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I'm sure there's a joke in here about right wing fear of same sex marriage and the portals of doom it will open, but instead I'll take the high road in this introduction and simply say the mind of Ryan Sayles is one fucked up place to visit.

Collection by Ryan Sayles

Ernest wasted no time getting the terrier from the highway.

A car might catch it under its wheels, drag it into a quarter-mile red streak along the unforgiving asphalt. Hazards on, Ernest leapt from the car door, spilling greasy trash like scattering autumn leaves. The refuse washed away in the hefty drafts created by cars as they whizzed by. Ernest didn’t care. His sights were set on one thing. The dog.

Ernest jumped between cars like he was playing Frogger. The dog was on the far side of the highway, looking like it needed to be collected. He wormed his way through and snatched up the animal off the roadside. He hugged it like it was his for all his life, separated and now reunited. He could smell its fur, feel the tickle of its nose pressing into his cheek.

“Thank God! Thank God!” He danced beside the lane as a semi-truck charged past him close enough to skin his ass. “You’re all mine! I’m going to take you home, and we’re going to be lifelong friends!”

Ernest darted back, oblivious to the thousands of pounds of metal and glass hurling near enough to shove his suit jacket all around with their wake.

They got in the car, drove home.

The terrier, which had been hit by a truck two days prior and eviscerated, left most of its intestines on the highway baking in the summer heat.


Ernest lived in an apartment complex that the local police called “enemy territory.”

He climbed the stairs with his new pet cradled in one arm, stippling the dog’s head with little kisses. He reached the landing and crossed to his door, 4B. Stapled to the door was a sheet of neon-yellow paper with NOTICE printed boldly across the top.

“Oh fudge,” he muttered, ripping down the sheet without so much as reading it. As it tore, it revealed several other staples bent and resting in the door.

Below the notice, a neighbor had left a note. Your place fucking stinks and now so does mine. Scrawled. Heavy black ink. Must be the roid rager in 4C. 4A was an elderly Russian woman who couldn’t speak English, let alone write a compound sentence. 4D was a pothead who wouldn’t write such an aggressive thing.

“Can you believe our neighbors, Clancy?” Ernest said to the terrier, who stared off into oblivion with its rigor-mortised eyes. What was left of them. “They think our home smells.”

Ernest adjusted his glasses, tucked his wayward shirttails back into his slacks. His hand slid in some rancid goo Clancy had deposited on his jacket but Ernest paid no mind. He hugged the dog and whispered, “Let’s meet your family, my sweet baby. We all love you.”

Ernest opened the door. As it shut behind them, a great stench belched out and was carried along on the draft of the door opening and shutting.


Ernest spent six hours sketching a picture of Clancy.

Ernest was a talented sketch artist. His wrist flicked light as air with wisp-thin lines like needles, or dashed oppressively as tyrants when bold and stark was appropriate. His mind raced and his hand danced as he captured Clancy in his life.

That was Ernest’s other talent; even though he had only met Clancy an hour prior to beginning his sketch, he knew Clancy’s full and rich history. Ernest’s mind filled with the truth of it. His memory wove tales of the little dog, since the day he was weaned to the cute little puddles and late night messes of Clancy’s puppy days, to the way he chewed up the leg of Ernest’s favorite chair and earned himself a spanking, to the way Clancy was newspaper-trained and always pissed on the same sports columnist who never had anything good to say about the city’s ball team, to their time spent frolicking in the local dog park and Clancy’s favorite meal of brown rice and baby food chicken.

So many memories. A lifetime of them.

When Ernest was done, he framed the sketch and placed it on the mantle. He hugged Clancy and rocked back and forth, weeping. He squeezed so hard some clotted, viscous fluid burbled out of the dog’s ruptured gut and that made Ernest cry harder.

“It’s been so hard since Mother died,” Ernest said. “I don’t mind being a fifty-six year old bachelor. I don’t. But now that’s she’s gone…every day is like opening a new wound.”
He buried himself in the dog’s maggot-laced fur. “I miss her so much.”

Ernest fell to his knees and wept. Gnashed his teeth. Held the dog lovingly, and smoothed its rain-matted and gritty fur coat. Eventually he lay down beside it and slept. In the hidden hours of the night, he awoke from an erotic dream. It felt pure and right, and Ernest’s lurid and moist tongue found the dog.

Clancy replaced Ernest’s mother then, and for as long as the dog could avoid putrefaction, Ernest would forget about her.


For the next two days, every time Ernest passed the mantle, his eyes would lovingly fix on the sketch of Clancy the terrier.

From there it would move to the next sketch, Chloe the Rottweiler. Then onto Bashful the calico, King the German Shepherd, Melanie #2 the raccoon, Guinevere the opossum and eventually work its way down to Melanie #1, the elderly Russian neighbor’s granddaughter.


Mother’s sketch was displayed in the master bedroom.

Hers was too good to be included with the others. For one, it was much larger, and done in oils. It hung over the seven separate, duct-taped trash bags that held Mother’s remains, carefully arranged on the bed. The hatchet and jigsaw were still where Ernest left them in the corner way back when. Carved in the drywall all about the room were vituperations such as “whore,” “liar,” and “cunt.”

But for the time being, Clancy the terrier was adequate and Ernest was again in love.

Ryan Sayles's debut novel The Subtle Art of Brutality is due for release October 1, 2012, through Snubnose Press. He has been published at sites such as Shotgun Honey, Yellow Mama, and Nefarious Muse, and his work has been included in two print anthologies. He may be contacted at