Two Stories

Two Stories
A Man’s Life as Wet Dog Story

There is nothing more lied about than a man’s life, because there are usually at least two groups of people lying: the man’s kingdom and those loyal to the man himself. A man goes to war and fights for his country, comes back to an indifferent horde of people aimlessly milling about. The horde needs to believe something about the man they can believe about themselves, because the man is a reflection of them. Some of the men will turn away from what is, and what was, and what will be—what we will become.

The seeds of man started deep in the heart of the first primate staggering upright and swaying, hefting a stick to swing it, using a rock to sharpen a point, using a rock to sharpen another rock into a sharp point, and so on (the first cold war was actually cold, and included a very boring arms race). Eventually the hunter gatherers formed roving bands of whatever came in between, that we like to think of as nephylom but were really nothing more than neanderthal like creatures living in caves, and then whatever led into feudalism and the short and brutal life man enjoyed there (I don’t say woman, because she has no blame in this).

In the absence of predators man fell low and started to exhibit predatory behavior toward his fellow man. Man asked himself, Self, if an animal can be enslaved, cannot a man? And so began the arduous task of breaking a man into an animal. And at first this was bad enough, as each man broken to beast had his name struck from the Book of Life by God above, who had run out of patience shortly before the Big Bang started (something he regrets now, but cannot undo), thus he flooded the earth in response.

And all this is to say that when a man wakes up and says, “I love you,” it’s important to remember most men are nothing more than boys, and at their best no higher than risen apes. And often in a shaggy dog story there isn’t even a dog until the very end, but there isn’t one here. There won’t even be the Steven King esque attempt to outpace the readers stamina with numbing prose and chapter long tangents, all of this is to say that if a man wakes up and tells you, “We’ve got to escape! This place is doomed!” gently remind him there is nowhere to run.


A Dog’s Life

There is nothing more deserving of christening than a dog’s life. What a touched existence a canine leads, and has led, and will lead. Man bifurcates the species into feral and domestic, and then splinters the domesticated dog into myriad phenotypes, some totally absurd, others sleek, agile, and dangerous. Some of the domesticated canines are called “working dogs,” canines weaponized or otherwise made utilitarian by man.

Only (hu)Manity would have the devilish genius to use canines to hunt others and their own. Cormac McCarthy wrote that “When God made man, the Devil was at his elbow,” but what he meant to say was that the devil was in the other room yelling for Jesus to shut the goddamn front door next time they come home, did the trinity raise him in a barn?

That’s not to say that all non-wild dogs were made pets. There were many of the domesticated animals who returned to being feral, and had children completely so. These animals became wild of spirit, but breeding could not undo societies molding in such a short amount of time. Feral dogs in some parts of the world were shot and killed just the same as the brown people of Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, among other places. Poor people everywhere were more or less treated like dogs, even told, “You have so many characteristics of a dog, but none of the loyalty.”

Many men, no matter how much their lives are lied about, will die like dogs. Many of the men who go to war will die face down in the muck and be eaten by dogs and pigs. Many dogs and pigs die like men, but the best death is that of a hog driven to slaughter, who refuses to run but instead uses measured paces, and when a porcine glance is cast back over shoulder it’s not to beg like the rest, it’s to say, as Levine once wrote, “Not this pig.”



About the Author

Jason Arment served in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Machine Gunner in the USMC. He's earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in The Iowa Review, The Rumpus, ESPN, the 2017 Best American Essays, and The New York Times, among other publications. His memoir about the war in Iraq, Musalaheen, stands in stark contrast to other narratives about Iraq in both content and quality. Jason lives and works in Denver. Much of his writing can be found at


Photo by James Barker on Unsplash