Locust House Variations, A Weekly Fiction Column by Adam Gnade, Dogs in Commercials are Actors

Standing on the cliffside at Law Street, the wind blowing a storm in from offshore, the sky a churning arcade of black clouds to the west, and the sea a mess of whitecaps and chop, you think about last night. (It never rains in Southern California, except when it does.)

Agnes, back home your tiny apartment is empty and trashed after the party last night where Joey Carr got drunk and cried about a cute puppy he’d seen on a dog food commercial where the puppy aged in sped-up time along with its child owner as they played with a football and ran in a sunny meadow together and the boy gets older and the dog gets older and then the boy is no longer a boy, he’s a teenager and the dog is getting white around the muzzle and has trouble getting up on cold mornings and one day the boy comes home from college to find out his dad put the dog to sleep.

“Wait, that’s not how it went,” said Eddie Ramos, holding a bottle of beer to his chest.

Eddie was right.

You’d seen the commercial at Archy’s place.

What happened was the dog got older and the boy got older until one day he (the boy) came home from college and the dog was very old and gray and sleeping on an oversized pillow by the fire and the boy knelt down and rubbed the dog’s old ears and the dog looked up and wagged his old tail and that was the end of the commercial.

Drunk Joey Carr was crying as Eddie told the official version then someone listening said, “THAT’S why I’m not going to college” and everyone standing around laughed and walked outside to have a smoke and left poor Joey Carr crying on your couch.

You sat down and put an arm around him and said, “Buddy, those dogs in the commercial? They’re actors.”