Benny came to the city and he’s looking for work.
He’s got good strong legs and a straight back and he walks the streets tirelessly, stopping in for every Help Wanted sign. He hobbles over cobbles and clops down the sidewalk and he comes home to his dog, tired, dog-tired, oh so tired ‘cause his feet are wearing thin.
Benny steps up the first stair to his eighth-floor run-down walk-up and there’s a shooting pain in his coffin bone. When he lived on the farm he ran barefoot on the dirt but the farm didn’t need him for winter one winter and then the farm got a tractor and they didn’t need him at all.
So Benny got shoes.
The farrier was a drunk old mate and his hammer wouldn’t drive straight so the nail kissed the soft and warm on the other side of Benny’s hoof. Benny bit down on a hunk of leather and didn’t scream, didn’t leak. Iron shoes for city streets. Time to ride the iron rails. No time to peep.
In the City Benny’s pennies get spent on the rent and whatever’s left meant so his dog can eat.
Now his shoes wore through.
Back in the village they said the mill would never fill up, always a job, lift a box, turn a screw, polish a pin. Then the jobs got shipped. Now the ships don’t come in.
Benny gets up at four, stands by the gate, the foundry wants hot heavy work for pennies and hay. Lucky day. Benny shoulders his load ‘til noon when the nail in his hoof goes on its way. Benny drops his rocks. Foreman sends him away, son be glad you’re not lame. No pay.
Benny storms home and they’re paving the street. Hard concrete. Rough on feet. Make way for machines.
He climbs the stairs and there’s cracks and tears in his hooves and the dirt from the street works its way deep in the little ravines.
Benny falls asleep.
Rolls over, wakes, his foot’s all aflame, no one but himself to blame, no insurance he can claim.
He probes his hoof with a fingertip. Comes away white. Smell like hell.
Tries to stand up. Now he fell.
What woke him up? Behind the pain, a little tickle. Little puppy jumps from bed. Out the nail hole: ruddy trickle. Pup was giving a lick.
Benny, eight floors up, can’t work the arithmetic. No way for him to crawl to the street.
Whatever happens, dog will eat.
Edmund Schluessel is an astrophysicist, teacher and writer living in Helsinki. An avid activist, they organized Finland’s largest demonstration against Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Their first book, Infinite Metropolis, is available from Aurelia Leo.