The Red Ball – Jacqueline Doyle

It was the second time we’d talked at the dog park and I wasn’t sure what he was suggesting. A play date for our dogs? An actual date, with our dogs? An actual date without our dogs? Some kind of get-together but not really a date? Fuck men, so annoying, handing out invitations like you’re supposed to know what they mean, and then you don’t know how to act, or dress, or what they really want. Could have been he just liked my dog: Renate is a real looker, big, playful, affectionate, a mixed-breed golden retriever and something else, maybe German shepherd. Everything you’d want in a companion. His basset hound, whose name turned out to be Fritz, was cute, but less appealing. One of those dogs that wiggles when it gets excited and slobbers on your knee. At least he didn’t go straight for my crotch like Herbert’s dog. Don’t get me started on Herbert, or his dog, or their manners. That turned out to be a dinner date from hell. Which is why I was thinking twice about this guy George. Was he going to slobber like his dog Fritz? So I just said, “Yeah, that would be nice. Let’s get together some time,” but I didn’t give him my number or anything. Turned out George wanted a date. Next time I saw him he invited me to a movie and you can’t take dogs to movies. But I thought, let’s put on the brakes this time, try coffee first, and let me tell you, that was the longest latte I’ve ever had. He’d actually memorized jokes, and kept laughing so hard he could barely get the punch lines out. I know I sound like a bitch but he was so goddamn eager. I just couldn’t handle it. That’s it, I told myself, no more meeting guys in dog parks. But wouldn’t you know, just a couple of weeks later, another guy walks up to me, flashing a smile to die for, and says, “Wanna ball?” And I think, what is this, sixties throwback day or something? Am I supposed to answer, “That would be groovy”? Or maybe sing, “Why don’t we do it in the road”? Instead I say, “You’re kidding, right?” And he laughs and says, “No, want a ball? I found this under that bench over there,” holding up this red rubber ball the size of a tennis ball, and Renate comes loping across the park, a gorgeous collie in tow, and she slides to a stop right in front of us, looking all expectant, ready for one of us to throw the ball, wagging her tail like an idiot.


Jacqueline Doyle lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her flash chapbook The Missing Girl was published by Black Lawrence Press last fall, and she has recent flash in Wigleaf, Hotel Amerika, New Flash Fiction Review, and Post Road. Find her online at


Image via Pixabay


cabinet of heed contents issue 16

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