© Rosanne Griffeth

Shiva gallops into the house looking for something precious to destroy. He could have chosen yesterday's paper or the shoes I'm about to throw out. But today he finds a letter my mother, long dead, wrote me in college. Clutching it between fangs with glittering eyes, he performs his special Tandava. He's done this before with hundred dollar bills and raw rump roasts I wash off with no one the wiser. After all, they say a dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's.

My girlfriend believes in reincarnation, evil spirits and chiropractic. She thinks water holds memories and that she can talk to animals. Shiva hurts her feelings often. She says Shiva is a liar and has unresolved issues. That he has no respect for me and certainly not for her. That she knows a good dog psychic.

"Of course he has no respect. He's a dog," I say, peeking from under my lashes.

Shiva curls up in the good chair in the living room, the one with her faux tiger skin throw, and growls when the girlfriend asks him to move. He's been rolling in ashes and has matted his fur swimming in the river. Shiva is the god of bad habits and snaps at the girlfriend.

The girlfriend tells me it's too bad I got Shiva before "us." The quotes are hers. She makes them with her fingers. She says she's been able to tease from him the details of how he came to the shelter. That his previous owner died in a fire and he only stays with me because he knows I'm her reincarnation.

"But Shiva is four years old and I'm thirty-two."


"How can I be the reincarnation of someone who died three years ago?"

"You know nothing," she screeches. "You are a spiritual black hole. An emotional abyss! I don't know why I stay with you."

I shrug and hide behind my newspaper. She flounces out of the room and Shiva meets my eyes, his tongue lolling sideways from his mouth. His ears prick up when the back door slams.

I blare R.E.M. from the stereo. Shiva and I dance around the living room wiggling our butts. I throw treats around and Shiva snatches them from the air. He twirls in a circle, chasing his tail until he catches it and becomes my furry ouroboros.

"Dancing dog! Dancing dog!" I sing. Shiva barks his laughing dog bark shaking his head from side to side. Before he leaps into my arms, his otter tail sweeps the coffee table, breaking the girlfriend's ceramic incense burner she swears was blessed by her dead guru, Swami Satchidananda, following a holy blow job. It breaks into fifty-two pieces. We ignore it until the song ends and we collapse together on the flokati.

Shiva flaps his forelegs flat on the floor, cuts his eyes at me. Let's do it again, he says.

I grab his paws and kiss his pads. They smell like Fritos. He yanks them back before grinding his head into my side, grunting in joy.

After picking up the fifty-two pieces of the incense burner, I look around for the super glue. Why don't you just hide the pieces and pretend you don’t know where it went? Shiva asks.

"I think that's an excellent idea," I say.

Rosanne Griffeth has had works published or accepted by MsLexia, The Potomac, Pank, Night Train, Keyhole Magazine, Smokelong Quarterly and was very happy to have her story, "Collectors" appear in a previous issue of Up The Staircase.