never knew imprisoned me.
One week ago, you were my enemy, the sadistic jailor, the human psychopath. But one week ago, you pricked those ticks off me right proper, and I’ve never felt better.
Is an apology in order? I don’t know. I’d hug you, but I’m in this cage. The only thing I can do is thank you silently from a language you’ll never understand. I hope it’s enough… by the way you smile at me, I’m sure it is.
THREE WEEKS LATER…
Tenacious little beasts, aren’t they? Ticks, I mean. Unwieldy in their size, but my paws have no trouble making sure their bulbous little bodies have nowhere to run. One sits before me, the lone pawn after all other pieces have fallen.
I’ll name the little thing, just like you named me. But it won’t be an innocent Sammy. It needs to be something strong, something as tough as their behaviour suggests.
After all, I caught the thing.
I caught the bug.
I think I’ll name it Stockholm.