My little yellow dog got caught up in my excitement. He did a jig whenever I came home. At night in bed he pressed his back against my belly with almost human sighs. Cozying up like a child, he kept looking over his shoulder to see if I was still awake behind him. Instead of sleeping, I played the game of staring at him. When the dog had checked on me four or five times like this and found my eyes fixed on him each time, he snorted, leapt out of bed and did his jig on the floor in maddened delight. Then he jumped back in to nestle against me again.

I saw a few friends, but I didn’t confide. Their interests and the fussy practicalities of their lives struck me as pallid. I kept finding myself awake, abuzz, at three or four in the morning. I’d go out to dives. I’d strike up conversations with strangers, playing the big man in queasy spasms, buying drinks for them. This was how I met the plump, feline, faintly amused older man who gave me a job. I had a notion he was a criminal. When the subject of work first came up, I was able to sound amazingly firm and self-convinced. I thought I’d snowed him. I didn’t realize that it was just my pretending to deserve a job that so pleased Dadi Anton, owner of a small casino.

When I woke in the early evening of the following day, I felt better than I ever had. It was my first job. My little dog was full of attentions. I sat naked on the bed, and he licked my foot, as fully absorbed as an artist. Thinking I wanted to go to the kitchen, he loped to the kitchen door. But I went to the bathroom. He hurried to follow me. He peered over the edge of the toilet bowl to watch the burbling water ripple concentrically. He winced at stray droplets. I shook my head, smiling disbelievingly, because I had a job. I reached down and ruffled the dog’s unrisen hackles. “Dog,” I said. “I’ve been paying so little attention to you. I’ve been worried. Now everything’s better.” The dog’s forebody salaamed. He sprang up and yipped playfully. The best thing about my new job was that, sometime next year, I’d get a chance to travel.

Tags: Books