Arts writer 1985-1988
Staff writer/editor 1988-1993
Back story: When Kit Rachlis assigned me to cover the 1992 Republican Convention, I came home and wrote 12,000 frantic words in three days. For a variety of reasons — including the fact that Bush 41 was more or less MIA from the piece until his acceptance speech — I broke up each section (and vented some spleen) with these fantasy passages about our then-president’s literal passion for screwing the pooch. Needless to say, no print publication in America — “alternative” or not — would let me get away with anything of the sort today. The memory I cherish, though, is that when John Powers got the job of editing my draft down to a manageable (!) 10,000 words, we chopped out whole chunks of reporting — and never even discussed cutting “Dogfucker Blues.” As I recall, Kit may have wondered aloud in the crunch if we really needed it. But when John said, “Absolutely,” he let it go without another word.
He couldn’t remember when it had started. Prep school, maybe. … But even before Pearl Harbor, when he’d been a kid in Connecticut, there’d just been something about putting it to a dog that excited him.
He’d never told anyone. Even at Skull and Bones, when he was lying naked in the coffin, while the candle dripped hot wax on his belly, he hadn’t been able to blurt it out, the dog thing. He’d just made up some stuff instead. Some business about Negresses and whips — the same things all the other fellows said.
He’d had human mistresses too — sure. For show. How strange that even his secrets were for show. But dogs were better. More — well, some damn word: docile. Less threatening. They didn’t laugh, and they wouldn’t talk, because they couldn’t talk. And if they could talk, who’d believe a dog?
But he wasn’t just some pervert, hanging around kennels and trophy shows in his Burberry. Not — not like he’d just thrown all his standards overboard. Hold on: Was that a mixed metaphor? Was it a metaphor? Skip it. Point was, one, he’d never gone after pedigreed animals — for one thing, specially up in Kennebunk, if you got stiff for some Irish setter frisking on the beach, you still never knew but what one of your own friends might own it, and that wouldn’t be right. Wouldn’t be fair. To them. Besides, mutts, mongrels, strays — they were more arousing, somehow. What was exciting was that no one cared what became of them.
And he’d sure’s heck always make sure they were shes first. The thought of a male pooch revolted him.
After all, that would be homosexual. …
There was one thing he hated to think about, and so he never did: the Dog-people.
He’d never actually seen any of them. But one day in 1975, when he was running CIA, his deputy director had come to him with disturbing reports of a new kind of monstrous creature being sighted across the United States. Some had human heads and canine bodies, some the reverse. Some were just horrible squishy things — jellied masses, furry here and naked there, with people-eyes and doggy-lips, and bits of both human and canine limbs sticking out of them. Most of those died at birth.
Luckily, it had never occurred to his deputy director to check the locations of the sightings against his own boss’ business trips. But even so, he had to be careful. Acting very concerned (he was, of course, but not like that), he ordered that every last mutant be tracked down but pronto. Then they were to be sealed up in cases in supersecret locations around the country, and injected with the special cryogenics fluid.
After a while, he hadn’t worried anymore about it.
Yet this same night, as his mind wandered to more pressing topics (what did this darn country have against Cigarette boats?), one of the glass cases, in one of the supersecret locations, broke open. In a hiss of gas, the creature inside climbed out. It found it had four legs. It lurched down the corridor until it came to a mirror. It saw that it was a dog with a human head.
“Cur-cur-cur,” it said.
“Curse!” it said.
“REEEAARGH,” it said.
Baker knew, of course. Even if they’d never talked about it. But whenever he visited Baker’s ranch out in Wyoming, Baker would have two or three mongrels locked in a back room, just for him. When he’d excuse himself, saying he was going to go to bed, Baker would watch him leave, an inscrutable expression on his face.
Even so, he hated having to make this phone call. He just couldn’t see any other option. He dialed the State Department line.
“Jim,” he said all in a rush, “I need help. They’re escaping. All over the United States, from all the supersecret locations. I’ve got reports. They’re all escaping.”
“Who’s escaping?” Baker asked. But he knew. Baker always knew.
He hated even having to say the words. “The Dog-people,” he finally whispered into the receiver.
But once he’d gotten that out, the dam burst. He was babbling, telling Baker that he had to drop everything, it didn’t matter what, and come back and help him just one more time. Help him take care of the Dog-people, he couldn’t do it alone, he was sorry, he —
Baker was silent a long time. When he spoke, it was in a voice of incredulous disgust.
“Why, you pooch-fucker,” Baker said.
He hung up the phone, distracted and fretful.
He knew he ought to work. Bosnia, Herzegovina — oh, hell, they’d still be there tomorrow. He threw down the pencil; he knew what the matter was. It was always like this when he was under stress.
He needed some A-1 pooch-time.
But where could he get one? The pound was closed. Maybe just — hadn’t the Mex grandkids been watching Lassie? But then he’d have to ask somebody how to work the VCR. He felt frantic.
Then he saw her. Those eyes, so loyal, so trusting. That lolling tongue. He knew he’d be breaking every promise he’d ever made to himself. Oh, dammit! Of all the Oval Offices in all the White Houses in the world, why did she have to be lying under the desk in his?
“Millie?” he whispered.
She licked his hand. He stealthily disrobed.
It wasn’t the dog’s fault. It was — him! It was it. It was his it. It wouldn’t — well, it wouldn’t. The performance thing. The hard part. And the dog was there, waiting. He whimpered, and the dog looked over her shoulder at him.
Could things get worse? The door creaked open. And there was the dog, and him standing there, with one hand full of useless poppycock.
“I don’t care what you say,” Bar said. “If you’ve already done what it looks like you’re trying to do, that bitch is getting an abortion.”