The Dead Man and the Talking Dog

M had a dog named Belly who spoke to me only once.

I woke to my first morning in Russia and checked on M. His eyes were open, tinted blue. He was cold.

“Son of a bitch.” I said to the corpse. Belly, asleep beside the corpse of M, popped an eye open. He watched me. I left for the kitchen. On the kitchen table the vial of The Water of Life sat.

I put on coffee and mixed in a few drops. I carried it into M’s room once it’d cooled a bit.

Belly sat up and watched me. “This is weird.” I told him. He nodded sympathetically. I took the corpse and propped it up against the wall. I pried open the cold dry mouth and sent in the coffee. The eyes of the corpse went black. I cried out and leapt back.

M smiled.

“Oh, good. It’s you.”

I caught my breath. “Yeah. Yes, why wouldn’t it be? I told you I would.”

M stretched out his arm’s in front of him, his left shoulder cracked.

“Oh, yes, well, you know how death is like a door?”

“No?”

“Oh…” he frowned, “well, it is. And, sometimes I come back to…” he took a moment to riffle through the notepad of his thoughts, “…differences,” he decided.

“Uh-huh.”

“But! I’m glad it’s you. Let me know if you ever wake me up and it isn’t you, won’t you?”

“Isn’t me?”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll do my best I suppose.”

M smiled again. “That is all any man can ask for, hope for, or expect. Now, I need to get some sleep.” M laid back down.

“Right.” I took the empty coffee cup back to the kitchen. Belly followed.

I rinsed the cup, refilled it with some coffee for myself and sat down at the kitchen table to smoke a cigarette. Belly watched me from the door.

“Do you have any idea how hard that all was without thumbs?” he said.

“What?” I said, but he’d gone back into the bedroom. I lighted my cigarette and sighed.

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