The town had one good dog in it and the dog belonged to a rapist. When the rapist walked the dog each afternoon, the schoolchildren would run out into the schoolyard and stick their fingers through the fence. When the dog licked their fingers, the schoolchildren were happy. Old people liked the rapist’s dog too, and would crawl out from their porches on their hands and knees to grasp its soft ears. When the dog appeared, the townspeople cheered and the town had never been happier.
It was a good dog. It did not bite. It did not bark.
When the rapist brought the dog out in public, he would stand back and look at the faces of the townspeople who loved the dog. No one noticed the dog belonged to a rapist because they loved the dog so much. The rapist liked to tell the people about how he had gotten the dog as a puppy and had trained it to obey his every command. Sometimes he gave the townspeople tips on how to train their own dogs. The rapist was a very good trainer.
One day I was walking into town when I came upon the rapist and his dog and the mayor. The mayor was scratching the dog’s underbelly and cooing to it as he would a bedded lover. I crossed the street and continued walking.
Sara Kachelman? Sara Kachelman is that you? Don’t you want to come pet this dog? the mayor asked.
I do not want to pet that dog, I said.
The mayor stopped scratching the dog. He looked at me in astonishment.
You don’t like dogs? he asked. His eyes hollowed to the size of peas.
I will not pet it, I said.
What kind of person wouldn’t pet this dog? the mayor said. He stood up and waved his hands in rage. Why, this is the best dog in the whole town! he cried.
The dog leaped into the air and turned a backflip. At the sight of this, a group of shopkeepers cheered from their doorways. The butcher cheered. The candlemaker cheered. Then they turned to me. They were clearly insulted by my refusal to cheer.
The rapist gave the dog a treat.
You are an ungrateful resident of this town, said the mayor. That dog did that trick just for you.
The rapist was waiting for me to pet his dog. The rapist had raped me two years ago. I did not want to have sex with him, but he said if I did not he would kill himself. He had tried to kill himself before.
The rapist was a clean white man with white teeth. Everyone was convinced that he was a good citizen. The rapist was very convincing. If he had to kill himself, the town would truly be sorry.
He was looking at me the same way he looked at his dog, the same way most people look at clowns when they expect to be entertained.
I ought to have you arrested, said the mayor, for this selfish behavior. Now, in the name of the town, pet this dog!
The rapist ordered the dog to smile.
Stand back, I told the mayor. I pulled a gun out of my purse. I fired one shot.
I blasted the dog’s head into the sidewalk. The leash dangled from the rapist’s hand.
When the shot cracked through the streets, the town began to sag. The streets sank eleven inches, and the church steeple curled. The townspeople climbed out of their windows and doors and circled me. Each townsperson was permitted one kick. Three hundred and thirty-three people lived in the town.
Later that evening the mayor came to visit me in the town jail. You can go home if you tell the judge that you are insane, he said.
I am not insane, I told him. I shot the dog because it made the rapist happy and the rapist raped me. Now I can be happy, just like everyone else has been. The rapist and I both lost something.
But the only thing lost is the dog, said the mayor.
The town lost me, I said.
The mayor wrinkled his nose. You’re not lost. I’m looking at you right now, and you look terrible, he said. And you are no fun to be around. You are not a good citizen at all.
The dog, however, was an excellent citizen, the mayor continued. He was the best dog this town has ever had. He loved all of us, even you. His loss is worth more than your loss. We can’t even see yours. How would we prove it? But his loss is incontestable, we saw his head explode. Even children saw it. This town may never be happy again! You should be locked up for life.
But I am worth more than a dog, I said.
Maybe some dogs, said the mayor.
I turned around and faced the wall.
See, now you don’t even like me, said the mayor. If you weren’t locked up, you’d probably shoot my dog! You are a threat to dogs everywhere.
Every sixty days the mayor arrives in the jail for our conjugal visit. The visits last forty-seven hours and take place in a trailer adjoining the jail. The trailer contains a cot, a bar of soap, condoms, lubricant, linens, and towels. It also has a window, through which we can look upon the townspeople going to the butcher shop or the candle shop. Often, when the mayor takes me from behind, I can look out and see the rapist walking his new dog. This dog is even better than the last dog. The town has never been happier.
Sara Kachelman has studied fiction at the University of the South and the University of Amsterdam. Her fiction has appeared in Portland Review and will soon appear in DIAGRAM. She lives in Portland, OR.