This college was built by an architect of prisons. Erected in the wake of Kent State, it is designed for the suppression of riots; tunnels and escape routes permeate the ground below these orthogonal temples to liberal arts and sciences. A Rockefeller drew these place for New York City’s poor – but these wretched masses aren’t wretched enough for me. Fresh faced babies in clean shirts and first-hand pants unworn by strangers or siblings; where are my people in this mess of wash’ed, deodorized bodies?
A semi-feral pack of dogs haunts the woods across the road. I run with them in secret; they know where the best carcasses desiccate. The pack leader is not the largest, but he is bold; as best as I can tell, he’s a mixed-breed-long-haired-short-snouted-terrier-boxer-hyena-mongrel… just like me. I call him Wolfenstein. I am inspired by the way he chases cars. He doesn’t care about make or model; shitty student cars, SUVs, police interceptors; their drivers will know who runs these streets by the curl of his lip and the unmitigated baying of our pack.
In the learning hours, I go to required courses. I am become increasingly annoyed that canines receive very little focus in the Western Civilization course. Why the endless chapters on long decrepit city-states? Who cares about an empire that failed to persist? Dogs have been running with our ancestors since before the exodus of bears from Europe. Did they not advance the agenda of man with their bravery, their loyalty, their acute sense of smell? Where are their histories? Where are the academic monuments to fallen caniforms?
I cannot escape the sensation that I am living in a prison, writing research papers about fences and iron bars, inscribing citations from that which has been etched in the walls of my cell in accordance to MLA format. Am I the only prisoner here who yet longs for the wild?
After class, I walk through the quad on my way to the woods – a handful of students are kicking a soccer toy. It bounces, and they kick it again. It bounces, and they kick it again. Before I know what’s happening, I am upon the prize – growling, biting, and snarling at those who would try to wrest it from me. This is mine now.
Clutching the soft orb tightly to my breast, I run towards the tree-line – Wolfenstein will be so proud. Together, we will chew this ball to bits. Together, we will –
And then, I see. Wolfenstein is dead in the road. He has been struck. His neck is crushed, nearly severed, and a murder takes pecks at the soft tissues exposed.
I will not forget you, Wolfenstein.
Out of respect, I do not roll around in his remains. Instead, I exchange the ball for a few of his fleas, and leave the world of dogs behind.
Story by Aladdin Collar, for “Where the Wild Thinks Are,” 2017.