The jackals who live in our row home
Jackals live in packs in a row home right outside of Philadelphia, two to a room - four rooms. There are eight jackals at bare minimum at all times. Golden bodies on solid blue couches with no give like stale bread, they live a canis per cushion. Maple syrup jackals who flow from space to space - their yips are the national anthem of a created country: the great land of pilled industrial carpets stained with cat piss.
Jackals are crepuscular, most active at dusk or when dusk turns into dawn as they’re all still listening to music and drunk and eating cold pizza crusts. Long-legged and curved teeth, lapping bowls of brown bourbon pilfered from some other beasts’ party, they’re opportunistic omnivores who pool rent money and steal cable like it was still the early 90s. None are domesticated doggies, but little beasties who hunt for Cheetos and Pringles in the gloaming of the carcass-orange morning light.
On the night of August 15, 2010, the heat was a woolen blanket. To pass the insufferably long evening, the jackals drank Carlo Rossi straight from the jug. They let the pink stain the bridge of their upper lips. Shawn said that the wine was so cheap that it was used as cooking wine at the TGIFridays. But jackals don’t have sophisticated palates so they went on with their consumption and tried to bury the hours in conversation.
Caitlyn, the strawberry miniature, described a recurring villain from her nightmares to whittle away blocks of the evening. The characteristics of the baddy shared the same details as a monster who also regularly visited Richard-jackal’s childhood dreams from 20 years earlier: all angles, spiked teeth, towering mantis body with hands and hands and hands always striking. The buddies bayed at the commonality from their hauntings. The terrifying visits from The Pointy Man that they somehow shared.
Do all baby Anubises have the same nocturnal fears? Or do jackals gravitate to their packs having unknowingly shared the same past lives? In huddles of hides, all their heads buzzing, the row home pack committed themselves to one another – promises to make meaning out of the nonsense of the past and the present. They barked together drowning the living room in noise until the memory of the Pointy Man was frightened out of their collective history – at least for that evening. In that moment, the dogs’ companionship was a protective amulet.
But dirt dogs are noisiest when hushed. They were restless in the heat - that summer the Hot lasted all hours of the day and night until it blended into the same parts. Hours passed in agony. On August 16, 2010 – maybe midday, maybe middle of the night – Josh-jackal challenged the roommates to slap fights, counting down in his raspy voice and hovering his digit-ed paw-paws ready to issue little nips of hurt. When Janie-jackal bragged about her slap superiority, Josh replied, “you ain’t shit but a shirt,” and delivered a smallish blow – both to her pads and to her ego since she was wearing her favorite tank top.
The pups snapped at one another: for moving too quickly, for talking too much, for letting the ink for the poke n stick tattoos dry out on the table, for hogging the TV, for drinking all the whiskey. Dandelions wilted in their vases - empty bottles of Lord Chesterfield beer - while the air was heavy with rain that wouldn’t break. The atmosphere turned solid.
Panting, they paced the cage of the row home. Scavengers and intellects, tricksters and inventors, they were one in the same - the kind of canines who would roll a cigarette made up from the butts of old cigarettes that had died in a beige mound in a large glass ashtray.
The summer Hot made an attempt to break up the pack that night, beaking in the row home in visible waves of humidity. Droplets of sweat rolled off of each pointed nose, the group was a pool of water incapable of sending the sun back to school.
The jackals collectively willed themselves to be the psychopomp of the fiery weather. That night of August 16, 2010 endured for months, in between the life and the afterlife that comes with the stillness of the temperature.
They acted as cranky epitaphic protectors and guides – some sweating in seats and leaving rings of themselves as impressions, others drawing anthropomorphic entities on the kitchen walls with charcoal, biting at each other as their enemy Hot took up every inch of their home. Hot had the power of suffocating entire floors. The jackals huffed in great frustrated bursts, upsetting their jowls in bubbly waves.
Finally, in the beating silence, Tito broke the suffering stillness and said, “I dunno let’s just get weird,” to no one in particular. Someone hiccup laughed.
Tito was Anput, both jackal and not – nursing the other jackals who carried their knives of irritation throughout the everlasting evening. He was organization in an uncontrollable mess, a sacred canid who transformed pernicious pups to sleeping dogs. They would lay at his feet, clutching peaceable feathers in undisturbed rest. He had the ability to turn nips to nurturing, so that even though the inkwell had run dry and the blistering climate created beasts out of the buddies during that incessant night– cackles emanated from every jackal as Tito made funerary art out of the perspiration on a glass of beer. Hot listened to his stories as the canines made a circle around him. Everyone was calm under the hypnotism of Tito’s chiding.
Gentle dogs will lead new souls to the chill of the afterlife, and like the Pointy Man before him, the villainy of Hot couldn’t disrupt the posse. Eventually, even the perpetual night of August 16, 2010, started to slip into dawn – the dawn who brought cool breezes and the promise of a storm meant to sweep away the sadness of sweltering. It brought sleep to the home.
They gathered together, liquid amber bodies who sought to stay with one another in the ocher glow that comes with collective slumber. And there was something so comforting about sleeping on a bed that fit everyone, a bed that had all the clean laundry on it.
The pack left their tracks in every hair-loved article in the row home. And the dawn whispered the sweat off their bodies – bodies that harmonized breath to the beat of each other’s hearts.