Cover Photo: The Path Between Two Dogs by JV Hilger

The Path Between Two Dogs

The still very young man took the staircase. There was nothing fanciful, it didn’t arc down with a grand flourish or bore in the way a submarine’s stairs do; it just fed down into the surface predictably and deliberately, one step at a time, carrying him closer to the sound of the train. A witness might have wondered why such a slight young man would trouble himself with this large suitcase on the subway when his spine was no thicker than a garter snake’s. Too poor for a taxi, they might have thought. Something important, maybe. But the thought couldn’t weather the passage of more than a few moments; this was New York and there were, perhaps, greater mysteries. Regard him now (as deep down that would have pleased him). That day he brought with him his mother’s eyes—all the time dry and brown like the soil that archaeologists dig for bones through in ancient places. He wore a simple off white tunic, one that by looking at it was not hard to suppose that it had come from a live plant. Under pants of the same raw material, he wore the same undergarments as you or I. His beard, shiny, black, was just starting to fill in. Although the suitcase had wheels, he carried it underground, sweeping his head from left to right as if he were constantly crossing a busy road.

The young man flicks his wrist. The magnetic strip on the yellow card is read. The turnstile welcomes him with a mechanical grunt, but he doesn’t pass. There is an old Bangladeshi attendant in the booth watching either an inner or local horizon; news here or coming. Looking at the man in the protected glass case, the young man suddenly feels dangerous, something like he imagines the way an artist or lion might feel. He tries to meet his eyes, but without warning the metal door next to the turnstiles buzzes and he realizes he is carrying his suitcase through it.

J.V. Hilger lives in New York City with a woman-sized Bengal tiger.