“Come, Nibiru, come.” The timid seeker rolled down his window so that there’d be a chance that some one or thing would hear his murmuring, which even on the dead streets at night, was barely carrying. If the sound of his words at least reached the pavement, he’d be able to say that he had tried to help, when he talked about it later. “Nibiru, are you around here? Come.” Sometimes, he envisioned spoken words in his head as though they were printed in the air and he saw this word—come—all lower case letters in size 9 font. No exclamation point, perhaps two of those wavy dashes on either side, signifying impotence. He was too ashamed to shout without company, nobody there to give him permission to disturb the night’s peace, nobody to cushion the blow of odd glances if a person saw him and thought his actions peculiar. He patrolled the streets with eager eyes as fervently as his solitude allowed. His heart racing every time he spotted a dog first, and its owner second.

If it were not for the specific algorithm of events that assembled itself before he saw the Lost Dog flyer, he would not have given in to its behest; he would not be searching in his car for a stranger’s dog in the dark. But the day that preceded the night of the nearly silent search determined his participation; it could not have been any other way, certain things added up to certain things. Here are those things as they happened:

Morning: He turned his TV to an empty living room couch as he ate his cereal in the dining room with the window cranked open to get an unspeckled look at the orange tree on his complex’s property. The placement of a fruit tree outside his window was something he had learned not to ignore when Meg pointed it out, patronizingly, the last time she was, or ever would be, in his dining room with him. He watched the tree as he listened to the television broadcast, a daily mishmash of the new with the familiar. He crunched on spoonfuls and he listened and looked. He heard a man’s voice from the screen that said, “Recent studies have shown that memories of your childhood pets have been proven to be recalled more vividly than memories of any other childhood relationship.” So, he began to recall his childhood pets. One stood out clearer than the rest, a golden retriever/lab mix named AJ. He remembered some things-his name, the way he ran to throw himself into the side gate when he came home from school, but that was it. He didn’t remember where his parents got AJ, or playing with him, or how he died. Words scrolled across the bottom of this scene in his mind like a news crawl: “Meg wasn’t there when I was a kid to teach me to pay attention to those things.” As soon as he read the end of that thought he deleted it. A mental trashcan file that held similar thoughts, now overflowing. He pictured Meg outside, pulling an orange off the tree and throwing it hard against the window, bursting and making a sticky mess that he knew he’d have to clean up before the sun baked it in, and then he imagined being out of window cleaner. He stood up and walked into the living room to put his eyes on the TV instead.

Afternoon: He counted four dollars in laundry change and walked to the store to buy toothpaste. Walking back out, a solicitor for the Red Cross sat at her fold-up table and asked him for a donation. He reacted, louder than he expected to, “No! God dammit!” He heard the words as if someone else spoke them, because someone else had, years ago, to him, while he tried to pass out pamphlets at a strip mall–a man in a suit, walking out of a copy supply store, squeezing his son’s arm too hard on their way to the car. He had been waiting outside with the pamphlets, raising awareness about pollution for a school project. After a few hours, he had became so robotic about his approach that he didn’t even look up before he asked the exiting father and son if they wanted one of the pamphlets he had created. “No! God dammit!” the father shouted as he pulled the boy away taking big long-legged steps which forced his son to walk in short, hurried toe taps to keep up, his feet dragging every few moments, his torso cockeyed with the upward force of his father’s height on his tiny arm. The boy’s face was never visible, but his form rushed back to mind as he spoke the same words to the Red Cross representative. His tone had been regretfully similar to a man’s he had never met, but who remained ingrained in him as an example of what to never become.

Evening: While driving to return a rented movie, he rolled down his window in order to hear the details of an altercation between two women he saw yelling on the street. He thought they looked to be 16 and 56. The 56 year old yelled to the 16 year old to suck her dick and the 16 year old, yelled back while walking away, “Don’t make me come back there and take care of you.” Though their words were anger-laced, neither woman seemed particular riled up, as though they were bored of this type of interaction due to overexposure. He rolled his window back up and turned off the radio, thinking about all the other possible lives that he would never be challenged to live. Then, he got out of his car to slip three two-day rentals into the night drop slot.

        Driving home, he felt barely awake, exhausted by the weight of the things of the day and wanting to do something to feel lighter. This want came just as he pulled back into his carport and saw the flyer for a lost white poodle named Nibiru that was missing in the area. His mind instantly fed him a rush of memories, the television program about children’s pet memories, how he spoke to the woman with the red cross on her hat, the young boy with the harsh father, the women yelling on the street, Meg and her insistence that he look around. He sat back down in his car and drove slowly up and down the nearby streets, looking for movement.

As he drove, the difficulty of finding a loose dog in a huge city became bigger than the city itself. But he felt better than he had all day just to be looking. He drove and he looked and he felt lighter the longer he did. “Come on, buddy. Where are you?” He knew the low volume of his words wouldn’t bring any dog bounding around any corner, but he made up for it with the intensity of his seeking eyes. If he saw the dog, he would jump out and run to it. He didn’t want to startle anyone with his voice again; like he had earlier. This was his attempt at counter-action; he was calm and determined.

After some time, he saw a poodle trotting along and his heart raced. A woman walked a few paces behind it without a leash, not paying particular attention to the dog. He couldn’t tell if it was the poodle from the poster and he couldn’t tell if the woman was its owner. Would she walk her dog without a leash? He drove to the end of the street and turned around, driving back up. The woman looked at his car, maybe he would ask her if the dog was hers. He wondered if that would anger her, and he wondered how loud he’d have to shout for her to hear him and what he would do if she just keep walking as if she hadn’t heard his voice. Again the news crawl of Meg’s words made its way across the designated space in his head. This time, size 14 font, white lettering on a black background, the first letter of each word capitalized: This Divide Between Us Is Made Up Of Things That You Haven’t Done. The Problem I Have Is With The Things That You Don’t Do, Michael.

He fought the impulse to push these words into the trash with the others. He let them crawl. He drove back down the street and stopped the woman as she rounded the corner and spoke to her with his head still inside his car, “Is that your dog?” She looked at him, but didn’t respond. She had not heard his question. He drove back home, flickering softly with the feeling of having done something.