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The Dog

October 1, 2008 by · No comments

Julie Farkas
streetcar
Photo: Macsurak

Remi trained the viewfinder of her camera at the painting of a couple dancing in a bar. They pressed their elongated figures close together, their expressions frozen and sad. The dark wood floorboards wobbled and dipped under their feet and the orange walls and ceilings curved inward. Remi wondered if she should paint the floor black to stabilize–

“Remi, just take the picture.” Armand hovered over her, so close she could feel the heat from his body.
“I can’t.” Remi stepped away from the tripod and ducked under his arm.
“Okay, I’ll do it,” Armand said, his lips a tight line as he adjusted the viewfinder.
“It’s all wrong.”

“It’s not. It’s fine.” Armand took a picture, then moved the tripod forward for a closer shot.
The bright flash hurt her eyes, and the sound of the motor whirring to advance the film grated on her nerves. “Jesus, that camera sounds as bad as that damn dog.”

“Remi, I looked. There is no dog.” The flash went off again.
“Goddammit, I told you, he runs under the house the minute he hears anyone.”
Armand turned around. “Remi . . . .”
“What? Stop looking at me like that.”

“Why don’t you take the streetcar home. I’ll finish up here.” Armand moved the painting of the dancing couple and propped a scene of the French Quarter on the easel. The flash went off as he took another picture. “I’ll have everything shipped out this afternoon. You’ll feel better when these are in New York.” He turned to look at her. “Tomorrow we’ll go to a movie and have some fun. Okay?”
“Okay, okay.” Remi picked up her purse and left the studio without another word.

Outside, the sweet scent of honeysuckle and jasmine from the vines that twined around the downspouts filled the thick, humid air. When she stepped onto the sidewalk, heat seeped into her shoes and eddied around her ankles. She hurried past the hardware store and turned toward St. Charles Avenue, and the streetcar.

Soon, her brisk walk slowed to a crawl and beads of sweat formed on her forehead and upper lip. She fanned herself with her hand, but the thick, hot air she puffed around her face only made her feel hotter. When she came to a spreading oak tree, she stopped for respite under its shade.

As she wiped her damp, flushed face with her sleeve, she heard a streetcar rumble down the tracks. She knew it would be cooler sitting by the window with the air breezing in, so she pushed on to St. Charles.

Remi joined the cluster of passengers at the stop, silent and stilled by the relentless heat. When she heard the car, she pulled out her coins, eager to get out of the heat.

When she climbed aboard, she sat in a window seat. As soon as the streetcar began to move, air streamed in, mixed with the scent of flowering verbena, sweet olive, and magnolia, from the lush gardens surrounding the mansions lining St. Charles, Ave. As they traveled down the tracks, the familiar swaying calmed and soothed her.

I should be thankful he’s crating the pictures, she thought. But lately, when she was with him, he irritated her. Something always needed to be done. And always on his schedule. And if she was five minutes late his lips got tight, and his eyes narrowed. Sometimes, to hurry her up, he would stand at the door and jingle everything in his pockets until she thought she would go mad. And this feeling that something bad would happen soon never left her now. Home. She needed to get home.

***
Armand looked at the painting of the levee. He had never seen this one. Black clouds streaked with dark red rolled in from the right, over the river. The air had an eerie greenish color. On the left, a black dog sat on the lush green grass of the levee overlooking the dark river water. Stiff and taught with fierce yellow eyes, the dog extended his neck and howled at the sky.

A chill went up Armand’s spine.

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