Emotional Support Dog

By Sascha Nastasi-Feinburg:


INT. THERAPIST’S OFFICE - 3:33 PM


The office is impressively grand. Mahogany and marble feature heavily, along with several well placed and high priced antiques. A tall, long fingered, dark haired woman of about 44 sits in one of two Louis XVI chairs; this is DR SUSIE. DR. SUSIE is elegant and speaks in an indistinguishably vague European accent. A rather tense, meagre woman with a long, aristocratic nose sits across from her; this is CLAUDETTE. CLAUDETTE is 25 and clearly suffering. Their weekly therapy session has just begun.


DR. SUSIE

Hello, Claudette. How are you?


CLAUDETTE

I’m… (beat) I’ve had an incredibly hard week.


DR. SUSIE

I’m very sorry to hear that. Did anything in particular happen?


CLAUDETTE

Well, yeah. Um...I don’t know... I’m not sure I can talk about it.


DR. SUSIE

This is a safe space. Take as much time as you need.


CLAUDETTE

It’s about Dr. Snuffaluffagus…


Claudette is almost in tears at this point. Despite best efforts, she cannot quite bring herself to speak on the issue at hand.

DR. SUSIE

(probing)

Go on, Claudette.


CLAUDETTE

Maybe I put too much pressure on her by naming her “doctor.” (an introspective beat) But it was a joke, I mean, it’s a cute name for a Yorkshire Terrier. Right, it’s cute?


DR. SUSIE

Please continue.


CLAUDETTE

IT’S CUTE, RIGHT!!!!! Dr. Susie, I need you to tell me it’s a cute name. I need you to tell me that this isn’t all my fault.


DR. SUSIE

(cold)

It’s a cute name, Claudette. This isn’t all your fault. Now go on, please.


CLAUDETTE

It was after registering her as an emotional support animal with you last week that things got bad. (beat) I wonder if she’s been harboring this resentment from when I sent her to PlayPetz as a puppy. Her smiles were much more infrequent that week after coming home.


Claudette chokes up, stifled by upset.


DR. SUSIE

I think it would be good for you to verbally express what exactly is causing you distress with Dr. Snuffaluffagus.


CLAUDETTE

Yes. Yes. Well, Dr. Snuffaluffagus. She was supposed to help soothe my anxiety, not increase it; she was supposed to be an emotional support animal. (to herself) Supposed to, supposed to, supposed to. (beat) She has really not been supporting my emotions.


DR. SUSIE

(quick)

Or perhaps she’s just been supporting the wrong ones.


Claudette breaks down, sobbing like a young child. Dr. Susie, unperturbed and almost expecting, hands her a box of tissues.


DR. SUSIE

(cont)

I do apologize, Claudette. That was likely not the right thing to say, especially to someone who lacks a good sense of humor. (beat) Continue, Claudette.




CLAUDETTE

First she… she started barking all the time, not just when the doorbell rang, not just while alone. I mean, it was constant, high pitched, and... infuriatingly rhythmic. The weird thing is that she hated her Paws Together music class. Peed in the instrument room, ate the other dogs treats. She showed no real interest in the miniature trumpet, trombone, or even the tambourine. So it’s very confusing, and her bark is full of so much pain and agitation but it’s also… soulful. Like any good voice, really.


DR. SUSIE

Oh, wow. That’s really quite something, isn’t it.


CLAUDETTE

That’s what my manager is always saying I need to work on. Developing a depth of feeling in my voice. For Dr. S to have that, I mean… (beat) I’ve been experiencing a lot of creative blockage, as you know, and feeling insecure about my instrument so to have her just, I mean, it seems like she is purposefully torturing me with this immense, out of the blue talent.


DR. SUSIE

Oh gosh, Claudette. I hope you do not think this has anything to do with the training I did with Dr. Snuffaluffagus. If anything, I helped her become better suited for support. What a shame about her talents overshadowing your own. We can certainly work on your jealousy in our sessions.


Susie gives a smile. It should be comforting, but it’s not quite right. There is something intrinsically worrisome and almost… canine… in the way her teeth arrange themselves.


CLAUDETTE

I haven’t even gotten into the worst of it. What’s really gotten to me is… what happened after the barking. (beat) You’re gonna think I’m crazy. I mean, this makes me sound properly insane.


DR. SUSIE

I will think nothing of the sort.


CLAUDETTE

So she barked from Thursday all the way through Monday but then… well... It first happened during my morning vocal trills on Tuesday. She started to hum. Perfectly on key. (gaining in momentum and distress) She started humming the part of that song Everybody that goes (singing) Backstreet’s Back, oh yeah! She hasn’t stopped since. She’s been humming that one part over and over and the tune is unmistakable. Horrifying. It’s all I can hear. I wake in the middle of the night, covered in sweat, the chord progression reverberating through the very building blocks of my consciousness. I mean, I quarantined her in a sound proof crate and I still hear it.


DR. SUSIE

I’m sorry, Claudette. (beat) That is a particularly horrendous song.


Dr. Susie’s phone rings. It barely lasts three seconds before she silences it, but the tune is clear: the “Backstreet’s Back, Oh Yeah” portion of Everybody.


DR. SUSIE

I’m truly sorry about that. Shall we continue?


CLAUDETTE

What was--was that? Oh my.


Dr. Susie smiles again, this time, as we cut closer to her face, her sinister intent is clear, and Claudette has realized it too.

CLAUDETTE

(almost to herself)

I should have known… Dr. S’s, both of them… you...


Claudette is in shock. And then it happens: Dr. Susie, her face now halfway between human and Yorkshire Terrier, begins to sing it slowly, hauntingly, and beautifully like a nursery rhyme. She sings the specific section only over and over again: BACKSTREET’S BACK OH YEAH, BACKSTREET’S BACK OH YEAH. Dr. Susie/Dr. Snuffalufagus’s combined face spins in a technicolor loop reminiscent of VERTIGO. We cut to Claudette’s face in the aforementioned psychedelic loop, tears running down her cheeks. She screams, hands over her ears. It is a piercing and high pitched horror movie style scream. This creates a distressing yet symphonic sound when paired with the aforementioned song line. These shots continue for an uncomfortable amount of time, switching between the two (three?) faces. When we cut to black, it is too late. What you, the viewer, have just witnessed will forever live in a back alleyway of your dark and twisty mind.

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©2018 by The Milking Cat.