I was dead asleep when she woke me up. She flipped on every light in the bedroom, and this is what she said. “Matt, you need to help me. There’s shit all over the house.”
I looked at my alarm clock. It was 5:55 in the morning. For a moment, I said nothing. You could interpret a sentence like that in a lot of different ways: There’s shit all over the house. Maybe our children had gotten up in the middle of the night and left their Legos all over the place, and, for some reason, Kate had decided to explain the situation with some casual swearing. Or, better yet, maybe she’d had a dream and there was actually nothing all over our house, shit or otherwise.
“You mean, like, literally shit?” I said.
That was all she had to say. Barkley is my in-law’s English Setter. He lives with us each winter while Kate’s parents are in Florida. He’s very old and very deaf, and, lately, his bowels have become unpredictable. Still, I assumed she was exaggerating; my wife does that when she’s tired. But when I sat up I saw our dog Grady. He was sitting rigid on his dog bed on the floor giving me this look that said, “Seriously…I promise…it wasn’t me.” And that’s when I knew that it must be bad.
It started on the floor at the foot of our bed—the white, carpeted floor—and it went from there, a trail of dried dog diarrhea. It was in the kitchen, the living room under the piano, and then, somehow, back to our bedroom. It was brown, of course, unmistakably so, but, for some reason, I imagined it was blood. I imagined that while we slept a strange man had been shot in our bedroom and then wandered our house for a while before politely leaving.
I decided that the best course of action was to brush my teeth. I did this more slowly than usual, focusing on each individual tooth in the hopes that this problem would somehow resolve itself without me. When I came back out into the bedroom, I found my wife standing barefoot in the silly little shorts she wears to bed. She was holding a roll of paper towels in one hand and a tiny bottle of carpet spray in the other. She was so profoundly ill-prepared for the task at hand that I actually laughed despite…well, despite all the shit.
“I don’t even know what to do,” she said.
And neither did I.