A small dog walks up to me in the park. I'm on a bench cartoon hopping through the latest New Yorker. The early afternoon is cool and cloudy. The dog says,"Listen to me."

"You're a dog talking," I say.

"You're a human stating the obvious. Listen to me." The Dog looks over my shoulder.

"Can't make out the accent."

"It's dog with a hint of dog. What does it matter? Listen to me. Don't look back."

I look back.

"What did I say?" He says.

"Don't look back."

"You look back."

"I look back because you said don't look back. You need to learn more about human behaviour. I didn't see anything."

"You saw enough."

"Really? Like what?" I turn around. "There's a shrub. A tree. A garbage can. It's the shrub, right?" The dog shakes his head and walks away. "Bark once if it's the shrub. Was that a bark?" Out of view.

I return to the New Yorker but thoughts of the shrub distract me. Something about it. I turn around and stare at it. The shrub's maybe four feet high, gangly and unruly, dotted with symmetrical branches of vibrant green. I can't turn away from it like a sexual oddity in a traveling freak show.

My phone rings. It's Jason. "Where the fuck're you?" I tell him I'm in the park. "Everybody's here. We've been waiting for, like, 15 minutes. The producer's not happy," he says.

"Start without me," I say. "I'll be there soon."

"Soon when?" He says.


"Sometime today soon? It's your script. The fuck ya doing at the park?"

"Staring at a shrub," I say.

"Seriously. A shrub?"

"It has properties. Can't look away." 

"You've fuckin' lost it. Producer backs out you are-" he says.

"Jason, gotta get back to the shrub, bye," I say and hang up.

The more I look at the shrub, the more I can't stop looking at the shrub. Each branch makes me think of some past relationship or life incident. I want to both cry and laugh. So I do both. Which makes me come across as a crazy person. I should really get up and walk away. I should. But I'm not able.

"You okay, mister." It's a kid no more than eight with a dog...the talking dog!

"Hey, it's your dog. He speaks in English you know. Say something?" The dog barks. "No, in English." The dog barks again.

"He told me not to look back, I did and now I'm stuck here staring at that shrub."

"Mister, you remind me of my mom before she went to the hospital for a month," the kid says. He leaves. The dog looks back at me with an expression I can't make out. I told you so? Maybe. Anyway I don't have time to figure it out. I've gotta get back to the shrub.

The sun lowers in the sky. Evening creeps up. I'm feeling chilled. My phone rings maybe four times. I don't answer. It'll just take away from my shrub time.


"Yes?" I turn and see an unfamiliar woman. "Who are you?"

"I was sent by a mutual friend...a concerned mutual friend." She's in her early forties with light brown hair, big brown eyes and an expression of warmth.

"Jason?" She shakes her head. "Polk, my accountant? Rachel? Emma?"

"None of the above. Here..." She holds out her hand. "We have to're in danger."

"I can't leave the shrub. There's too much still...I have to decipher."

"How about this? We walk over to the swings. You'll still be able to see the shrub."


She looks up in the sky. "We have to go." She grabs my hand.

"Is it going to rain?" She yanks me up from the bench. "Ow."

"Lets have to get away from here NOW."

"Okay, fine..." I take her hand.  She leads me over to the swings. I sit down and swing back and forth. "I don't understand why you had to pull me away so quick-.

CRASH! From out of the sky drops what looks like a tank on the park bench totally crushing it.

I'm stunned. I look over at her mouth open. "Lets go home," she says.

I take her hand and we walk away, past the swings, out of the park.

I don't look back.