It was late September in Georgia, and the acute Georgian summer heat was steadily waning into a cooler, more-bearable climate. A refreshing coolness thriving within the sunless air accompanied Waylon and his dog Roxy as the pair retired home from their early morning walk. While the pair’s morning strolls were used for exercise and clearing the mind, the event’s chief function was strategizing – throwing ideas at one another. Waylon was in the dog-boxing business, and Roxy, a recent retiree from the trade – who happened to be Waylon’s prized boxer while she was fighting – had taken on the role of the advisee – Waylon’s right-hand man – training and recruiting fighters for him.
Waylon, a mad-dog in his own right, was tall, sturdy, tough; he had unkempt blond hair, ungodly eyes that had developed a yellowish film atop them over the years, a broken nose, encrusted lips, and a mouth full of missing teeth. Waylon was in the process of teaching Roxy how to speak English, a stratagem he believed would ensure their new partnership’s success – exceeding all expectations. It helped that Roxy was a quick learner as Waylon had a notorious temperament, possessing the potency to transpose his state of mind to that of acutely sinister. Nonetheless, Roxy knew of this temper and had developed many procedures to avoid Waylon’s wrath; Roxy was a good dog and treasured Waylon just the way he was, even with his less than admirable defects. Waylon had withdrawn Roxy from the fight game – and for that, Roxy’s love for Waylon was immortal.
Roxy was a snow-white American Pit Bull Terrier with foggy green-yellow eyes. She was a beautiful dog, even with her many, many scars. Roxy had hind legs as strong as a fully-matured ox, and her forelegs were as balanced and nimble as a ninja hidden away in the unknown mountaintops of the Eastern world. Roxy had neck muscles atop of neck muscles, an out-spread and muscle-bound back, powerful glutes, a sturdy abdomen, a wide and open chest that reinforced her broad-shouldered physique, and hefty paws that expanded and gripped the ground as she strutted around like a Bull.
Waylon’s home – where Roxy had her own room – was a huge white mansion that Waylon redeemed in a distant relative’s will. The enaction of the testament was a queer ordeal – lasting many months due to the police never unveiling who had killed Waylon’s relative and other issues concerning forgery. Roxy observed Waylon somehow maintain good spirits and had been acutely impressed by his relentless optimism. Waylon’s neighborless and isolated country residence had large white pillars at the front of the house and two enormous trees in the front yard with girthy branches sturdy enough to bear the weight of many men.
The stately home also had a neatly-paved driveway, a porch at the front and back, five bedrooms, three bathrooms, large windows, tall doorways, and plenty of backyard space. Waylon had transformed the backyard into a mighty fighting arena, fabricating a steel cage of imposing breadth and width that Waylon called The Colosseum. The fighting dogs came in and out with the seasons. Their lodgings – a labyrinth of small steel-cage kennels that offered some paw-room – were situated beyond The Colosseum. It was quite the property.
As Waylon and Roxy came through the doors of the sequestering estate, Waylon went to the kitchen sink for water, and Roxy went and drank water from her bowl out on the porch. While Roxy was quenching her thirst, Waylon, from inside the house, broadcasted a near-perfect whistle to signal Roxy’s ears, then shouted: “Roxy! We’re going into the city. Meet me out at the kennels, real fast. Then we’ll get in the truck and go.”
Roxy, who had never been to the city before, barked gleefully. When Roxy arrived at the kennels in the backyard, Waylon was providing medical attention to a dog severely wounded the night before. Even outdoors, the air surrounding the cage, impregnated with distinct stuffiness from the dogfight held the previous evening, lathered the skin thickly with irritable discomfort as if you were being eaten alive by a million starved chiggers.
“Roxy, check on the other dog from last night – the winner. I’ve got to take this one away,” said Waylon, dragging the wounded dog along the ground to his truck.
“Sure thing, Waylon,” Roxy barked obediently.
While Roxy evaluated the other dog who had come out of the fight relatively unharmed, with only three deep lacerations – one above the eye and two upon the dog’s rear legs – she heard a gunshot from the direction Waylon had driven. Once hearing the shot fire, Roxy observed birds fill the sky in a sudden panic.
When Waylon returned, Roxy jumped into the truck riding shotgun, and the pair took off for the city. Roxy had her head out the window with her tongue blowing in the wind upon turning to Waylon and barking: “I love riding in the car! Thank you for taking me to the city, Waylon.”
“I’ve told you, Roxy,” Waylon replied, “it is a truck, not a car. And you’ve been doing some outstanding work for me, Rox. I am simply rewarding your much-appreciated efforts.”
Once Waylon had concluded his praise for Roxy, he opened the center compartment of his truck, dug his hand into it eagerly, then pulled out a small bag of white powder. Waylon opened the bag gently with one hand while his right hand remained cemented upon the steering wheel. Waylon sucked the tip of the little finger on his free hand upon poking the same finger into the small bag. Waylon, once retrieving his now bedazzled finger from inside the bag, then prodded his powder-covered pinky finger into his left nostril before inhaling violently – his whole body jouncing upwards as he sniffed. To clean his finger, ensuring that none of the powder would go to waste, Waylon then sucked the tip of his little finger clean.
Roxy knew the white powder as medicine, human medicine. Waylon had given her the remedy on several occasions, but only ever before one of her fights. In all fairness, Roxy thought the powder was extraordinary, even missing it some days. Roxy missed the acute sensation in her nose that rushed to the roof of her skull as if it were trying to escape the gas chamber of San Quentin, the total awakening of her senses, and the sheer strength and tenacity it granted her. It made her feel invincible. Under the influence of the human remedy, she felt as if she could have her way with a large, adult, male boar. Within Roxy’s self-awareness, she found that the medicine assisted her when having to execute a dog she had wounded in the cage, even if she didn’t want to or if the dog was somewhat of a friend. But no matter how much she fancied the medicine, she didn’t miss fighting, so whenever she saw Waylon ingesting the powder, Roxy would put it out of mind.
For the remainder of the lengthy drive into the city, the two partners revisited their linguistic lesson from the day prior, with Waylon testing Roxy on her use of their, there, and they’re.
When walking the bustling southern city, Atlanta, Roxy puffed and panted in excitement. Roxy’s sinewy tail wagged up-and-down and round-and-round and, due to her irrepressible merriment, the fast-twitch muscle fibers in her four legs constricted so forcefully she bounced from the pavement with a gymnastic-like spring in each step. Roxy swiftly became enthralled by the city. While trailing Waylon, who was pacing the town with a purpose, Roxy employed a watchfulness as thorough as a long-time bachelor drunken within a sea of beautiful women – eyeing absolutely everything from head to toe.
Roxy, at the age of 56, for the first time in her life, experienced a city. She observed the visual breath of sunlight cast dancing reflections upon the glass of perfect windows bordering tall buildings. Roxy sniffed and sniffed all the odd shapes, sounds, and smells swelling within dark alleyways as if they were an art display for the poor. Roxy barked admiringly at businessmen in chic suits – even though it was only raining mildly – holding umbrellas sturdily upon their shoulders as if they were sledgehammers as they patrolled firmly through their city.
When Waylon arrived at a strange door in a stranger alleyway, he entered, telling Roxy to wait outside. Roxy barked in agreement. Then when watching Waylon’s ingress, sighted wads of cash, a mountain of white powder, and caught a glimpse of two men that, funnily enough, shared a similar appearance to Waylon but were much better dressed, lingering within the shadows of the squalid room. While waiting in the alleyway, Roxy sighted a dog walking the rectangular, roofless tunnel aimlessly. The dog, who had a long, thick, demented scar that looked to have gotten extra infected when healing disfiguring its face, approached Roxy with a cautious swagger, proceeding to give her an investigative sniff and lick. Roxy, who hadn’t barked in Dog to anyone other than the dogs coming in and out of The Colosseum, barked a query in English, hoping the interview could be condoned in the Queen’s language – she received a confused stare as a response. She then barked, this time barking in Dog: “Do you live around here?”
“I live everywhere and nowhere,” the dog barked in response. “You’re not from the city, are you?”
“No,” Roxy barked, “I am from the country, a retired boxer. Now I work at The Colosseum.”
“The Colosseum!? What kind of work do you do?”
“Talent scouting mostly, and some training here and there.”
“Seems to me you’re simply a slave, dear girl.”
“A Slave!?” Roxy growled, lowering her mass closer to the pavement. “I have a job of my own and my own accommodation, too! What do you have? Huh! Tell me!”
“I don’t possess either board or employment – but at least I’m not a dog-killing slave like you.”
The dog quit the company of Roxy once verbalizing this concluding remark, leaving Roxy in a state of pensive melancholy. She stood frozen, studying the dog’s departure upon barking to the now distant animal almost inaudibly: “You’re wrong. Waylon cares about me – I’m no slave.”
Then Waylon came out of the door hurriedly, uttering: “Come on, Rox, let’s go home.”
The long ride back to the country was wordless, with both Waylon and Roxy occupied mentally, attending to the inward dissection of what they had both experienced in the alleyway Waylon had escorted them. Roxy had learned to trust her gut – she’d been taught the phrase last week by Waylon – and since then, Roxy had attached the axiom to her code of living. While driving, she had a strange thought come over her that she guessed had been engendered by her interaction with the stranger in the alleyway; and she didn’t want to sedate the notion, letting it slip away into oblivion. Instead – Roxy barked: “Waylon, I’m never going to have to fight again, am I?”
After a couple of seconds that felt like hours to Roxy, Waylon replied: “Don’t be silly, Rox! You’ll never fight again unless it was an emergency. I promise!”
“What does the word e-mur-jen-c mean?” barked Roxy studiously.
In the time it took Roxy to bark her question, Waylon had turned down the driveway to their country home, jumped out of the truck, and darted into the house rapidly, leaving no time for him to give an answer.
About half an hour later, Roxy smelled another truck approaching the house from a mile away. Roxy went out on the front porch and studied the truck pull into the driveway upon watching the same characters from behind the door in the alleyway earlier that day step out of the vehicle – the two men had a dog with them. The animal with the men was another Pit Bull Terrier who sported a midnight-black fur akin to a panther’s. The Pit had eyes as black as death herself, one cartilage-less ear left floppy – the other bitten off utterly, and muscles protruded from every region of its impressive mass.
“Roxy, go make sure that 34 is ready to fight,” Waylon said upon greeting his guests.
Roxy obeyed, turning for the backyard. At The Colosseum, every dog – besides Roxy, of course – was given a number upon arrival that became the dog’s name. Some of the dogs who arrived at The Colosseum in their early years forgot their Christian names entirely; these dogs lived out their existence thinking their names were a number.
When Roxy came upon 34, 34 looked to be in pretty good shape, but Roxy thought it best to get an extra training session in before the fight – nothing too strenuous but more of a sharpening session as a primer, instead. Roxy returned to the front porch, where Waylon was entertaining his guests. Roxy examined the ink-black Pit once more – 34 was in for a fight, she concluded. Roxy then barked Waylon over for a word.
“What is it, Rox?” said Waylon on his way over.
“34 needs an extra training session if you want 34 to have a chance of beating that monster,” Roxy barked. “You’ll need to find a way to postpone the fight until the morning.”
Waylon trusted Roxy’s judgment, occasionally even over his own. He agreed, then returned to his company with a newly-discovered, heightened, convivial mood. Waylon could be very, very persuasive. While Waylon handled one side of the business – Roxy returned to the backyard to handle the other. Roxy uncaged 34, then took 34 through some paw-work before working on some basic Brazilian Jaw-Jitsu. When grappling lightly, 34, to Roxy’s disbelief, rolled over its ankle, at once birthing a limp – a burden that confirmed 34 would die if 34 stepped into the cage with the visiting fighter. Another dog, 27, so as for no one else to hear, barked in a whisper to Roxy: “34’s injury was on purpose. 34’s terrified after seeing that black creature out the front. We all are.”
“How have you seen the Pit from out here?” Roxy barked.
She then turned to see the Pit at the side of the house, sitting on its hind legs with its chest out, eye-balling every single dog at The Colosseum – chiefly Roxy. When Roxy shifted her gaze back to 34, 34 cowered, whimpering in fear. The vibration of 34’s whimper tunneled through Roxy’s ears to her soul, bringing forth the stranger’s words barked back in the alleyway to the forefront of her mind, where they danced and danced, twisted and twirled.
Later that evening, Roxy informed Waylon of the injury 34 sustained in training. Roxy also told Waylon of the dogs being intimidated by the Pit before asking in a curious bark: “Who is the next number on your list to fight?”
Waylon swam within the boundaries of his intellect upon airing: “What do you think – 9? Or the newbie, 46?”
“I think the Pit looks powerful, but I don’t know how fast it is,” Roxy barked inquisitively. “9 will have the upper hand when it comes to speed – and with 46’s non-existent experience, she is certainly not ready for the Pit.”
“9 it is then.”
With business sorted for the evening, the three men and the two dogs seated themselves at the dining table. Waylon had set up two rooms for the men, and the Pit would have its own area on the front porch to sleep for the night. Roxy didn’t enjoy sharing the table with the out-of-town Pit; however, with the odd circumstances of the visiting men agreeing to postpone the fight – forcing them to stay the night – she decided it better not to make any fuss. She even enjoyed conversing in English with people from the city. The city had become a faraway paradise that Roxy dreamed about returning to ever since leaving. Roxy was captivated by how the city folk dressed, spoke, and carried themselves, already attempting to dress her English words with a bit of a city accent. Roxy was now a lover of the exotic.
“Who do you think you are!? Speaking the same language as the humans?” barked the Pit over the table unexpectedly, unimpressed by Roxy’s linguistic capabilities. “Don’t forget that you’re still just a dumb dog to your master there.”
“I know what I am,” Roxy barked in her mother tongue, “and I know what I am not.”
“And what’s that?”
“A dumb dog that is only good for fighting, killing, and in due time, dying.”
The Pit leaped from its chair over the table onto Roxy in a cat-like burst, barking viciously: “You will die before me, swine!”
The two men from the city paddled their Pit on the nape of its neck with swift and mighty strikes to break up the scuffle – both dogs were grappled and eventually subdued then thrown into separate rooms of the house. Within the sudden melee, one of the men had brought a paddle down on Roxy; over this, he and Waylon nearly came to blows before the other city man got in between them. Once the tempers of the three men in the room had declined and neutralized – one of the two city slickers, broadcasting his dominance, said:
“Well, Waylon, you’ve got a nice dog there, that’s for sure. Why don’t you let it get into the ring tomorrow? If it wins, I’ll give you my entire next shipment of coke. If you ration that out for yourself nicely, you could hold yourself over for what – a year? And if my dog wins, you give me your three best fighters. Seem fair?”
“And regarding the shipment – are transportation costs included in the deal also?” Waylon asked rapaciously.
“All included,” the man from the city replied. “You won’t even have to lift a finger. A truck will bring the shipment to your front door like a postman brings you mail.”
Roxy had returned to the edge of the dining hall, hearing the negotiation from its commencement to its conclusion. Roxy then watched on in disgust as Waylon confirmed the deal with a handshake. The Pit, who had also listened in on the discussion – reading the telling expressions written all over the faces of the humans – who didn’t speak English whatsoever, not one word, comprehended what had just transpired. The Pit, now eye-to-eye with Roxy across the hallway, let out a laughing bark, engendering soundwaves that collapsed Roxy’s world. Roxy went up to her room without consulting anyone, closing the door behind her. She then curled up into sadness, hoping this was all one bad dream.
In this moment of sheer betrayal – Roxy felt isolated from the world, a world she barely knew. As Roxy fell into a nightmare-filled slumber, she clasped onto hope, pleading to whoever created this world that all the work she had done for Waylon, all the fights, the bites, the scars, the dogs she had killed whose faces ran free within her mind, was enough to change Waylon’s decision by morning.
The following morning, Roxy awoke blanketed by an acute misery, verifying last night had not been a bad dream but reality. Her reality. It was true – Waylon had never cared for her. She had been fooled. When Roxy arrived at the kitchen, Waylon had prepared a nice and healthy fight-day breakfast. The food was on the kitchen table awaiting her – four eggs, two pieces of toast, two slices of crispy bacon, and a long line of white powder that spread across the dining table thickly. Roxy no longer cared for this world, but she wouldn’t leave it without a fight. Roxy ignored the human food, not even issuing a single curious sniff or lick upon the plate, then snorted the oblong-shaped trail of scaled-down white crystals from the table. Roxy felt the medicine furiously tickle the walls of her brain as her nose started leaking gently – she had to snuffle a few times to halt the seepage.
Roxy didn’t bark a word to Waylon as she made her way to The Colosseum, where the Pit was awaiting her. Waylon closed the cage door behind her – now the two dogs were alone, just the pair of them in a large steel cage in the Georgian countryside only one dog would depart from.
“Are you ready to die?” barked the Pit.
“Yes,” Roxy barked. “But you will not be the one to kill me.”
The coal-black fur of the Pit had become an ebony tone as the blood pouring out of its open and fatal wounds tarnished its formerly handsome, coarse, black coat. A ring of flies had already congregated above the limp carcass. Roxy egressed the cage bloodied, wounded, limping; she had lost an ear, and her right eye, left dangling, had been clawed from its socket. The Pit had snapped one of her hind legs with its jaws, and a meaty part of Roxy’s cheek was left torn, causing a piece of flesh to drool down past her mouth, almost coming into contact with the lower portion of her wide neck. Waylon picked Roxy up gently, put her in the truck, then drove off. The Colosseum was mute. Waylon retrieved Roxy’s fragile frame from the vehicle once they’d arrived at their destination, roughly three hundred feet past the great Colosseum in a lonely death-ridden corner of Georgia. Roxy thought it strange that these lands with so much life could be so grim.
Roxy knew the place, what was to happen to her, and even as Roxy approached the doors to the afterlife, with enough strength remaining in her jaws to kill Waylon where he stood as the final act of her life – she did not. Roxy, the previous evening, had already prepared herself for the next world – praying that she would be reborn in a big city with towering buildings that reflected the sunlight. She couldn’t wait to converse in English with the businessmen in their suits, and she was especially looking forward to borrowing an umbrella from time to time. With her surviving eye, Roxy observed the steel of Waylon’s revolver. She let out one last howl in hopes someone would hear, wanting someone out there, away from the broken-hearted place she called home, to know she existed. A bee buzzed with chaotic energy. Then a shot fired; birds flew.