Humans Can Lick Too

Flash Fiction winner of the Spring 2023 F(r)iction Literary Contest.

With Real Dog long-dead, your vlog is thriving. We both know they only came to hear about the murder.

You play coy, It’s hard to talk about.

It’s not. Watch me: You heard noises at night—a running tap? an intruder?—and reached below your bed to find comfort in Real Dog’s tongue lapping at your palm.

In videos, your currant-colored wall read as honest, somber. The nights I spent there, it was eggshell. Red must’ve been cheaper than the countless coats of white it would’ve taken to cover up the punchline scrawled in Real Dog’s blood: Humans Can Lick Too.

You won’t dole out gruesome details until views dwindle—an aging musician withholding his one-hit wonder. You tell them about waking up to your dog’s life puddled on the hardwood. A one-two punch: the world-stop of losing such an obedient love, then, horror. That wet sandpaper tickle against your hand didn’t belong to Man’s Best Friend, only Man.

Sniffles. Pretend camera-shy eyes. It wasn’t who I thought it was.

I’m less than sympathetic; you weren’t who I thought you were.

The ring light behind the camera casts a frosted halo across your cheeks. You’re suddenly solicitous, hawking a candle with a pithy label: “Candles are fire you can keep as a pet.”

What brings you comfort? you chirp, For me, it’s one of these.

What brings me comfort? When the night is blue-black, I conjure memories of running my tongue along your body’s every valley, the hopeful cave of your neck. It stilled me.

But you were already looking for reasons to leave. I’d ask, What’s wrong?, and the way you looked at me made me want to put my clothes back on. How humiliating to have believed you could love me in high-definition.

Now I only see you in your shining rectangle. I zoom in, reducing your face to a desert of blinking squares. I interrogate every pixel. Can I hold this line of ones and zeros responsible? Can I blame this string of code?

You sometimes mention Ghost Dog, a combination of air and hope, phantom tongue licking your fingertips. The heart isn’t there, you admit.

I fall asleep to your gilt voice lapping at my dreams. You’d hate it, the way I marionette you in my mind, but you don’t own You any more than you own Ghost Dog.

I wonder if you have a ghost of me, and if you do, what she does.

I can’t relax into new lovers now. At every soft scrape of new teeth against my collarbone, I stop. Is this real? A steady drip, drip, drip of doubt. I turn on lights, double-check. Am I allowed to love this?

When they’re gone, the light of my computer screen paints my face blue. I watch your lips crinkle at an imaginary audience. I press my thumb against your face until the colors pool.

Nights like this, I am glad that when you reach out in the dark, you have no one.

Clancy Tripp

Clancy Tripp is a queer Midwestern writer with work in Black Warrior ReviewCatapultElectric LiteratureThe Florida ReviewThe Greensboro ReviewIndiana ReviewNinth LetterSliceSwamp Pink, and elsewhere. She won the 2020 Iowa Review Award in Nonfiction and the 2021 Witness Literary Award in Nonfiction. Clancy has an MFA from the Ohio State University and is currently working towards her PhD in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Southern California. Find her on Twitter @TheUnrealTripp or at

Jr Korpa

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash