A friend is not a father. This is a truth you can not and must not disavow. Though you evenly lacquer the walls of the room a bloody rouge with effusive brush strokes--violently exhibiting yourself--the world can only comment on how silently you work and never blink the while. No one likes the color on all four walls. You try to tell them there are more than just four; instead, you insist the color helps you concentrate, breath and sleep. They must be crazy to claim it as a claustrophobic color. It is the most ample and sanitary of them all--it has the slowest, longest wavelength, and reminds you of your purpose.

The dog is not as confused about this. He, too, prefers this room to any other. He is your father's dog, though he is more often in your company; he knows that all these walls are sound because they are red, thanks to you. So, he spends all his time here, tucked under the covers next to you; waiting out the night with someone who also enjoys feigning sleep, and who does not mind the pungency of his breath. He is entirely yours at heart; but he still comes when called, and you are no better.

You and the dog are both confused about your father. Fathers are confusing--violet in wavelength now, black and inert later. You three do not communicate intelligibly. Your language is debased to exchanging emotional glances and guttural utterances like foreign currency, which has no value. When either of your hearts race at the touch of his hand, your lives converge in that they can only race for one of two reasons. More often than not, these two get confused. The only difference is that he is canine while you are Homo sapiens. Also, you can paint things, like the room you washed crimson. You also give gentle baths with scentless shampoo, and you end up barking with the dog when the moon will not give up the cause. This is why he loves you.

On the other hand, your teeth are not as sharp; your sense of smell is poor, and comparatively, you are as good as deaf. It is difficult to tell who resides on the more profitable end of the evolutionary spectrum. You find it strange to exist so far removed from each other biologically, while yet possessing the capability of friendship. Sometimes you believe it ludicrous to imagine that your father's dog could be your friend. When you wake up, however, you always find that the dog has crawled onto your back while you were rolled over, so that he can snuggle his nose into your hair. This is done to keep you safe as well. It is why you love the dog back.

Your father knows nothing of how eagerly you waited and suffered in longing to get your hands ruddy with the paint. He knows nothing of the ecstasy you experienced when you smeared a test patch of the garnet-hued stain over the first waxy, white wall; and then wiped the excess off on your bed sheets, which you had spread over the pine floor boards of your room to soak up any accidents. The dog liked the taste of the paint, but you had to scold him for lapping it up, so he rolled in it instead. This did not matter, since the mess would easily wash away in the next bath. You wondered if it would ever come off of you, and if you could forget what had caused you to start painting in the first place.

You do not have to forget or ignore anything you do with the dog, nor he with you. You are always together now. If you pet him, or he licks you, you do not require baths afterward, because you are used to one another. You do not mind sharing food, and you never just give him scraps. If you get ice cream, it is the same for him--ice cream is just as bad for each of you. It is an equal partnership, respective only to the separation of your species. You are ever present in the room now; even when you are not there, you never escape the penetrating neon emissions of the mural interring you.

Sometimes, you feel very sorry for the dog, knowing that you are the only person he has in the world--his only source of companionship. Are you just as sad for yourself that the dog is also your only option? The answer to this question is the reason that you painted all six walls red and could not speak, blink, or flinch while doing it.

If the dog could have held a paint brush as expertly as you, he would have helped. And, he would have had the right to do so, since it was not his fault you had to redecorate. That was all Father's doing, because you both tremble under his touch for only two reasons.

That is why a dog is ever the better friend than a father. In darkness, and behind red rouged walls, you can howl together.

About the author:

Kathleen Burnham is currently attending Eastern Oregon University online, majoring in English Literature/Film and Environmental Studies. She lives in Port Townsend, WA, is twenty years old, and has only been writing seriously for four years. She probably would never have tried to submit any of my work if it had not been for one of her English professors, Dan Yezbick, so she has to say something about him.