Dead Metaphor


Allyn walked around all the time with a big black dog. Between stern thin office buildings and across the rain-tripped streets, between the gray and the blue-gray and the black times, always the black dog accompanied Allyn. Some people wondered if it was really Allyn accompanying the black dog. Some people asked Allyn what she fed it, or whether it had a name. She answered their questions with polite nods; she could hardly say more – the black dog was always straining at the leash, dusking towards shadowy corners where it could have its mistress all to itself and the bones of dead alley cats.

There was no longer any room in Allyn’s house for her aging grandmother, nor for her fiancé, nor even for her old collection of sun-polished sea stones. So she sent them all out onto her doorstep to search for new living accommodations. The black dog needed the grandmother’s rocking chair in her needlepoint nook, and the black dog needed the fiancé’s treadmill for a bed, and it needed all of Allyn’s shelves to be empty so that its black reflection in the mirror could not be distracted by shinier things.

Allyn’s mother, the daughter of Allyn’s grandmother, got fed up when she found out her own mother had been dumped onto the street and supplanted by a black dog. So Allyn’s mother marched to Allyn’s doorstep. An army of animal control officers in yellow plastic suits marched along behind her. When Allyn answered the door, the officers clad in tinted goggles brushed past her without a word. They located the big black dog lounging on the old rocking chair, and they blasted the black dog with lasers until its body was a shriveled black crisp, trembling to stillness on the scarred seat of the rocking chair.

Allyn cried in silence, and she ran to the pile of ash that had been her black dog and lay on the floor, weeping and shaking like the ocean congealed by storms.

Her mother tiptoed into the house and demanded to know why Allyn was being so ungrateful, as she had just been saved from a life of isolation and darkness. Allyn shrieked a garbled reply – something about how her only hope of purpose in life had been extinguished with the murder of her single loyal companion, something about time and space and the human joke. The animal control officers, cued by a snap of the fingers of Allyn’s mother, surrounded the crazed young woman and scooped her up in a doghouse and drove her through the rain to another town where they let her off in a garden.

Children hid amidst the dappled rosebushes, and bees spun tremors in the air, and Allyn was free from her black dog. At last, she could feel the sun on her face and smell the perfume of a plush rose. She walked through the garden alone for many hours. Something was missing, but she knew not what, so she decided to ignore the feeling. Wandering the garden alone, having left behind the black pile of ash and the black notebook where she used to inscribe her dreams and the black dress she used to wear dancing with castanets on the drunken table in her empty house, Allyn wandered as a foreigner in this world of colors and wondered what she was ever to do. No artist could sculpt or dance a dream out of color and bumbling music, now could they? Allyn was doomed to a life of nothingness.

Still she wandered the garden. Sometimes she would sit on a sun-warmed rock between two beehives and just sit still and think. There was no one else to talk to, so she thought to herself. She thought her way back through the miserable colors all around her, back to the gray memories of her life before. And with the rosebushes shot through with gray light, and her black fountain pen drawing gaunt black lines on the white tile of the garden path, and her black dancing shoes tapping a rain-murmur in her brain, she gradually gathered together enough of the old good darkness until it coalesced – first a smoke-cloud, then a furry slab of night, and finally the perfected figure of her old black dog stood before her on the pathway, ears hanging heavy as always, tail wagging tentatively, amber eyes asking for a walk. And so Allyn went along with her big black dog as always, and stayed far away from the people who would hurt them or try to bring them apart, and she danced in black nights, but never knew that she wasn’t really dancing. No one would tell her. The big black dog danced nights, too, when it could get away.


Image credits in order of appearance:

By Parks, Deborah, Photographer (NARA record: 8467939) – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain,

By Annosaris – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


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