Good Moses

Moses met Miyaki every Thursday by the twin green dumpsters after the shops had closed and the roads had cleared. He waited by pools of water and piss, sucking on the leftover nub of a cigarette he found off the ground, scratching the dirt off his utility vest filled with holes. The sun had long dipped beneath the horizon. A heavy blue cold had set and every time the wind passed, tiny whispers of ice scratched at his cheek and pinched the swollen nerves roping down his fingers.

He had gotten into a fist fight with Joe again. Joe, the schizophrenic, thrashing his body against a brick wall so hard Moses thought he’d break himself open. He had to knock poor Joe over just so he wouldn’t get himself killed. Moses then grabbed him by the collar to shake him to his senses. That’s when Joe said it. He said it right to Moses’s face and even though Joe’s eyes were blank and twisted, Moses knew Joe was looking at him. “You gonna die tonight.”

Not a bad idea. The more he thought about, not a bad idea at all. For a man without a home or a dollar to his name, why not? Not like he had friends or family either. He had Miyaki, once a week, but she wasn’t a friend, not really.

Miyaki wasn’t her real name. He didn’t know her real name. Moses called her that because that’s where they met, outside of Miyaki Sushi and Grill. She was a small old lady. The day he met her, she was doubled over the lip of a dumpster so far, she nearly fell in. Moses pulled her out with just one hand, set her on her feet and was promptly greeted with a toothy grin that made him laugh in who knows how long. He didn’t mind meeting her. Gave him something to do, pass the time, and it seemed like she could use the help.

Being dead was the easy part. That part made sense. It was living that was complicated. Something about having nothing and trying to get through the day—biology kicks in and tells you to shut the fuck up and survive no matter what. You wanting to die doesn’t matter and it’s not your choice. You needing to live was never stronger and you feel strong, like a beast, a machine, a warrior. But, when the human part of you, the civilized part of you, when logic kicks in, you think your life is not worth it. The math says so.

He held the cigarette up, narrowing his eyes for inspection. Then, he brought it to his lips and inhaled when he heard a mouse squeak of a voice as something gently pushed at his back.


It was just enough to startle him mid inhale, causing his chest to contract. He choked on the smoky saliva trapped in his throat and he pounded his fist onto his sternum, an automatic motion designed to revive and restore life, and the irony at which, if not given the immediate urgency and pain, he would have taken the time to roll his eyes. Moses turned on his heels, stepping into a pool of dirty water, feeling the cold seep into his socks.

His eyes burned as tears spilled down his face and though his vision was blurry, he saw Miyaki, bundled in a bright purple puffy jacket, a thick beanie on top of her head, multiple layers of pant cuffs sticking out beneath her sweatpants. But no knee brace today, no splint on her wrists. She must have been feeling all right, for the eighty-something she was.

You know those people who seem to levitate a little bit wherever they go? They just live life a little lighter than the rest of us. They float and glide and depending on your mood for the day it could really piss you off. Miyaki was one of those angels. She beamed with a smile, showing all her round yellow teeth, her eyes folded into half-moon shapes, creases and wrinkles in her brown sunspots. Her hands were shaped like starbursts, something a little heavenly.

“You scared me,” Moses said, clearing his throat. He turned his head to the side and spat.

“No,” she said in a small voice, still smiling. “Moses never scared.”

“Well, you sure did scare me,” Moses laughed, dropping the cigarette. He gave himself a final pat on the chest to clear the smoke.

Miyaki smiled again, rocking back and forth on her heels. This girl, always smiling; what did she know that he didn’t?

“What you so happy ‘bout, all the time?” Moses asked. “If you got good news, girl, share it! Lord knows we could use some of it.”

Miyaki clapped her hands together with a grin. She pulled out a small napkin from her pocket and laid it open on the palm of her hand, unfolding it with her free hand. Moses tried to keep cool, but he couldn’t help leaning over to see. When people had shit to give, he hoped it’d be shit he needed. In her hand were a few sticks of fresh white cigarettes, banded in that delicious caramel yellow.

“Ba save for you,” Miyaki said.

“Ba? For me?” Moses said, suppressing a grin. “Well, that’s nice of him.”

Miyaki offered the cigarettes to him. He picked them off of her hand, stuck one in his mouth and tucked the other three inside his jacket pocket. Moses fished for his lighter and cupped his hand over his mouth. When he pulled away, the tip of the cigarette crumbled into tiny ashes, glowing orange and black. Miyaki folded the napkin again, in precise squares, then placed it safely inside her pocket.

“You don’t mind him smoking’, huh?” Moses mumbled through the cigarette.

Moses never met Ba. He wasn’t even sure if Ba was her husband or her brother or her son. He just knew the guy couldn’t work, maybe had a dumb leg or something, a bad heart. Half brain dead, half stupid, who knew. He only collected bits and pieces from Miyaki. Sometimes Ba sent cigarettes. Sometimes he sent new socks. Small things bottles and cans could afford to say thanks.

She reached into her metal cart, the one that rattled badly with a broken wheel, and retrieved a plastic bag, licking her finger to get the bag open. She hobbled toward the dumpster, trying to get the top lid open. Miyaki struggled until Moses came to her side and lifted the lid, throwing it against the slimy brick wall with a loud clack! Moses looked inside the dumpster while Miyaki stood on her toes, her fingers cupped over the lip, barely able to see over it. She fumbled a bit with a large, clunky flashlight that she had tucked under one armpit. Once she got it on, Moses took it from her.

“All right,” Moses said. “Got somethin’ today.”

Miyaki picked up her plastic bag and rustled it open again, preparing for collection. Moses grunted as he reached into the trash, retrieving a small box of recyclables. It was filled with dirty glass jars, crushed soda cans and small cardboard cartons.

“Here’s some stuff,” Moses said.

Miyaki plucked out the soda cans and the glass jars, carefully placing them inside the plastic bag. She’d turn those things into carrots, rice, beans and toilet paper.

Moses threw the box back into the dumpster, tapped the ash off the cigarette and rested his forearms on the lip of the dumpster. Miyaki tiptoed again, struggling for a view of trash and treasure.

She squeaked then pointed toward the right corner. Moses spotted what she was looking at, a black trash bag. He leaned in and reached for it, barely able to grasp the wisps of plastic that made the knot. Moses grunted as he finally grabbed a hold of it and pulled it toward him; it didn’t feel right.

“I don’t think nothin’ good in there.”

Miyaki stooped down into a squat and tugged at the skin of the bag, mumbling. Moses shook his head and his leg, his hands crumpling into fists, opening and closing again. “I got a bad feelin’ about this.”

Miyaki carefully pulled out the blanket.

“Nah, we should stop lookin’. What if, what if we find a body or somethin’? What if it’s somethin’ bad? You know, we gonna look guilty. Me, more than you, if I’m speakin’ honest.”

Moses sucked the last bit out of his cigarette, dropped it and crushed it beneath his heel. She mumbled at him again. He watched Miyaki search through the folds of the blanket. It was ratty and worn, the fabric thin in places, the threading falling apart. He watched gray veiny splotches appear fold after fold, smeared and swiped in different directions. The plastic rustled as she dug deeper. Then, she held onto something with both hands and pulled out a limp body of curly fur.

“Don’t touch that!”

Miyaki looked up at him with her eyebrows in sharp creases. He quieted and lowered to kneel again, shining the light over the body. Miyaki turned the body over and found the face of a small dog. Eyes closed, two small canines poking out of the bottom jaw.

“That’s a dog.” Moses said, stunned.

Miyaki nodded. “Dok.”

“Dog. With a g at the end. Guh.


“It’s a girl. Look. See? What can you do with it, anyway? It’s dead. You not gonna eat it, right?”

A flash of upset thundered across her face.

“I’m kiddin’, yo. Chill.”

Miyaki took the little pup in both her hands and began rubbing her belly, then moved to massage the pup’s chest.

“What are you doin’? It’s dead.” Moses pointed at the dog. “See, she’s dead.” He nudged the pup’s head with a knuckle.

Miyaki shooed his hand away then continued rubbing the belly warm.

“You keep gettin’ soft like that, people gonna walk all over you. Understand?” Moses said, waving his arm around. Miyaki ignored him.

“You can’t take on a dog. What about Ba? Huh? Dogs cost money, Miyaki. And they shit all over the place.” Miyaki started singing in a low hum, making Moses’s own heart itch.

Moses stood up straight, dumbfounded and uncomfortable. He surveyed his area, glanced at the dumpster and then at Miyaki’s cart. “Don’t you wanna…” He scratched his ear, unsure of what to do with himself. Miyaki motioned for him. Reluctantly, he lowered back into a squat. She reached for his hand and motioned to the puppy’s belly. He grumbled as he pressed his fingers onto the belly, moving the pads of his fingers in a clockwise rotation. Miyaki lifted the bottom of her jacket, unclipped a fanny pack and began digging through it.

Moses studied the little pup. Soft and spongy with fuzzy short hairs, nose still pink and nails, slightly translucent. Its body was warm, giving feeling back into his fingertips.

“What kind of person trashes a puppy?” He said. “Don’t do that to no baby, you know. Ain’t right.” He heard Miyaki, still rustling through her pack, digging and digging. “I mean, gotta be one helluva person, is what I’m sayin’.” His voice was unexpectedly thin. “Not like it had a chance. Not like it’s fair.”

Moses chewed on the inside of his cheek when he felt Miyaki’s eyes on him. She must have asked a question because she waited for him to speak.

Moses cleared his throat, even though it was empty, and turned back to the puppy, staring at his heavy hand on its body like a blanket. He pulled his hand off of the puppy.

“Better if it dies,” he said. “Easier.”

Miyaki unfolded a handkerchief, the one she had been digging for in her pack. She used it to swaddle the puppy, tucking its paws in neatly and then carefully wrapping the body. Miyaki tugged at the folds around its neck, making sure it wasn’t too tight.

“Easy and bet-ter not same,” she said.

Moses stood up so fast his knees cracked. “Why you tryin’ so hard, Miyaki? Huh? I mean, the dog’s dead. Nothin’ gonna change that.”

“Not dead!” she said.

“How do you know it’s not dead?” Moses almost shouted now.

“I know dead. This not dead.” Miyaki picked the pup up with both hands and then tried to stand. Moses watched her wobble on her way up, so he reached out and held firmly onto her arm. She cradled the pup like a baby while she unzipped her puffy purple jacket, just a quarter way down. Miyaki fitted the pup inside.

He wanted to go home. Moses wished the dog would die. Then, the night would be over. He could have taken its little body in his own hands and crush its chest in just to prove it—the dog was dead. You want him to say it? He didn’t like the competition. He didn’t like to think about the dog growing up and digging through dumpsters to find scraps of food. He didn’t like knowing that people liked them better than him. You know how ugly it feels for an animal to get more, to be more?

“How you know it ain’t dead?” Hmm?”

“My…son was dok doctor.”

“Your kid? You gotta kid? Well, where the fuck is he?”

“He dead,” Miyaki swayed back and forth, cradling the pup. “Dok wake up in one hour.”

“Didn’t know you had a kid,” Moses said, kicking his foot at a old tin can.

“Yes. Very good kid, but very sick. He help sick doks.”

“It’s weird to think ‘bout you with a kid. And Ba, too, you know. Most people don’t got families like that out here.”

“Moses have family.”

“Woman, do I look like I got one?”


He hadn’t thought about his parents in a long time. Never really had to, never wanted to.    Moses shifted his weight from foot to foot and dug his hands deep into his jacket pockets, a few fingers slipping through holes. “Man, I don’t know. Honest. I mean…I wouldn’ be livin’ like this if I did, ‘spose.”

Miyaki both waited for him to speak. He picked at the dirt beneath his fingernail, then motioned at the puppy. “The police found me in the dumpster, too.”

Moses glanced at Miyaki, wondering if he had said too much, if she understood him at all. She hadn’t flinched, at least not in a way he could tell.

“I was so fuckin’ blue they didn’t think I was gonna make it. Never found the one who did it, who left me there. Don’t know if it was my mom or not. Maybe it was someone else. Never found out.” Moses stared off into a blank space in the sky, where the black seem deepest.

“Moses take dok,” Miyaki said.

“Moses take nothin’,” Moses put his hands in the air.

“Must take. Ba have cat,” Miyaki explained.

“Ca—What y’all mean?”

“Cat not nice. She will not like new friend. You take dok. In America, dok and cat do not like.”

“Only in America?”

“Cat and dog, very bad friendship. Dok and human, good friendship. Best.” Miyaki held up her thumb. “You take home, thank you.”

Moses shook his head.

“Dok good for human. Good friend. It wake up in one hour only. Make friend in one hour only. Good deal!”

“I don’t want no dog.”

Miyaki unzipped her jacket and pulled the pup out.

“No.” Moses said, angry now.

Miyaki grabbed his hand with such an unexpected firmness that Moses’s words froze in his mouth. She folded his arm and placed the pup in the nest. “Dok need you, and keep,” she said.

“I can’t keep it alive, is what I’m sayin’. I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout raising dogs. Look at me, I’m half dead!”

Miyaki shook her head. “Keep. You.”

“I know you want me to keep it, but I don’t got the money, man. And, no offense, but I don’t think y’all do either. You can sell the cat, you know. People will buy it, happened to a friend ‘a mine.”

“Keep. You.” Miyaki’s voice rang like a church bell. “Dog keep you. No, th-row way.”

Miyaki held Moses’s gaze. Maybe it was because no one ever looked at him or told him he was there…

“What do I gotta know ‘bout raisin’ a dog?” Moses asked.

“Mm.. Most big thing is… you are only thing dok needs. Dok no want life with no Moses. She need Moses.”

He looked at Miyaki in defeat and then at the pup and somehow, some way, the mass of warmth suddenly had a face and a heart and a breath. “So she gonna keep me alive, huh? Is what you’re saying. Gonna keep me.”

Her thin whiskers caught glimmers of light as she shifted, bit by bit. Slowly, her eyes showed, flittering around before meeting Moses with a sparkle. The pup opened her mouth and stretched out a silent yawn, her paws reaching for him. He took one of her paws.

“Look at that. She’s alive.” Moses said.

Miyaki’s forehead folded into creases. Moses glanced up at her.

“What, what now? She gonna be sick?”

“Good, Moses! Very good sign: dok is thirty minute early.”


Photography Credit: Jason Rice

Sarah Kang graduated from Chapman University with a BA in Screenwriting. After writing in LA for a few years, she moved to New York City and returned to fiction. Currently, she is at work at a novel.