by Lauren Perez

Finding the water gun was the hardest part. No one was selling them in January. All the big box convenience stores melted together until Lydia wasn't sure whether she was in Target, Kmart or Walmart. She used the signs advertising special discounts to orient herself. She found toboggans and dancing Santa statues on clearance, but whenever she managed to chase down a checker to ask about waterguns all she got was blank looks. It was in the 99� store that she finally found one, a super soaker buried under a pile of plastic water toys�ducks, neon floaties, and pool noodles all giving off the rubber smell of burnt tires.

At the New Year's party he called her a bitch. It had been three months since they'd seen each other. He'd come over to her apartment to watch a re-release of a trippy Japanese horror film from the 60s because he was "shocked" she hadn't seen it. He could be an asshole about things like that. "You haven't seen/read/heard X?" And then, "Really?" as if you must be lying, so vital was X work of art. They didn't have sex that night, which was weird since usually that's how movie nights ended. He would turn up at her apartment with a movie she had to see and a $5 pizza from Lil Caesar's. She was in charge of drinks, and would run down to the liquor store and buy a $12 bottle of wine, but when she got back to her apartment was always embarrassed by what the extravagance said about her and what she thought of him, so she would hide the good wine in her bedroom closet. They'd end up drinking the Franzia she kept on the counter and he'd tease her about her shitty palate. But that night their usual post movie debate didn't go anywhere, anywhere being her bedroom. Instead he left and Lydia didn't see him again until three months later there he was at Kristine's party.

The water gun was camoflauge patterned, but the muzzle was bright orange. The reservoir had a dent in it, and she was worried it wouldn't be big enough but it was the first water gun she'd seen and at 99¢ plus tax it was a bargain. The cashier didn't seem to think there was anything odd about her purchase, and cheerfully told her he hoped she had, "a great night!"

Lydia hadn't heard a lot of cursing growing up. Her mother disapproved of "potty talk," and even saying the word "butt" could land you in the bathroom with a bar of soap in your mouth. But "bitch" was allowed, because it wasn't a pejorative. Her mother bred Dobermans, and bitch was what you called a fine, female dog: a "good bitch." She used to take the dogs on long hikes, letting them snuffle around in the bushes and long grasses. They were thorough, the bitches, stopping every twenty feet or so to pee. Somehow they always knew to save enough to mark the house when they got back. Walking up the porch steps of the house you would be hit with the salty smell of dog urine. Even to her less developed olfactory sense there was no doubt whom that house belonged to; it belonged to the dogs.

Once she was back in the apartment she pulled the water gun out of its bag and set it on the counter. She didn't want to let herself chicken out or reconsider. It was early still, the afternoon just starting to go grey as it transitioned to twilight. She started brewing a pot of coffee, popping open a 40 oz can of Miller High Life to drink while she waited. She held the can in one hand, chugging as quickly as she could, rifling through her kitchen cabinets with the other. She hadn't eaten anything that day and the beer hit her hard. She could feel each individual tooth in her mouth, and her nose tingled. She pulled out the three Tupperware bowls she'd inherited from her mom and set the bowls up in a line down the center of her kitchen floor.

He didn't sound mad when he called her a bitch, which is part of what confused her at first. It was because he had misused the word "banal." He was describing the works of Jane Austen to a group of their friends and she asked him if he meant trite or mundane and he said no, it was just dull. And so Lydia said she didn't think banal worked, banal should refer to the day to day and none of their daily lives resembled Emmaand then he called her a bitch. Everyone laughed uncomfortable, side-eyeing one another from behind New Years novelty glasses. But she had always thought of bitch as just the word you used to describe a female dog, a good whelping dog, and so she didn't react until later when her friend Kristine took her aside to say he'd always been a cunt and she was better off without him. And she said she hadn't known they'd broken up, their relationship never having been clearly defined as such.

She drank the coffee as quickly as she could stomach it. She sweetened it with packs of Sweet'N'Low she collected from restaurants, two packs a mug. Then she pulled her leggings and underwear off and squatted over the first bowl in the line, wearing just her sweatshirt. She was careful to lift it out of the range of the splash zone. It took her a long time to be able to pee in spite of the heavy, bloated feeling of her full bladder. She shifted from side to side in a modified crab walk to make sure she was centered over the bowl. She couldn't get over the feeling that someone was outside the kitchen window watching her, but every time she looked over she saw that the blinds were closed. She shifted up onto her knees, gripping the plastic bowl between her thighs and that did it. It rushed out of her at a startling speed and she was worried about overflowing the bowl but it turned out fine. It didn't smell the way she'd expected it to. It was more acrid, closer to cat urine than dog.

Her mom never kept the male puppies. She only liked to have one or two studs going at a time, and these she imported from other breeders. She said the male dogs were too aggressive to live in big groups, and liked to have them sold off within a year or two of their birth. The bitches were better, her mother would say. The bitches were worth more. Lydia never noticed any difference in behavior between the bitches and the dogs, but she learned not to get attached.

It took two pots of coffee and another High Life, but she filled every bowl in the line up. She drank a glass of water to rehydrate and get sober and then ate two pieces of bread, plain, just in case. The bowls of urine she carefully sealed up with their lids and loaded them into the passenger seat of her car, throwing in the kitchen funnel. She had to make a second trip for the water gun. She tried to listen to the CD he'd made for her but it made her the wrong sort of sad to enjoy it so she switched it to the radio. Her mother's favorite song was playing on the first station she tuned in to so she turned it up and sang along to "9 to 5," while driving to his house.

She parked down the street, because she didn't want the rattling sound of her car to alert him or his housemates to her presence. She crouched in the dirty snow by the passenger door of her car with the funnel and the water gun. She felt safe on his dark, tree lined street. The smell of pine and cold burned her throat. Her urine was still warm, and steam rose up when she pulled back the Tupperware lid. She used her knees to grip the gun, funneling her pee into the water reservoir. It was hard to aim in the dark, and she spilled on her hands, splashing urine up onto the cuffs of her sweatshirt. There wasn't quite enough room in the gun for all the pee. She left her car open, warm light at her back as she trooped down the sidewalk to his lawn. She'd never been in the upstairs of his house, didn't know which room was his, so she settled on the front lawn as the best place. The water pressure in the gun wasn't great, so it had a scattershot effect, not like the strong line she had imagined. She had enough urine in that first trip to make the L, Y and most of the D. One more trip back to the car was enough to finish. The left over urine she poured, liberally, on his driveway and garage door. Anyone who came by would know which bitch owned this territory.

BIO: Lauren Perez is a graduate of USC with publications in The Alarmist and Corvus Magazine.