Denny sits naked in the dog house after dinner. Everyone does things to clear their head. His wife has her running, the kid has his video games, other people Denny knows shoot guns or swim, and Denny has the dog house. He tries not to think while in the dog house. He doesn’t touch himself or think about his wife or other women he knows in that way; it’s not like that in the dog house. This is a man, Denny, sitting naked in a dog house, in his backyard, for a few hours after dinner.
“Does your husband still sit naked in the dog house?” People ask Denny’s wife this. “Yes,” she says, “but I don’t want to talk about it.” Because what wife with a man who sits naked in the dog house would want to talk about it? She knew before they were married that he enjoyed sitting naked in small spaces. Before they bought the dog, Denny would park his car in the garage after work and sit naked in the driver’s seat for a few hours. She was sure he was you-know-what-ing in there, which disgusted her. She even thought about leaving him. One night after he came in from the garge she screamed at him: “I know what you’re doing in there!” He promised he wasn’t touching himself. “I sit there naked, that’s it. I just sit.” She wanted to know what he was thinking about. “What are you thiiiiiinking about?” she said. Denny assured her he wasn’t doing any deep-thinking. “I’m sitting in my car naked for a few hours after work. That’s it.”
After they bought the dog and the dog house there was now a smaller space available to Denny in which to sit naked. He started sitting naked in the dog house after dinner, only on Sundays. His wife noticed that he was no longer sitting naked in the car after work. She was relieved that this stage in his life, in their life, was over. But soon after dinner one Sunday she walked out back for no reason at all and found Denny cross-legged and naked in the dog house. “The dog house?” she said. Denny didn’t say anything and remained seated for another hour.
His wife tried to hide this from the friends and family members who didn’t already know. In her eyes, the dog house was a worse place for Denny to sit than the car as there was no fence in their backyard and they lived in one of those neighborhoods with semi-communal backyards and kids would play capture the flag and soccer across three backyards, and Denny would sometimes sit before is was fully dark out and, God forbid, his wife thought, if a young neighbor girl saw Denny crawling out of the dog house one night and ran screaming back to her house and told her parents about the naked man in the dog house. She would have to divorce Denny and raise the kid alone.
“Woof woof,” Denny said one night after coming in from the dog house. “I’m a dog now.” He grabbed his genitals and waved them in his wife’s direction. She was doing the dishes and was not amused by this. “Listen,” she said, “I’m having company over for dinner this Sunday. It’s a big deal for me, she’s an old college friend I haven’t seen in many years and she’s bringing her new husband. I need you to promise me that you won’t sit in the dog house.” Denny let go of his genitals. “Do you really not want me to?” he said. “Yes,” she said. “I really do not want you to.”
Next Sunday the friend came over with her new husband, who happened to be a vet, and the foursome discussed their pets and the school system while eating dinner. The dog walked by the dinner table and the vet admired its coat and said it seemed to be a good weight. “Most American dogs are fatsos,” the vet said. Denny said they walk the dog daily and groom it every week. “Sometimes twice a week if he gets dirty. You know how dogs get.” The vet said, “We have a dog too and he tends to get very dirty whenever we let him outside. And that’s just about every day.” Denny did not enjoy the vet’s company but he continued being cordial with him as a favor to his wife because, at the end of the day, if Denny were to tally up the sum of her personality, her appearance, her tolerance of his sitting in the dog house, and her sustained enthusiasm in bed, she is a wonderful life partner whom he wouldn’t want to disappoint.
“I see you have a dog house out back,” the vet said. “I like the look of it.”
“Thank you,” Denny said.
“Where did you get it?”
“Petsmart. It was on sale.”
Now that the vet was interested in talking about the dog house, Denny liked the vet. He asked his wife if he could go outside and show off the dog house and she said yes. She had wanted to catch up privately with her friend so they could talk about their husbands and all the lovely things they do as well as their unsavory habits.
Out back near the dog house Denny ran his hand along the shingles of the roof of the dog house and said, “These are real roof shingles. The kind of shingles you see on a real house’s roof. They are probably not too different than the shingles on my roof, or your roof.” The vet rested his hand on the shingles and confirmed that they were the same shingles one could find on a real roof. The vet bent over and looked inside the dog house. He appreciated how large it was. “You could fit three dogs the size of your dog in this dog house,” the vet said. Denny said you could fit four even, and they agreed on that, four dogs.
“Do you ever wonder if your dog lives better than you do?”the vet said.
Denny had thought about this often and had already concluded for certain that, yes, his dog lives better than he does. Denny’s favorite thing to do was sitting naked in the dog house, but he only did once a week out of respect for his wife and out of fear of being caught by a neighbor, whereas the dog sat naked in the dog house every day for many hours at a time. The great pleasure Denny got from sitting in the dog house must have been felt by the dog much more often than it was felt by Denny, Denny thought.
“My dog lives better than me,” Denny said.
“My dog lives better than me, too,” the vet said.
Denny was starting to feel more acquainted with the vet. At first he didn’t like the things the vet said, or his shirt, but now he liked both. Denny thought there was a chance they could even become friends, and he figured that if their wives’ conversation went well and they picked up their old college friendship, then he would need to become friends with the vet anyway, or at least see him in social situations and be cordial.
“Most pet dogs in America live better than much of the country’s human population, all things considered,” the vet said.
“Definitely,” Denny said.
Denny wanted to tell the vet that he sits naked in the dog house. He wanted the vet to know that after dinner on Sundays he walks outside and gets naked and crawls inside the dog house and sits for a few hours. Like his dog, Denny sits there and doesn’t think, or at least he tries not to, and he doesn’t touch himself. He doesn’t feel a strong happiness, and he doesn’t brood or sink into a sadness or become anxious about anything he’s done or failed to do—and Denny has failed to do much. When he sits in the dog house he sits in the dog house, nothing else, and he wanted to tell the vet about this and how sometimes after sitting in the dog house he would feel like a dog, but out of respect for his wife he didn’t.
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