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A terrible headache. Arising from slumber, I look over the edge of my bed. Don’t want to step on my puppy. He’s not there. He’s not in the room. Must have wanted to get an early start. I get out of bed. Rub my eyes. Motion to flip on the light.

Miss the switch.

Doesn’t matter. It’s light enough outside to make my way down the hall. That means I’m late. Always late for something after a night out. Wait…forgot. I never know what day it is until after everyone else on this side of the date line knows. If today were tomorrow, I would be late.

I wonder where my dog is. Make my way down the hall. I ignore closed doors and listen. I hear nothing. He’s heard me. He’s being still. Enter into the living room. Reach down on the floor. Pick up a partially chewed scrap of paper. Crumble it and put it in my pocket. Out of habit. Walk into the living room. He catches me catch him in my still hazy peripheral vision. He looks up at me. A cigarette butt is in his mouth. Destroyed cigarettes are festively sprinkled about. The cigarette box seems to have been made into some cheap substitute for confetti.

He continues to look at me. Sees my disappointment. I must have left the cigarettes on the couch last night. He looks down. Looks at me. Drops the cigarette butt. Tries to look innocent.

I pick up the one cigarette that is closest to being whole. Set it on the desk. Reach in my left pocket. Check for my lighter. It’s not there. Only beer bottle caps. It’s a manifestation of subconscious habit. My hangover directs me to return them to my pocket. Until later. When I can sort things out.

I feel my right pocket. The lighter is there. Walk back down the hall. Open the closet door. My dog follows me. He’s sitting at my feet. I reach for the vacuum cleaner. He edges backward. Then trots back down the hall toward the living room. He knows what I’m about to do. He sits in the living room, away from the mess he had recklessly brought about. He barks once. I plug in the vacuum. He barks twice. He’s thinking “Is that cat-fucker gonna turn that thing on again? It’s big, and ugly, and loud”. I pick up the larger remains of his destruction. Walk back over to the vacuum. He knows. He envisions his route. Down the hall. Right turn. Under the bed. I turn on the vacuum. He’s already gone.

The noise stops. He peeks his head from the bedroom door. Peers down the hall. He only reemerges when all is quiet. I leave the vacuum where it is. Sit on the couch. Put the cigarette from the desk in my mouth. Reach into my right pocket. Pull out the lighter. A flame. There’s something else. A handwritten series of digits was in my pocket along with the lighter. There’s a name. Marlina. If she was here, now she's gone. I crumble the paper in my hand. Put the lighter back in my pocket. Put the piece of paper back in my pocket.

Until later. When I can sort things out.


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