Deirdre Shaw

It was summer in L.A. and I had just gotten married and there was a pit bull roaming the halls at my office. Hollywood was hazy and slow, and my husband was out of work, and the pit bull had a white coat splotched with deviant brown shapes that made me think of heart disease.

The TV show where I worked was lawless, and people did what they wanted and said what they wanted. My husband was lying on the couch all day in our apartment with the windows open and the fire trucks roaring past and the noise and the heat and the pot he was smoking making him never want to get up. The pit bull was unleashed and strong,
and it slinked by my door several times a day as I proofed scripts in my tiny office, a fan blowing my hair off my neck, and when it approached I leaned across my desk and shut the door and locked it.

The dog, whose name was Dixon, had a muscular body, a square face and jaw, and empty, flat, button eyes like a doll’s. It belonged to our show’s director, RJ, who had rescued it from a shelter. “I went to this place in the Valley,” he told a group in the hallway one day, “and there was Dixon—and I said, ‘What the fuck is that thing?’ And they said, ‘This dog has been abused by humans, and this dog needs to get trust back in its life.’ And I said, ‘Okay, man,’ and that was it. It just felt right and I’m so sick of second-guessing myself.”

RJ was tall and thickly, darkly handsome. He wore a gold chain and a baseball cap and sunglasses, even inside. He was fortyish and never married, with a serious vibe of cocky Hollywood asshole. I tried to stay out of his way.

RJ’s assistant, Misty, was twenty-two, and she wore beach clothes to the office and she was constantly trying to recover from him yelling at her. You could walk into her office at almost any time of day and she would be crying, another assistant bent over her, murmuring sympathy and counsel.

“I just want to make this dog trust someone again,” RJ said. “If I do that, I think I’ll feel good about myself.”


Absolutely no one was nice to me at my office, and when sometimes Misty and the other assistants threw Dixon its big stuffed bone down toward my end of the hall, it would come racing down the rug, ravenous and reckless. I would close my door and lock it, and they would yell “Sorry” because they knew I was afraid, but when I opened the door afterward they would be standing there giggling, their hands pressed over their mouths.

Soon the dog started to stalk me. It sought me out even without the stuffed bone as inspiration, glowering at me as it passed my door, threatening with its unseeing eyes.

It was male, I felt sure, though its name was the androgynous Dixon, and I never got close enough to look between its legs. No one ever called it he or she. They always said. Dixon: “Aww, Dixon, how’re ya doing?” or “Dixon needs a new toy, doesn’t Dixie need a new toy?” RJ had asked us to call the dog Dixon to its face as often as possible because a dog psychologist had told him that a new name would help the dog settle into its new life and take on a new personality. Dixon had had
another name when it had lived on the streets and belonged to a gang, before it was rescued by RJ. The dog had once been known as Dee’andre, and it had been a fighter in the backyards of South Central. It had scars and wounds that would never go away. It had even fought and killed a dog that had turned out to be its own father, was what people said.

Despite this, no one else in the office seemed to be afraid of Dixon. If nothing else, it seemed they could love a dog that might one day end up ripping out their throats. They went right up to it and petted it, and when their children visited the set, they let them pet it, too. But I was afraid.

I never did anything about it, though; I never asked anyone to keep the dog away from me. I didn’t want to complain. I was only the writers’ assistant, one step up from intern, and I had been working there for just one month, since Angus and I had returned from our honeymoon in Paris. It was my first job in Hollywood and I didn’t want to mess it up. I was thirty years old and from a good family back East. I had gone to boarding school and made my debut and backpacked around Europe and started and ended three perfectly decent careers in New York. But I had moved to L.A. to live with Angus three years ago and I had made nothing of myself since then, so I was giving myself one last chance at starting over. My job now was to get coffee and take notes and do whatever the writers of the show asked.

“Can you bring this pen up to my office?” one of them asked me on my second day, and I didn’t know what she meant, but I did it, I carried it up to her office and I laid it on her desk and I felt I had passed a kind of test.


You can read Dixon in its entirety in issue 3 of Swink.

Deirdre Shaw’s first published short story appeared in the premiere issue of Swink. She was recently awarded residencies at the Millay Colony and the KHN Center for the Arts. She lives in Los Angeles, where she has worked as an assistant on several television shows.


© 2007 Swink, Inc.