The dignity of labour

JASON CUPPED THE dog's testicles in the palm of his left hand and rolled them back and forth between his thumb and forefinger. His hand was wet and slippery with soap suds, which made the process a lot easier both for practical reasons and for his own mental comfort: so long as there was something, even a thin film of water and detergent, between his hand and the dog's shrivelled sac, he could allow himself to deny that he was touching this dog's testicles; that here he was, hunched over a dog in a hydrobath, sponging it down with one hand and playing with its balls with the other.

It was a trick old Joe Lyon taught him when he first started. It worked particularly well on German shepherds, which was what he had here. As soon as the mongrel snarled at him, he reached for its testes. Once he got the hold right, the snarling stopped. Worked like a charm every single time, or so Joe said, and he hadn't seen Joe proved wrong yet.

Other guys, back at the salon, before he got the trailer, told him that Joe knew everything there was to know about dogs, and Jason believed it. He could see it in the way Joe approached them, how the dogs reacted to his big callused hands and soothing words.

These same guys also told him how you had to stick your index finger up the arse of a bull terrier or a mastiff or a pit bull or anything else with lockjaw if it ever got a hold of you, once its jaw locked, to make it let go.

But Joe never said anything about fingers up arses and Jason wasn't sure he could do it anyway, even if he had to. It might not be that easy, for a start. Was he supposed to stick his finger in his mouth and lubricate it first? No one ever said. They were light on detail – ‘Ram your finger up its arse! That'll do it!' – and detail mattered. And even if you did get your finger up its sticky dog's arse without any preparation, then what? It just goes all glassy-eyed with ecstasy and lets go of your leg or whatever the fuck else it's sunk its teeth into? Or does it let go, so it can turn around and bite your index finger off because you just stuck it up its arse?

‘What's that you're using on him, mate?'

It was the dog's owner. His hair was too shiny and too black for the weather-beaten skin that wrapped around his face. It was obvious that he dyed it, although he probably figured it looked natural.

‘It's a tea-tree oil solution, mate. There's some other stuff in it, but it's mainly the tea tree that does the trick. Gets rid of fleas and leaves the coat nice and healthy. Good for the environment, too.'

‘Fuck the environment, mate – just so long as he enjoys it. And he looks like he's enjoying it. Then again, I'd probably be smiling if you were rubbing my balls like that too, eh? You like that, don't ya, Sammy? Yes, you do! Yes, you do!'

He'd parked the trailer right outside the guy's workshop, a mechanic's place in one of those suburban industrial areas that he never really liked visiting. Always too many bored goons hanging around in greasy overalls – mechanics, spray painters, panelbeaters, guys with tools in their hands and sly smiles on their faces – watching, waiting for a laugh as the poor schmuck with the fancy trailer washed their boss's dog during their lunch hour. No matter what time it was, when he showed up it was always fucking lunchtime.


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