The alarm rang. Harper’s hand searched for the alarm clock. Finding none, she groaned and opened her eyes. She had left her mobile phone at the other end of the room. With a grunt, she crawled out of bed towards it. Sighing, she got out of the room to wash her face. She was starting to regret her decision.
The dog started barking. Harper was done with her morning routine. She hated the neighbour’s dog because it barked constantly. She had no idea why her neighbour kept it if he couldn’t control it properly. Why can’t he train it properly? She thought irritatedly. The bowl of cereal didn’t look appetising but if she had needed strength to do the things that she wanted to do today, she had to eat something. Right now, she couldn’t afford the fancy kind.
The blank canvas mocked her. It taunted her. Harper held the paintbrush, poised to attack it. Somehow. The damn dog was barking again. She wanted to let it out so that it would run away. Its barking was getting on her nerves and she could not think.
The dog was still barking and the canvas stayed white. Nothingness. Empty. Harper got up and opened the door. “Open up!” The only response that came behind the door was the dog’s barking. She had enough. Returning to her unit, she made a call.
The canvas now had a stroke. Only because she was about to draw the stroke the other way when her doorbell rang. It was the police. They needed her statement. She kept it short. They wanted more information. The policeman looked bored as she described again. No. They never talked. She had not seen her neighbour for days because she had not bumped into him whenever she got out of her apartment. She asked why she was being questioned. Apparently, the neighbour had died.
He died. She repeated to herself. Death. Next door. Next freaking door. She stared at the meaningless stroke. Picking up the palette, she mixed the colours. Using the thicker paintbrush, she dipped it and started painting.
The knocking came fast and furious. Her stroke went off the other way. Again. Closing her eyes, she ignored the incessant knocking. It continued. Holding her palette knife, she answered the door. The dog wagged its tail. A woman who looked like she was about to pass out from running panted. She wanted Harper to look after the dog. The dead neighbour’s dog. It walked through her door as the woman gave her the leash without Harper’s agreement. The animal control would not arrive until the next day and this woman could not keep a dog in her apartment because her husband was allergic. She disappeared before Harper could protest. The dog sat on the floor as if it belonged there.
Smelling urine, Harper stopped painting or trying to rectify the drawing and went to her living room. The pee and poop was all over the floor because the stupid dog had stepped on its waste and walked all over her living room. She didn’t want to know if it had gotten the rest of the apartment in the same state. She wanted to kick the damn dog out of her home. The previous owner definitely did not know how to train dogs. Or pets. She closed the door to her art room in case the dog decided to continue its tour. It was time to wash the dog and the rest of the apartment.
She was done with the cleaning. The dog was now tied to the pipe in the toilet. The only place that she knew had a tethered pole or something to hold the dog in its place. She didn’t want any more accidents. She had used up all the available air freshener that she had. She wished that she had bought that aromatic humidifier. Closing the toilet door, she searched her kitchen for some bowl to hold water and some food for the dog. She didn’t want animal control to charge her for abusing it by not feeding it. After placing the bowls in the toilet, she closed the toilet door carefully. She hoped that it was not smart enough to open the door. Or escape from the leash.
Stepping back, she looked at the canvas. It felt odd. It didn’t describe what she initially wanted to convey. The canvas was useless. She was about to dump the canvas when she heard a crash. The dog! Rushing out of the room, it was not the dog. It was a burglar. The masked man was groaning. Somehow, her useless sculpture that she had been wanting to throw away was now useful in thwarting a burglar and useless because it was broken. The stupid dog was silent. Either it was sleeping or it knew the burglar. Harper decided it was the second option. For the second time that day, she called the police after using the cable ties that she had on the burglar despite his protests.
The same policeman questioned her while the other policeman took away the injured burglar. She stared hard at the useless dog that was looking at her with doleful eyes. She wondered how on earth did that dog learned how to earn pity points with those eyes and gave up. This time, she left the toilet door open. The dog stank. It needed a bath. Sighing, she turned on the water heater and prepared to bathe the dog with baking soda. The only thing she had on hand that seemed safe for bathing dogs. It liked to bathe and stayed still while she scrubbed it as best as she could. Satisfied that it was relatively clean, she washed it off.
The dog was now less stinky and she could breathe better in its presence. Her stomach growled. She had forgotten lunch with all the interruptions. The dog, she checked the tag for a better name than just “dog”, was called Denver. She rummaged through her fridge for food and found a frozen lasagna and some chicken that she could boil for Denver. She hoped he wasn’t allergic. He wasn’t and begged for more. She was not getting her art done as she took her keys and headed for the door. Denver followed her.
The trip took longer than she expected and she dumped the bags on the dining table. The bag of dog food taunted her. Denver sat on the floor and thumped his tail against it. She wasn’t sure what kind of breed but he did look like the eat-a-lot-of-food kind of dog. She wasn’t even sure if he was supposed to be living in apartments considering his size. Tired, she fed him the dog food instead.
She was done with the washing and had kept all the food in the cupboards. Denver was snoring in the kitchen by the fridge. Of course, she thought. It was time to take another look at the wasted canvas. This time, as she turned the canvas 90 degrees, it felt right. The colours and strokes were calling out to her. She felt it now and continued painting. The doorbell chimed.
The kids finally left. It was the panting woman’s kids and they wanted to play with Denver who enjoyed their company. It was only when their mother arrived that they went home as they promised to return the next day. Harper shivered involuntarily. That was not what she wanted. She moved to this apartment because she needed the silence here to do her art. So far, her day had been filled with the discovery of her neighbour's death, may he rest in peace, policemen, a dog, a burglar, a dog, a supermarket trip and children. She still had her canvas half done. Denver would leave in the morning. She had enough.
Denver was now snoring in her bedroom. She stared at his sleeping form on her bed. Her bed. It was no longer her bed. He protested when she shoved him and bared his teeth at her. The imprudence of a dog! She went to sleep on her sofa. He was definitely leaving in the morning.