“By the Tail” by Alex Brown

BtT Story Cover

ONEtwothree

“Just another day at work.” he said to himself.

For the last few years, Robert’s job has pretty much just been patrolling the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center subway station. Needless to say, he hasn’t been getting as much action as one might hope for. The most he’ll get is stopping a few teenagers from turnstile-hopping. When he was a younger officer, he complained about days like this a lot more. However, no matter how boring the day, not a word comes out of his mouth. Not to his colleagues. Not to his friends. Not even to his family. He’s relatively quiet about his job. Everyone he talks to always questions why, but the same response comes out of his mouth every time. “I’m growing old.” he says. Everyone seems pretty satisfied with that answer. He’s forty-six years old with a wife and kid at home. He would rather stay out of harm’s way and raise his family properly.

Today was an unusually boring day, though. It’s been roughly a month since a homeless person pissed on a turnstile, and nothing quite exciting has happened since. The knuckleheads he was typically stopping haven’t hopped the turnstiles in a few weeks. On his lunch break, Robert actually let out a complaint to his friend and ex-partner, Roy.

“It’s been excessively boring recently.”

“Heh, it’s been awhile since you’ve complained about your job. Why don’t you just go back to patrolling the streets? You’re probably thirsting for action now.”

Robert thought a little bit before nodding his head side to side.

“I’m not fit enough to do that shit anymore… I’m getting old.”

“What do you mean? Sure, you’re reaching fifty now, but… you’re still fast as all hell, and you got some strength and stamina left. You can definitely patrol aboveground if you really wanted to.”

Robert gave Roy a really stern look.

“Trust me, I am not fit for it anymore.”

Roy wanted to protest more, but he refused to go further into detail with it. He has seen Robert angry before, and it is not a sight anyone should want to see. Robert has only gotten more bitter over the years. He’d always give the same response when people asked. “It’s my age.”

“I have to get back on my shift. I’ll catch you later.”

“Alright, boss. Have a good one.”

Three hours have passed since that lunch, and the station was abnormally quiet. Robert had two hours left and just leaned against the wall looking at a photo in his wallet. As he looked at the turnstile, he noticed something. A smallish figure jumping on top of the turnstile. It was a dog. A shiba-inu, to be exact. Darkish-yellow color, shit-eating grin… yep, that’s a shiba-inu, alright.

“Hey!” Robert yelled. “You have to use your MetroCard for that! Get off now!”

The yelling only caused the dog to hop faster and start running. Robert then ran after the dog.

“Hey! Come back here, you!”

The dog, still running, look backed and began yapping.

“No! Leave Dexter ‘lone! Dexter is good boy! Dexter a macho good boy!” The dog, who we can assume is named Dexter, looked very disappointed when he realized that saying he was a good boy didn’t work on Robert. He dashed down the stairs of the D/N/R trains, and Robert would follow.

Robert thought about the dog’s name for a second. It seemed to ring a bell in his head, but it didn’t stop Robert from running. His job had excitement again!

oneTWOthree

At the platform, Dexter stopped and turned around. Looking at Robert directly in the eye, and got in a taunting position.

“Go back to policeman posi’in! Macho Dexter mussago home! Too dangerous for old man such a’ policeman!” he yelped.

“Hey, I’m not that old! And I sure as hell am not going to let criminal scum like you get away with such acts!” yelled back Robert, obviously insulted.

“Then policeman mus’ chase Dexter so’more!” the dog said, crouching in a playful position, sticking his tongue out at Robert. Robert began to run, and then Dexter jumped off of the platform into the track area. Robert, without hesitation, started to follow. They were running up to Manhattan, through the tunnels of the Bay Ridge 95th Street-bound R Train.

Sounds pretty daring and exciting for our two characters, right? Well… keep in mind this is the R Train we are talking about. Through their entire chase, they came across two trains. The first was stuck in between Dekalb and Barclays, so it wasn’t like the train was coming towards them at any point. That said, the commuters on the train were very much amused to see a forty six year old police officer chasing a shiba inu. Others would post about the situation later on their social media platforms, wondering why the officer was more focused on a dog that hopped a turnstile over more serious issues. Is this their story, though? No. This is Robert and Dexter’s story. So let me shift back focus onto them.

At the Dekalb station, Dexter stopped, and turned around. “Haha! Old policeman can never be a’ macho as Dexter!” he taunted, sticking his tongue out.

Robert just stared at the dog and thought back for a moment. A flashback to his last patrol aboveground came, but nothing more than screams came out of those dreadful flashbacks. Robert put his hand on his head, hoping for it to go away.  Dexter looked at him confused.

“Is policeman okay? Does policeman need res’ before chasing Dexter again?”

Robert looked up at the dog. He saw a very innocent and worried look in his eyes. One he has seen before…

“Don’t get all cute on me now! I’m gonna catch you and throw you in prison!”

“Oh! Policeman is very bitter man! No matter, Dexter still very macho macho! Teehee!”

They began running some more. From Dekalb to Jay Street. From Jay Street to Court Street. As they were running up to Whitehall, Robert noticed the headlights of the oncoming train. He then looked at Dexter. More flashbacks came back. More screaming. More anguish.

“Dexter! Look…” was all Robert got to say before…well…

Before he saw Dexter duck down. Robert followed this motive. They both waited until the train passed. Dexter got up and starting laughing.

“Haha! Policeman think Dexter not smar’ enough to know that train coming?” Dexter chuckled out, and then went speeding off. Robert looked down at his clothes. He was covered in filth. Angered, he went running for the dog.

They reached Whitehall Street, and Dexter jumped back onto the platform, hoping he was quick enough for Robert not to notice. Unfortunately for him, someone yelled “Holy shit! There’s a fucking dog running around loose on the platform!”, which Robert was just about close enough to here. “Macho Dexter never gets a break!” the dog sighed to himself as he began running again.

Get back here, you little brat!” Robert yelled, as he climbed onto the platform and began chasing the dog again.

“Ha! Police man too slo’ for Dexter!” the dog yapped. The dog taunted the policeman too much, though, as he finally grabbed Dexter.

“Heh… you’re mine now.”

“Oh! Let Dexter go! Dexter told you Dexter is a macho good boy! Let Dexter go!”

“No criminal gets out of my sights like that. You’re a very, very bad boy.”

Robert walked up the stairs to get aboveground. He began to call over a police car to come pick up Dexter.

“This is the first time I’ve done something like this in a long time.” he said to the dog. Robert felt accomplished about something for the first time in a few years.

Going aboveground, the memories started striking Robert’s head again. Memories of his last day on an aboveground patrol. The screaming commenced once more.

onetwoTHREE

“Please please, le’ Dexter go! Dexter promi’ to be a macho good boy!” the dog yelped as he was tied up to a pole near the Staten Island Ferry. The dog was trying very hard to get away from scott-free from this one. Doesn’t he know that Robert doesn’t tolerate any shit at this point?

“I just called over some of my pals. You’re gonna be spending a night behind bars, pal!” Robert shouted at the dog. It was a busy day in Manhattan, so the police were going to take a little while longer than normal to come. There was complete silence.

Then, ten minutes after, Dexter asked “Why bitter?”

“Hm?”

“Why policeman so bitter?”

Robert said in an annoyed fashion “Because you’re a criminal! I’m not suppose to play nice with criminals.”

Dexter yawned “Dexter can tell th’ reason is deeper than that!”

Robert let out a sigh and said “I’m growing old. That’s all.”

“Dexter kno’ it more than that, too.”

Robert just looked at the dog. Then took a deep breath, but remained silent.

“Dexter will tell you hi’ backstory if policeman gon’ be silent then!” the dog yapped.

Robert stared at the dog. “Fine, go for it. Why did you choose to live this life?”

“Dexter born in a puppy mill, stripped away from mom ‘nd dad. Dexter actually born very far from here. Dexter was only born fo’ monster’s profit. Monster give Dexter that name. Dexter got too smart, and found way to escape. Dexter ha’ been on the run eve’ since. Dexter been in thi’ place for a few month now, and jus’ discover the underground tunnels you have! Great way to insure safety for Dexter as he travel.”

Robert was amazed at this story. “Do you even know how dangerous what we did was?”

“Bett’ than living in puppy mill! Now, you go!”

Robert sighed. “Fine… I guess it’s time I told someone. A few years back, I had a dog… a german shepard. His name was Dexter, also.”

The dog tilted his head, showing interest.

“The dog was assigned to my as my K-9 unit. Before him, I had no interest in animals. But his loyalty… his love and devotion to me, no matter how hard life got for me… I had a change of heart. He wasn’t just a dog. He was a brother to me.” He chuckled, “If he could communicate with humans as well as you did, I probably would’ve made him my best man!” The dog showed enjoyment to that statement.

“Wha’ happen to other Dexter?” the dog said.

Robert began to visibly shake. After a few stutters, he finally got words out:

“Y-you see… my Dexter was growing old, and… on the last day I… we… were aboveground, we were cha-chasing a guy, and… and…” He began tearing up. “He passed out. I knew he was tired, but I keep dragging him to catch this guy, that I didn’t care about anything but catching this guy. I snapped out of it after he passed out. I took him to the vet and… they informed me he wasn’t going to make it. So I had to make the toughest decision in my life and…“

That’s all Robert could say before he broke down.

“I have had nightmares about it every day since. He was everything to me. I was so selfish.”

The dog put his paw on Robert.

“I’m sure other Dexter forgives policeman. Everyone make mistakes, no matter how macho one is.”

Robert started cleaning his eyes. “I could never forgive myself. I just can’t,”

“No! Policeman must!” Dexter shouted. “Oth’ Dexter would not wan’ to see policeman like this! I know it hard, but policeman must! For family! For Oth’ Dexter!”

Robert was in complete shock. He couldn’t believe to hear such passion from anyone to continue moving on, especially from a dog.

“How could I move on, though?”

“Why don’t policeman make Dexter new K-9!”

Robert was taken back. “Excuse me?”

“I trade this lifestyle away, and in return, I can be policeman’s new K-9!”

Robert sighed “I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for another dog in my life after that incident.’

“Dexter may never replace policeman’s Dexter, but Dexter can give policeman a new thing to love and care for, and make sure policeman never make the same mistakes again!”

Robert began to shake. Soon, tears flowed out. Happy tears. This must’ve been some sort of message from his old dog to move on. Maybe what he needed this entire time was another dog. Another friend. Another Dexter. For the first time since those many years ago, Robert was happy. Truly happy.

The police car arrived. Robert made his mind.

~fin.~

 

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