Axl Rose Is My Dog
by Scott Ford Read author interview December 15, 2004
It’s after seven-thirty when I finish the courthouse lawn and the mosquitoes are attacking me like so many Kamikaze fighter pilots. My armpits smell like the bad end of a bean burrito. Where I’m going is the animal shelter to get a dog for Delta’s birthday. She’s my daughter. My dog, an Irish Wolfhound named Axl Rose, has got his head out the window with his mouth open. He’s not the brightest dog, but he’s loyal.
When I pull up to the place the lights are off, and hanging on the glass door is a CLOSED sign.
I cup my hands to the door. I walk back to the truck, tell Axl Rose to stay put while I walk around to the back of the building. Good dog, I say. Be right back I tell him.
There are no doors or windows. This place is like a doggie prison. Lots of ways in, but only one way out. It’s sad if you think about it, so I don’t. I could always bust the glass on the front door and steal a dog, but I bet there’s laws against stealing dogs nobody wants, no matter the reason. What I’m saying is I need to come up with Plan B. We drive home, hoping for an idea.
Home is a double-wide Fleetwood. Axl Rose jumps out the second the truck stops and runs inside his doghouse. I built it myself; he’s got a skylight and a secondhand mattress. When Jodi, my live-in girlfriend, is on my ass about one thing or another I kick Axl Rose out and lie down on his lumpy bed and think about things. Like: Can things get any worse than hiding in a doghouse? Why does my girlfriend look like Drew Carey?
By now it’s full dark. For sure I’ve missed Delta’s party, but I couldn’t show up without a dog. Inside Jodie’s lying on the couch in a pair of black spandex biker shorts—her varicose veins twist and fork like a map showing the way to hell—which is strange considering neither of us owns a bike.
“Dude,” she says, sitting up. “Take a shower, you smell like shit.”
While I’m in the shower I think of something. It’s so simple, I’m kicking myself for not thinking of it earlier. I’ll give her Axl Rose.
Sure, he’s the closest thing I’ve got to a friend, but it’s her birthday. I promised her a dog.
Next to me in the truck Axl Rose licks my hand. There’s a red bow around his neck. If I had to guess I’d say he has no idea why it’s there. He scratches his window like he does when he’s gotta go potty. I pull to the side of the road and park in the breakdown lane. I reach over, push open the door, and he jumps down and takes off into the tall grass. While he’s doing his business I think about ways of asking Jodi to move out. It’s not as easy as you think getting a fat woman out of your life.
After I decide nothing short of accidental suicide will take care of Jodi I go out looking for Axl Rose. He’s normally quick about these things. I yell his name several times. I walk back to the truck, open and close the door, hoping he’ll come running, afraid that I’m going to leave without him. The sound echoes in the quiet night. Moments later he’s pawing at the door, begging for me to let him in.
“Let’s roll,” I say. “We got a party to go to.”
He climbs in, shaking the dew from his back. He looks at me with impossibly sad eyes. I turn away. I tell myself it’s the headlights from the oncoming traffic making my eyes water.
Outside Carly’s house pink and blue balloons are tied to the porch. There’s a long card table in the driveway covered with plastic plates and Styrofoam cups. Some of the cups are on their side and shiny wrapping paper litters the yard. Upstairs Carly’s bedroom light is on. I’ve spent more time than I care to tell you standing across the street hiding behind a tree looking at her window. Even though she’s my ex-wife, I still love her. Axl Rose is trying to chew the bow off his neck.
I take a deep breath, walk up to the front door and ring the bell. Delta opens the door.
“Daddy!” she yells, hugging my legs.
Carly’s got her hand on Delta’s shoulder.
“You’re late,” she says.
To Delta I say, pulling Axl Rose in front of me, “Got something for you.”
“Where, Daddy? What did you getted me?”
“Right here,” I say, slapping Axl Rose on his flank.
“Oh no,” Carly says. “No dogs. We’ve been over this already, Gaylord. No dogs.”
“Mommy says they make me sick.”
We argue, but just like every other time, Carly wins. But this is the first time I’m glad I lost. It would have been hard losing Axl Rose.
The Mayor steps outside wearing a pair of white shorts, dark socks, and some kind of Hawaiian shirt.
“What’s going on?” he says.
“We were just leaving,” I say.
I gently pull the dog’s collar and lead him back to our truck. I kneel down and remove the red bow. I start the engine and together we go so fast the cab starts to buck. We pass the courthouse going eighty and when a police cruiser pulls out, the blue and red lights alternating in my mirror like neon blowpops. I put all my weight onto the accelerator, telling Axl Rose to hang on for dear life.
About the Author:
Scott Ford was born in Flint, MI and now resides in Houston, TX with his wife and four children. He is not related to Dennis Franz.
About the Artist:
A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.
Like what you read in SmokeLong? Consider donating to us. $3 helps a writer get paid.