Thursday, June 16, 2011


A short play
by Kier Peters

[Two men against the sky]

ALBERT: Hear him?

BOB: What?


BOB: Who?

ALBERT: [Cocking his head] He's barking.

BOB: [Cocking his head] No. I don't hear him.

ALBERT: Hear him now?

BOB: No, I don't.

ALBERT: Far in the distance.

BOB: I'm supposed to have good ears.

ALBERT: Who says?

BOB: I say. My wife.

ALBERT: [Cocking his head] Then you hear him?

BOB: [Cocking his head] Nope.

ALBERT: Then you don't.

BOB: I can hear a train.

ALBERT: No train.

BOB: In the distance—there—the whistle.

ALBERT: No train in this part of the state.

BOB: Sounds like a train.

ALBERT: No. It sounds like a dog.

BOB: I mean the whistle.

ALBERT: It's a bark.

BOB: What you hear is—evidently. But I'm hearing a whistle—
like the whistle of an engine—of a train.

ALBERT: No train.

BOB: Doesn't sound like a siren.

ALBERT: Ah—that's his howl.

BOB: Doesn't sound like a howl.

ALBERT: But that's what it is.

BOB: You've heard this all before?

ALBERT: Every day.

BOB: In the distance?

ALBERT: Far away.

BOB: And it never comes closer?

ALBERT: Not much.

BOB: And you never move closer to it—to him?

ALBERT: What should I want?

BOB: To find out if it really is a dog.

ALBERT: Oh it's a dog alright.

BOB: Or why he barks or why he howls.

ALBERT: Don't want to know.

BOB: Maybe it would help.

ALBERT: Help what?

BOB: The dog. Maybe it's lonely.

ALBERT: Probably been beat.

BOB: Maybe he's hurt. You could help him.

ALBERT: I don't like dogs.

BOB: I do.

ALBERT: Then I wish you'd hear him too. You could go out
and save him or shut him up.

BOB: I don't hear anything.

ALBERT: [Shouting] You could go and shut him up.

BOB: Stop shouting!

ALBERT: Do you read lips?

BOB: [Confused] No.

ALBERT: How do you know what I'm saying then?

BOB: I'm not deaf.

ALBERT: Then you shouldn't say so.

BOB: I didn't. It was just a figure of speech.

ALBERT: Well do you hear him or don't you?

BOB: I don't hear him, but I hear you.

ALBERT: Well, you're one of the few people who do.

BOB: Do what?

ALBERT: Hear me. Most people turn away.

BOB: Away?

ALBERT: From me.

BOB: Why should they do that?

ALBERT: Because they can't hear.

BOB: You mean the dog?

ALBERT: The dog. And then me, when they turn away.

BOB: They're just confused.

ALBERT: No. They just doubt.

BOB: Well, I have to say....

ALBERT: I know, you doubt me too.

BOB: It's natural. I mean, when one's hearing is perfectly
normal—if not exceptional, which is what most people think
perfectly normal is all about—and you hear something
someone can't it's natural to doubt that you're really hearing
this exceptional thing each and every day.

ALBERT: No, they don't doubt me. They doubt the dog.

BOB: Well they may say they doubt the dog, but it's you—your hearing it that is—that's really behind what they say.

ALBERT: Well hell, I'm here. They got eyes.

BOB: They don't doubt your existence, just your ability to hear.

ALBERT: Well, I do.

BOB: What?

ALBERT: Doubt my existence, after they all turn away. It's like I
never existed. Just like the dog. And they certainly no
longer hear—if they formerly did—what I have to say
about anything—the dog, the weather, the time of day. So
after all I go off and stay in a little corner of town where
no one ever goes much. And I think to myself.

BOB: What is it you think?

ALBERT: I told you, I think he's being beat.

BOB: I mean, what is it you think to yourself?

ALBERT: Oh, like whether or not he's being beat. Or if he deserved
it. Or if he's going to stop. Or if I should take a gun
and go over to wherever it is he's howling from.

BOB: You don't like dogs.

ALBERT: That's what I said.

BOB: Why don't you like dogs?

ALBERT: [Pondering it for a moment] They bark. And howl.

BOB: Well I know some who don't. Most don't howl. And some don't bark much.

ALBERT: Only takes one.

BOB: Do you hear other dogs?

ALBERT: Of course! All around town.

BOB: Now?

ALBERT: You hear 'em?

BOB: No.

ALBERT: Then why do you expect me to. I'm no better than you up
close. When they bark most everyone hears. And that's
why they get shut up! But this -- he's different. No one
hears him -- so it appears -- but me. So no one -- except
maybe the man who beats him—cares whether he howls or not.
BOB: Does he ever stop?

ALBERT: [Looking with disbelief] Of course! He's gotta sleep. He's
gotta eat. I live my life around those few hours. When he
sleeps, I sleep. When he eats, I take a quick bite. And once in a while, for a whole day, he sulks. And I perk up
and behave—according to the folks hereabouts—like a
normal human being. I live in fear of those days. Get all
on edge. It's almost a relief when he goes into his yaps

BOB: Have you seen a doctor?

ALBERT: [Pointing in the direction of the hotel] He's right over there.

BOB: No I mean, have you gone to one?

ALBERT: He's the only one.

BOB: Have you gone to him then?

ALBERT: What for?

BOB: Well, perhaps he could give you something.

ALBERT: Nope. I tried cotton. I tried muffs.

BOB: I mean for your nerves.

ALBERT: My nerves? I'm not nervous.
It's you who's nervous. It's the other folks.
Nervous about me and about the dog who they can't

BOB: You mean, you don't mind it?

ALBERT: What do you think I've been telling you? Of course I
mind it! I detest it! I want to kill the mangy hound.
But that has nothing to do with nerves at all.

BOB: It'd sure make me nervous.

ALBERT: What's there to be nervous about? He won't come any

BOB: I mean the constant noise.

ALBERT: There's always lots of noise. There are clouds and the corn, and naturally the people.

BOB: Well, the people yes! But the corn? You mean the wind in the

ALBERT: No, I mean the corn itself. I mean the clouds on a
still night.

BOB: I don't think most people hear that either.

ALBERT: Some do. I met a man once who said he could tell you just from careful listening whether it was June or July in a field of corn. In June the corn just squeals, while in
July it crackles like a blanket on a dry hot night. Someone once explained to me the difference between a cumulus and a stratus cloud. A cumulus got a high-pitched little effeminate voice that stutters to the stars, while a stratus got a flat uninflected pitch like a Midway carney Kansasan crying "Come on come on come on in." But no one hears this dog.

BOB: I don't know what else to suggest. Have you ever thought of
moving away?

ALBERT: This is where I live.

BOB: I know. But there are lots of other wonderful places to live
in. Without dogs in the distance.

ALBERT: I don't think so!

BOB: Just a vacation?

ALBERT: Besides, it might be worse. Another dog might growl or drool or hiss. And I'd miss him.

BOB: Who?

ALBERT: The one who barks. The one who howls.

BOB: I think you've got a problem!

ALBERT: That's what I've been telling you.

BOB: [Turning away] What was that?

ALBERT: I know, it's time for you to go. They all eventually turn away.

BOB: I mean that noise?

ALBERT: [Cocking his head] That's him!

BOB: He sounds so sad.

ALBERT: Doesn't he?

BOB: Actually he sounds sort of happy.

ALBERT: You think so?

BOB: Sort of silly. Like he's lolling on the lawn with tongue
hanging out.

ALBERT: Could be.

BOB: Whining. No whinnying actually.

ALBERT: It's possible.

BOB: Sort of gurgling low in his throat. Growling now. Hear him?

ALBERT: [Cocking his head] Not my dog.

BOB: No?

ALBERT: Nope. Mine barks. Mine howls.

BOB: [Listening closely] My has gotten very quiet.

ALBERT: Mine hasn't let up.

BOB: Mine has put his head down beside his bowl to drowse.

ALBERT: My dog—the way he howls sounds almost as if he was the trying the kiss the sky. Like he was in love with that old cumulus queer.

BOB: I think you've got a great imagination.

ALBERT: You were the one just making it up!

BOB: Yes. But I was trying to show you what you say seems like to others.

ALBERT: That's the problem. They don't got good ears.

[In the distance a dog barks, howls.]

[BOB shakes his head.]

Copyright (c) 2003 by Douglas Messerli. Reprinted from Kier Peters A Dog Tries to Kiss the Sky (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2003).

Kier Peters is the dramatic pseudonym of Douglas Messerli, the publisher of Green Integer and, formerly, Sun & Moon Press. Messerli has published numerous works of poetry, fiction, drama, and an ongoing series of annual cultural memories, titled My Year____. A Dog Tries to Kiss the Sky has been performed in Los Angeles (by Bottoms Dream and Theatre of Note), San Francisco, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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