I always knew I was smarter than my husband. It was very evident today when he brought back home that tasteless action movie; I could hear Ward laughing all the way from the living room to the kitchen. I pictured him indented in the sofa with his mouth open ogling at the screen; like a fish out of water who decided to give up and stopped thrashing to save its life. Not breathing, blank eyes, gazing at the world. I could also hear barking from Frankenstein, our mutt terrier, from our backyard and it seeped through our walls. I began to wash the dishes and I looked outside into our back yard.
I lived in a placid suburb that seemed more like a ghost town, eerily quiet. It was a beautiful street, with two story houses that all gazed at each other with ostentatious stucco faces designed by the same architect, they were all the same color, had the same number of bushes, and the same number of lawn ornaments that the neighborhood ruled could not exceed more than four per house. The house I lived in stood at the center of the block, attached to its neighbors, aware of the privileged and calm lives within them. Occasionally I would see some joggers in track suits with earphones on, brisk fully jogging down the street. I would watch them; I would watch them jog, until they left the horizon of my perfectly paved sidewalk. It was always quiet, except for Frankenstein. My neighbors would have complained about the putrid barks Frankenstein made; that is, if I ever saw them.
Frankenstein was the name my son gave her, I tried to convince my son to name her something else, something more dignified; but he was bent on naming it Frankenstein after watching the movie Frankenstein. Even with that ridiculous name, my son and Frankenstein were once inseparable; they would terrorize my backyard and my plants, and even our laundry from time to time; but now there are no more ditches in our soil, my plants are a pristine green, upright, and unbroken, and our laundry never needs more than one round in the washing machine. The time I spent yelling at them and repairing my garden was now spent alone, in silence, with a television or a book. Frankenstein lived in her cage, a creation of my husband Ward with the help of my son. It was a compact diamond wire mesh fence that encircled Frankenstein’s even smaller igloo house. The cage was poorly constructed, with wires holding the fences together in a comical fashion and a door that couldn’t be opened unless you untied the wires holding it to the fences.
My son grew older and got bored of playing with Frankenstein, he would come home from school and head straight to his room and watch television and play video-games. He never stepped a foot in the backyard again, and would spend weeks without seeing Frankenstein or remembering she was even alive. I dried a plate with a rag in a circular motion and stared at Frankenstein as sunlight broke through the windows. Frankenstein was laid on the ground, her front paws outstretched towards me and her head in between them. She stared right back at me from her cage with pleading eyes as I gazed at her from behind the window.
“Sage, what is there to eat?” Ward yelled from the living room, his eyes still fixed on the television screen. That was the first thing he always told me when he got home nowadays. “I made a chicken casserole!” I yelled from the kitchen and brought him a plate without him asking for it, and set it down on the forever food stained coffee table. Rings were made on the mahogany from scores of cold beers; the wood was faded from ancient grease that had fallen from his plate. Stains that aren’t noticeable unless you’re up close, but stains I knew were there none the less. Barking from Frankenstein continued to echo through the rooms of the house.
I sat down next to him; he continued to stare at the screen, occasionally he brought food to his mouth and chewed loudly like a cow. I looked at his rugged face and remembered how Ward and I used to fool around on the very same sofa that we were sitting on now, how we would talk hours on end about nothing and everything, how he would bring back movies that he knew I would like, and how long ago that all seemed.
Ages ago I attended a university; I had plans to become a writer, I never finished. With short hair, and a free spirit I cruised through my writing classes with ease, all my professors commented that I had a natural talent with words. I met Ward through a close friend at the university and quickly fell in love. He was the sweetest man I ever met, always saying the corniest things imaginable; it worked on me. My mother always told me to follow my heart, and with that advice, we foolishly moved in together a year later in order to wake up naked in each others arms. We could only afford to keep one of us studying and I quickly buried my dreams underground for him. I always felt I had more potential than he did, but my career path didn’t guarantee us the financial stability his did. We had a child, my hair grew long, I became a housewife, and I never looked back.
Ward continued to gawk at the television screen, sometimes I felt more alone being with him than I did by myself. The barking started up again. I picked up a vanity magazine and opened up to the picture I fantasized about earlier: a slender young woman with a short French haircut. I asked, “Ward, what do you think of her hair?” His stare shifted towards the lifted magazine for half a second while food crumbled down his shirt and said, “What’s wrong with the hair you have now? I took a deep breath and replied, “I was thinking of cutting my hair, having it like I used to, like I did back when you first met me.”
“Your hair looks fine as it is,” Ward said with a mouthful. The barking seemed to be coming from right outside the door; my attention was back outside towards Frankenstein’s cage, she was gone.
I told Ward, flabbergasted, he rushed to the door. The second he opened it, Frankenstein rushed in with muddy paws and jumped on the sofa and began panting deafeningly next to me while Ward cursed at the top of his lungs at her. She crawled onto my lap and put her head down like my son used to when he was a child, I raised my hand slowly to her head and patted.
It took a bit of convincing, but Frankenstein was allowed to stay inside. I gave her a good wash and argued with Ward that keeping her locked in that cage was a crime. The weeks that followed were a blessing for me and a travesty for Ward and my son. She would keep me company while they were away, but would do a number on their possessions. My son came home one day and found his videogame console cables tattered to ribbons along with his television power cord. Ward got the worst of it. Frankenstein made it a habit of urinating on everything ward owned, along with destroying any piece of Ward’s clothing that got in her reach.
I started writing like I used to, with Frankenstein on my lap and my notebook resting on her back. My creativity and energy came back to me all at once, as fast as turning on a light switch. I mostly wrote children stories about Frankenstein. She would go on marvelous adventures meeting mesmerizing characters while learning life lessons, some humorous, others heart-breaking, in a magical realism style.
My time with Frankenstein didn’t last very long. Ward and my son were finally fed up with the situation. One day, Ward brought home several materials from the hardware store, resolute on building a new impenetrable cage. I didn’t argue about it, I knew there was no defense I could muster on why Frankenstein should stay in the house, and why their cherished belongings should keep being ruined on a daily basis at the cost of her freedom. I watched on from the living room as Ward and my son began to build a new cage with Frankenstein on my lap; as I moved my hand from her head to her back, to and fro, my eyes didn’t divert from the construction. Finally, the time came when the cage was nearly finished.
Ward asked me to bring Frankenstein out. I brought her outside along with her favorite tennis ball. I tossed the ball around by the open front gate facing the beige cloned houses. I had an emotionless expression, my eyes looking at nothing, hardly blinking at all. Ward making the finishing touches looked at me and said, “I am sorry, we just can’t afford to have her free.” He squatted down and began making calling hand gestures at Frankenstein while whistling and saying her name in a pseudo loving manner. Frankenstein crawled to him slowly in a submissive manner, her tail wagged, with trepidation in her eyes. She leaned sideways when Ward came near her and he scooped her up with ease. He walked towards the cage while I stood still by the gate. My son opened the cage door for Ward; Frankenstein seeing this realized what was going to happen.
She lashed out with snarls and teeth at Ward in a fit of rage. With blood running down his arm he tossed her up in the air. Frankenstein landed on the ground and began running around the yard with Ward and my son in pursuit. They made dives at her and tried to cut her off, but each time she broke free. They succeeded in working her into a corner, but failed when she ran in between them. Ward yelled as he and my son chased after her. The whole scene brought life back into my eyes. Frankenstein was dashing towards the gate. “Stop her, don’t let her get out!” Ward and my son yelled out. I stood still and just watched her; I watched her wild eyes and her pink tongue hang out in ecstasy as she ran out the gate. Ward in frustration asked “Why did you just stand there?” She made it halfway down the block when she turned around and looked at me; I looked on from inside the gate. We made eye contact for what seemed to be an eternity, but when Ward and my son came near her time came back into the world and she turned back around towards the streets and ran.
I watched them all run into the distance as I made my way into the house. I walked into the bathroom imagining if Frankenstein would have all those adventures I wrote about. I turned the knob on my sink to hot and thought about what was most likely going to happen to her, she would be caught by either Ward and my son, or a dog catcher some time later. I wet my hair and as I towel dried it I pictured her dead of starvation and laid out in a street with tread marks on her stomach. I shook all these thoughts off my head and just pictured her wild eyes and her pink tongue. It brought a smile to my face as I began to cut my hair.