To read / 11 February 2019

And What About Milan?

A particular love for dogs

Milan, alias Fuse, has always manifested a rather specific and particular love for members of the animal world. Dogs, let’s say, most of all. And he had a dog. Not only once. He had a wife as well, to be fair, and a son. They are all, as things stand now, alive and kicking. Milan, his wife and his son, I mean. At some moments, he had them all: A wife, a son and a dog. And these moments could be quite painful, if you want me to bark.

The tale began on an unfortunate weekend, it was about thirty years ago, when the then-wife of Fuse, who is still his wife, decided to visit some relatives, in the company of her son, at that. An inopportune moment, it seems to me in retrospect. Left to his own devices, Fuse decided not to remain left to his own devices, and eventually he ended up in one of the more respected taverns. He spent some time there, not left to his own devices, after which he returned. And now we come to one of the key points in what we take to be a plot.

Even at home, apparently left to his own devices, Fuse wasn’t left to his own devices. He was left to Biscuit. And Biscuit was a Pekinese dog. Something like that. One in the line of man’s most faithful friends that Fuse had accumulated in his backyard, mostly Pekinese dogs. Before Biscuit, we recall, there was Novica. Novica was named after a guy to whom Fuse rented premises for a retail shop. Dissatisfied with the renter’s behaviour, he chose to punish him by bestowing his Christian name upon his backyard pet. A sheer magical deed, we could say. I wouldn’t like to say anything about Novica on this occasion, the dog, I mean. It might hurt. All of you, as many there are.

Thus, Fuse got home from the tavern, somewhat absent-minded and skint, left to his own devices, as we have interpreted it. As soon as he came to the door, he realised that he wasn’t the loneliest man on earth, after all. Since, Biscuit was barking. He was barking, as any dog would, left to wander the uncovered yard, without a house to his name. In winter. A fucking thing, I’d say. A dog’s thing. Fuse was genuinely struck by this. He attempted to come to terms with the undisciplined creature, but the senseless beast kept on with its unquenchable vandalism, probably insisting on some dog’s rights, or the like. Perhaps even on food. Or a house, God forbid. Attention, even. I say, slightly stupefied by the tavern, Fuse managed to fall asleep. It was Friday.

On Saturday, he woke up hung-over. He was roused from his sleep by the incoherent, hellish being barking, as if never giving up. And Fuse started to muse. Why, this also happened to him, but not often. And it crossed his mind that there were some services which resolve conflicts between people and their most faithful friends. Thus, he called dogcatchers. There was no more adequate service at the time. Nor more reliable. The fact that these services were also available on Saturdays just goes to show how epic and unrepeatable times those were, may they never repeat themselves.

When the crew came to the crime scene, Fuse acquainted them with the face of the bloodthirsty monster refusing to relinquish its devilish and disturbing intentions. As it wasn’t clear to them, especially on a Saturday, how they were actually supposed to act concerning the unpleasant scene, Fuse started to unambiguously insist on a humane execution of the enemy of all human peace. The crew responded to the proposal affirmatively, a humane euthanasic injection was produced from somewhere, as well as some basic traits of their financial plan as regards such a complex operation. Over which Fuse started to muse anew. If he invested that many resources into the project, the tavern would certainly not see him that night. Shy as God created him, he enquired about some not less subtle, but cheaper measure. The crew mentioned humane, and certainly not too expensive pliers. And pliers it was. And Biscuit was no longer.

Fuse spent the night between Saturday and Sunday at the tavern, happy and absolutely peaceful. There he also waited for the birth of a new day. And when the new day was born, in the dark of a heroic hangover, doubt insinuated its way into his mind regarding the other members of his household who had scheduled their return for Sunday. What if they were even greater dog lovers than him? Hm... And he slightly prolonged his stay at the same catering establishment. Approximately until midnight, on that fateful Sunday.

Sometime after midnight, Fuse dragged himself into his family edifice. And he wasn’t welcomed by the loathsome monster’s barking. Instead, he was welcomed by Buba, contrary to any of his good-natured expectations. And Buba had something to say about their absence from the family nest, unintendedexpenditure of money, his relatives were also touched upon in an extremely inappropriate context, and then the time came for the question of all questions. Where is Biscuit?

There, Fuse found himself in serious, even inconceivable trouble, and he set out along the paths of imagination and fantasy. This all was of no concern to Buba, though. What interested her was why it was her, of all women, who lived with such a man. With the man who, at no moment whatsoever of the dog’s tragic disappearance, asked the question: “And what about Biscuit?” Eh, that was a Fuse indeed.

Disgusted at the common marital negligence on the part of the one who had left him to his own devices, the same one who found even the flea-infested hound dearer than him, Fuse answered the question with another question, as there was nothing else he could do, in the process making use of the notorious schizophrenic third person singular: “And what about Milan?”

And now, about thirty years later, only one of all things is unclear to me. What the fuck about Milan?


Srđan Srdić

is a novelist, short-story writer, editor, essayist and creative reading/writing teacher. He has published two novels, two short story collections and a book of essays. From 2008 to 2011 he served as the editor of the international short story festival Kikinda Short. He returned to this position in September 2015.