An essay by Nate Waggoner


Ginger is neither ginger-colored nor the color of an actual piece of ginger. She is gray. “Great Dane” is a misnomer, too, although she is a large dog of I guess Danish descent. What she is is a fucking dinosaur, all muscles and a thin layer of what looks like a Muppet’s felt and a long neck and bright blue eyes that convey deep intelligence and, falsely, empathy. She is about my height when she sits.

“Ginger is an aggressive dog,” Mrs. F — — tells me. “You just have to…” The dog barks so loud it is like it is barking into a microphone. Mrs. F — — is long and beautiful like the dog. She is youthful in demeanor, and blonde. Her husband is an affable and handsome sandy-haired nurse who will have to come rescue me a couple times when I set off their house’s alarm. Dante used to go check on the dog for about an hour every day, for $15 an hour, and now I am taking over. Mrs. F — — gives me an IPA from the fridge and we sit on plastic chairs in the sun in the cedar-chip-covered backyard and she tells me how devastated she was when she visited Dante and saw the state he was in, hooked up to all those tubes. How she can’t sleep. Says to help myself to the beer in the fridge anytime. During the day, when there are no people around, the dog is kept in a big white metal cage at the center of the living room, in front of the hearth, so the layout of the house is kind of like a scene from the Inferno where the Cerberus-like Satan sits in the center of the ninth circle and all around him lie caverns of ice in which are frozen probably Hitler, Pol Pot, John Wayne Gacy, but if all that stuff was instead just nice furniture from Crate and Barrel, books, a chess board, framed diplomas and pictures of the F — —s’ wedding, their blonde kids posing with baseball bats… The dog bites her arm and shakes it around like a branch. “Ginger?” she says authoritatively. “Ginger? No. No. Down. Ginger! Ginger, no! No!” The dog lets go and takes off running across the house. “So you just have to be assertive.”

There are good and bad days with Ginger. Mostly she’s into fetching. Sometimes she gets into a part of the house where she’s not supposed to be and intimidates the shit out of me regarding her right to be there. Frequently her massive gray equine form will startle and she will start trying to communicate something to me urgently, she will put her big tragic mutant paws in my lap and bark in my face and howl.

One day I drink a glass of water in front of their sink and my hand slips and breaks a different glass. I clean up the broken glass and put it in the trash, and drink more water out of the first glass. I drink the whole thing before realizing that there are shards inside the glass I’m drinking out of, and all I can think of is the possibility of glass traveling through my digestive system right now, just fucking shit up left and right, and me dying suddenly and unexpectedly of internal bleeding on this family acquaintance’s kitchen floor, a monster dog lapping up my blood, no goodbye to anybody, no explanation, because all the glass is cleaned up.

photo by Lauren Traetto

Nate Waggoner is a contributing editor at and founder of His first novel, Dilettantes and Heartless Manipulators, is available from Snow Goose Press. He has written, drawn and/or performed for Shipwreck, Quiet Lightning, Write Club SF, SF Weekly, Willamette Week, Makeout Creek, KQEDPop, and elsewhere. He has an MFA in Fiction from San Francisco State University. He’s on Twitter at @NathanielWagg.

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