This one was published in January of 2012 in the now-defunct Pagan Edge e-zine. The theme was, “breaking out, breaking through, or exploration.” If anyone can hazard a guess as to where I got the name of one of the girls in Apartment 3G, please put it in the comments section. This was partially inspired by a character in the Discworld novels.
The elevator ride was very uncomfortable. Sami and his bicycle were jammed in with three of his neighbors, all of whom were attractive, extroverted women his own age, and none of whom were talking to him. He felt invisible, and not for the first time. The elevator doors open and he extracted himself and his bicycle with some mumbled apologies and went to his apartment. He made dinner, alone, and watched TV, alone, and wondered again how to make any friends. He liked the neighborhood. It was located in what used to be a bad part of the city but through tax breaks and cheap rent, it was now full of artists and college students. He’d been there for three months and none of his neighbors even knew his name.
“I wish I was brave enough to just go say hello to everyone,” he thought.
When Sami got home the next day, he saw a medium-sized black dog wandering around the complex. Having a soft spot for animals, he knelt down and snapped his fingers.
The dog walked up to him, wagging its tail. “Bark,” said the dog. It was skinny with long legs, a whip-like tail, and looked kind of like a jackal except it had floppy ears.
“Do you belong to someone?” Sami asked, checking for a collar. There was one, and a dog-tag, but it was so scratched he couldn’t read it. “Well, you do belong to someone. If you’re here, maybe you belong to a neighbor, but I don’t remember anyone missing a dog.”
“Bark,” said the dog.
“I guess it doesn’t hurt to ask.” Sami used his laptop bag shoulder strap as a makeshift leash. The dog didn’t seem to mind. “Come on. I need to put up my bike and then I’ll take you around the neighborhood.” The dog obediently trotted after him.
Somehow having a purpose in talking to everyone in the neighborhood made it easier for Sami to go out and actually meet people. At the end of the expedition, no one claimed the dog, but everyone knew who Sami was. He’d spent quite a bit of time at apartment 3G in particular, which housed the three women he’d shared the awkward elevator ride with the day before. The conversation about the dog was pleasant and ended with an invitation to an apartment complex party.
“Well,” Sami said when he returned to his apartment, “I still don’t know who you belong to. I guess I’ll put up some flyers. But if no one claims you, would you like to stay with me?”
“Bark,” said the dog, wagging its tail.
The next day after work he made some flyers and called up the local animal shelters, but no one claimed the dog. He didn’t mind; the dog was very well-behaved and it was nice to have some company. He even took the dog to the apartment complex party, which again made a nice conversation starter with his neighbors.
“Okay, I think you’re officially my dog now,” Sami said after the party. “I should thank you. Now everyone knows my name and I’ve got a date with Abigail from 3G next Friday. Everyone says you look like a jackal, so I’m going to call you Jack. How do you like that?”
“Bark,” said the dog.
“Good boy. Hey, wait a sec. Did you just say, ‘bark?'”
Jack stuffed his nose in Sami’s shoes.
He shook his head. “I must just be imagining things. You’re a good boy.”
The dog barked happily.