“Training” by Charles Rammelkamp

She gave into temptation…. It was difficult for me to breath.

The guy I bought my dope from
when I was in grad school in Boston
lived on the fourth floor of the brownstone
where my Notes-from-Underground basement studio was.

Ralph owned a Doberman Pinscher
named Mahogany, a sleek, athletic-looking animal,
always at Ralph’s heel, nose to the ground,
when he walked through Kenmore Square.
Ralph drove a taxi at night
as well as selling pot and pills.

Once I went up to Ralph’s apartment
to score a lid and found him
training Mahogany by putting
a slice of meat over her snout,
kicking her hard in the ribs
if she gave into temptation,
swallowed the meat.

It was difficult for me to breathe,
watching the fear and confusion
in the poor dog’s frozen brown eyes,
while Ralph trained her.

The transaction completed,
I fled the apartment with my baggie,
as if I were the one escaping the kick in the ribs,
Ralph no doubt sensing my horror,
trying to square the cruelty with his purpose.
“She a smart dog.”

One thing was for sure:
Mahogany was very obedient.

Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore. Two of his full-length collections have been published in 2020, Catastroika, from Apprentice House, and Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books. A poetry chapbook, Mortal Coil, is forthcoming from Clare Songbirds Publishing.

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