An Existential Pug reflects on sheet

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[Author’s Note: I have this week off from teaching high school and the whole house to myself. My wife is on vacation with her family—a trip I couldn’t attend due to other teaching commitments—and my kids are away at school, so I decided to put my column aside for the week and rest. But my pug, Buster, who has stepped in for me in the past, agreed to write a column in exchange for cheese. He is writing about a purchase my wife and I recently made after having a few drinks. We thought it was hilarious and fantastic. Buster, quite clearly, didn’t agree.]

Buster on bed sheet. Photo by Nate Mapplethorpe.

grazianoIs that Gray-Haired Son of a Bitch mocking me? What else could it be? He’s certainly mocking me. 

Look at the two of them, the Blonde Woman and the Gray-Haired Son of a Bitch, so smug and self-possessed, giggling at their gaudy new purchase: a queen-sized bed sheet with the likeness of me printed on it. 

Only it’s clearly not me. But I guess all pugs look alike, right? That’s some dangerous rhetoric for these dim-wits. 

I sleep at the foot of their bed each night, and now I’m supposed to peacefully snooze while lying on a picture of another pug’s tongue? The whole creepy scene reminds me of Percy Shelley’s sonnet, a cautionary tale of hubris, “Ozymandias.” 

As soon as I’m lifted onto the bed, I’m greeted by this picture of a pug that looks like me and is, quite literally, larger than life. There I am, the “King of Kings,” or the “Pug of Pugs.” But unlike Ozymandias, I’m aware of the fact that time will sweep me into oblivion, as it will all of you, too.

Someday, the sheet will be buried in a landfill, or incinerated, long after I’m gone. Did the Blonde Woman and the Gray-Haired Son of a Bitch feel some need to taunt me with my own mortality? Why did they have to put on that sheet and laugh hysterically as I watched in awe? And they didn’t even offer me cheese, or a Pup-Peroni to ease my malaise. 

These are sick people. I suspect they’re also sadists. 

Buster upset about the bed sheet. Photo by Nate Mapplethorpe.

But like the American poet Walt Whitman, I am also “large,” figuratively and literally now, I suppose, and “I contain multitudes.” And I will continue to “sound my barbaric yawp” as they attempt to strip me of my identity and individuality.

So what if the pug on their sheet looks like me? Do I not possess my own raison d’etre? I suppose they’ll tell their friends that the pug on their sheet is also named “Buster.” 

But what is the purpose of a name if we’re all deemed the same anyway?

I guess the Gray-Haired Son of a Bitch can also stop using a byline in his column. There are millions of other columnists, just like him, hacking out copy and claiming to be clever. So what makes the Gray-Haired Son of a Bitch any different? Why not put his nameless face on a bed sheet, too?

So go ahead, Gray-Haired Son of a Bitch and Blonde Woman, laugh it up. Hardy-haw-haw. But know this: The next time you engage in marital relations on that sheet, you sickos, I won’t be asleep at the foot of the bed. 

I will be silently mocking you with my eyes closed.  


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About this Author

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Born on Good Friday was published by Roadside Press in 2023. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: