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Political Discourse

On a blustery Sunday morning in late January, clouds sailed above an assortment of people at the beach. They gathered and stood in a messy semi-ring between a line of dried seaweed near the water’s edge and a tall, grassy dune. A cold wind whipped sand through them; these ordinary people.

Some were out for a walk. One man was a landscape photographer in search of the perfect ‘long exposure.’ One woman ran away from breakfast with her husband and found herself on the beach. An old lady was there with her little poodle. It ignored the excitement in order to stare at the old lady’s pocket where it knew she had treats. A couple of teens came in from the dunes where they’d camped the night before. They were red from the wind and their second sexual experience. One young man enjoyed praying near the ocean before mass on Sundays. A couple of lost tourists thought they were at another beach. These were the ordinary people who watched two old dogs fight in the sand.

Neither dog was obviously one breed or another. One had dark mottled fur and the other may have had some golden retriever in him. Both were male. They fought viciously, snarling and snapping and chasing, rolling, stumbling, shaking, flailing, whining, bleeding, dying. For some time the mottled dog had a solid grip on the cartilage at the base of his opponent's ear, and finally when the golden rolled free, its ear nearly tore away entirely. Both had bloody jowls. The darker mottled dog limped noticeably. A flap of skin flopped from the hock of its right hind leg. Sand spit into the air as they fought and the wind sucked it away. The ordinary people shielded their eyes.

For a minute it seemed as though the golden might win. It clamped down hard on the other’s throat and thrust its head violently from side to side without letting go. It dragged the other through the sand for a few feet. The mottled dog left a trench with its legs. But then, with an acrobatic flip over the golden, the mottled managed to free itself and deliver a stinging blow with a long canine tooth to the golden’s eye. They tumbled away from each other snarling.

“You won’t tell Casey, will you?” The teen boy spoke quietly to the girl under the howling of the wind and dogs.

“Why not? We’re friends aren’t we? He said he wanted to be my friend still, and friends tell each other these things don’t they?” she said.

“Yes but this is different.” The boy was insistent.

“I don’t see how it’s different.”

“It’s because you two were going to sleep together weren’t you? But then you didn’t, so I’m worried, I think, you know, I think he’ll take it the wrong way, even as a friend,” the boy finished without confidence.

“I offered to take a break from each other as friends, but he said he didn’t want that so if he didn’t want a break, then I think we should be able to talk about things. Don’t you?” It wasn’t really a question.

“Yeah, def, but don’t you think it will hurt his feelings?”

“I thought you didn’t even like Casey.”

“He’s… he can be mean. Like in the locker room for example he’ll pick on the sophomores and it isn’t funny ‘haha’ teasing, it’s kind of mean, sometimes.”

“That’s one of the reasons I didn’t want to have sex with him. Because he was like that sometimes. I think he thinks he’s being funny and everyone gets it, but it can be really, sort of, cutting, mean. So I didn’t want to find out if he would be like that after, you know.” The girl pinched the boy’s elbow.

But he didn’t notice. “I can imagine, but don’t you think that’s exactly what he’ll be like if you tell him?”

“He’s been my best friend since forever, he needs to get over it.”

“Okay, I mean you should do what you think is best, I just, you know, anyways you know what I’m saying.”


The dogs leapt at each other and their teeth gnashed together with a loud porcelain-on-porcelain ‘clack’. They were tired and between each attack they’d stand apart for a few seconds panting. Blood blackened the sand and soaked into their coats. Their mouths were red with it. The golden had one eye squinted shut and the mottled dragged its hind leg. And still, the low bass of their snarling cut through the high static of the wind.

The landscape photographer looked down at his camera and scrolled through his most recent pictures of the sea. That morning he’d been using a dark filter to allow for longer exposure times and the results were stunningly smooth, calm, and serene. He loved them. He thought about how cool they looked. One of his followers on Instagram had been liking all of his long exposure pictures recently and he was excited to see if she would like these. Her feed featured lots of family pictures; her with her dogs, her with her brother in front of a roller coaster, her hand with an aquamarine pinky ring near an avocado toast of almost the same color, her in a public mirror with street art and someone in the background. He’d been embarrassed to like the pictures back. He posted landscapes and she ‘liked’ them every time, but he wasn’t sure what it would say if he liked her selfies and life moments.

He stopped on a photo with a particularly interesting little swirl formed by the water’s crash against a large, black rock. The effect was of a cloud quietly curling around a soft mountain. He knew she’d like this one. It was just the type. Suddenly a blast of sand flew up past his hands and one of the old dogs rolled into his shins. It used his feet as a solid launching point to thrust itself back into the fight. The landscape photographer fell backwards in shock, but none of the other people made a move to help him up. It was a soft fall into soft sand.

The mottled was finally winning. Despite its mangled leg it had torn apart the other dog’s neck enough that the golden had lost too much blood to remain a potent fighter. It slowed visibly.

“Our father, who art in heaven,” The praying man said quietly to himself.

“Hallowed be thy name,

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven,

Give us this day our daily bread,

And forgive us our trespasses,

As we forgive those that trespass against us,

And lead us not into temptation

But deliver us from evil.”

He finished his prayer and watched the dogs fight on. He wondered if he should pray again or if once was enough for these dogs. Don’t dogs fight? He thought. Isn’t that the clear will of God? he thought. Unbound by human free will and sin, don’t they fight for us by the will of God alone? Maybe I should pray again though... The first might not have been enough for these old dogs, he thought. What if God didn’t hear the prayer, because they were dogs; one of his lesser creations. What if he doesn’t field dog prayers? He thought this and then snickered to himself. The idea was funny. The tourists looked at him sideways.

There wasn’t a definitive end to the fight. The golden simply fell sideways and lay motionless in the sand. Its medium long furr flapped in the wind. The mottled dog growled for a little and then tried to lick its hind leg before it limped off through a break in the crowd. After a few strides it too fell to the ground and was still. For some time the people didn’t disperse. They watched to see if the golden would rise and give chase, but it didn’t. It was either dead or dying, no one could really tell.

The tourists were the first to leave. They took off with the certainty of theater goers who’d just watched the curtains close on the final act. The next was the old lady. Her little dog dragged her along to the golden where it cautiously sniffed the body, but it quickly lost interest and together the woman and her companion walked back the way they’d come. As she trudged through the sand, she wondered if the town hired people to dispose of bodies like these. The town would drag its feet for something like this, she thought. She looked down at her little dog and watched it pull on its leash. It wanted to get back to the car. It knew more treats were in the car.

The teens returned to the dunes to collect their belongings. They both wondered if they should have sex again, but neither wanted to talk about it. The landscape photographer tried to take a picture of the golden’s corpse; low angle with the flaring sun in the background, blood wet fur silhouetted in spikes, but when he looked at the picture in the little LCD screen he realized the girl probably wouldn’t give it a like. It wasn’t that beautiful.

The praying man stayed a little longer than the rest. He thought about how God wanted the dogs to fight and die because they were his creations. He thought how the battle was created by God to be a lesson for him; the believer. But he wasn’t sure about the meaning of the lesson and his confusion made him uncomfortable. Finally he left for mass where he could ask about God’s will. On his way out he passed the woman who’d run from breakfast with her husband.

She’d left before the fight had even finished. Near the boardwalk that led through the dunes to the parking lot, she’d turned back. Standing there, she saw the people disperse and then she saw the dogs. She saw them lying there, brutally still. She felt the urge to walk back. The believer nodded at her when he passed but she didn’t acknowledge him. She went back to the golden and stood over it for a second. There wasn’t any movement. She couldn’t see its chest rise and fall with breath. She bent down cautiously to look into its eyes. One was shut and brown with dried blood. The other was buried in the sand.

She knelt and pet its head gently and then trudged across the beach to the mottled dog with its torn leg. This one wore a clear expression of pain. Its eyes were squeezed into slits and its lips retreated from bloody teeth. It was still alive. It took soft, shuddering breaths, weak breaths, and it didn’t move when she approached. Compelled to reach out and touch the animal, she pet its head like she’d done with the golden. It opened an eye and moved slightly to rest its head by her knee. She wondered if she should go home to her husband or stay with her sister for a while.

The mottled dog sensed her pain. It knew this feeling and it knew her sense of indecision too. It felt deeply for her and whined softly in sympathy.

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