FICTION – Listen to the Animals by Steven Hill

Animals are more sensitive than people. I remember my friend Noelle saying how her pet python arranged itself vertically up the side of its glass terrarium, inside her Hayes Valley apartment, just before the Big One struck in ‘89. Apparently, say the experts, it was trying to minimize the growing underground vibrations on its snake belly while the humans in the room were oblivious. Until it was too late. Another friend’s dog bolted down Ocean Beach, uncharacteristically and for no reason, minutes before the ground started shaking. Weird. Yet not weird at all. So I paid attention when I heard this hound dog barking out a passenger-side window. It was riding past, woofing and howling, its human driver ignoring it while checking out a halter-clad jogger, and its canine eye whites were large and ominous like two giant hailstones. It looked right at me and I got a chill, like it was baying about something important. So I was not surprised when I returned home and heard the news. The president had sold us out again. Backtracked and caved, agreed to another “compromise.” Broke another campaign promise. All presidents do this, of course, but the current one seems to specialize in it. Each time she does it, it feels a bit like someone has crept into your house and swiped something from you. At first it was small things, like a toaster, or an egg beater, or a few pieces of cutlery. Then it was larger things, like the computers and a television and stereo system. Lately it’s been more cut to the bone types of stuff, like the living room furniture, and the heater in the basement. It’s getting cold, the rooms are becoming bare and deserted, and next I suppose they’ll want the house itself. Eviction may be in the cards.

Yes, we should listen more closely to the animals. They hear it coming before any of the humans do.

Steven Hill is an author of four books of political nonfiction and his work
has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Washington Post, The
Nation, Guardian, Die Zeit, Le Monde, Salon, Slate, BBC, C-Span, NPR,
Minnesota Review
and many other publications. Find him at and @StevenHill1776.

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