• Vol. 01
  • Chapter 11
Image by

Portrait of Couple With Dog

I said, Look at me,
straight into the lens

but she couldn't,
her attention wandered

constantly. I almost
asked, after he'd gone,

taken the dog for a walk.
But when she thanked

me, shook my hand, then
she looked me in the eye

and I understood. We do
the best we can.

1

Saturday 18th September, 1977

For my first birthday, I was given a silver rattle, with my name and birthday on it.
For my second birthday, I was given a teddy called Sam, and two new books.
For my third birthday, there was a pirate outfit, which I did not take off until I was Four. Then there was a set of toy cars, which I loved.
And a checked coat when I was five, I think, that my mother made for me.
When I was six, she took me to a wild, overgrown park full of stones. And said,
Your grandfather is here: and when I was seven, I went back again to say Hi.
When I was eight, I wanted a party in MacDonalds, but she said no,
And nine, was the year of the Complete Children’s Encyclopedia.
I knew everything by the time I was ten – double figures, they said:
Now you’re almost a grown up. When I was eleven, I found out before the day
That I was getting a puppy. Sarah, that’s what I called her, had the longest ears of any dog you’ve ever seen. She was one when I was twelve, we shared the cake, 112.
I got my first trip to London, when I was thirteen, to see Phantom of the Opera
Even though what I wanted was hair straighteners, so I could look more like
My little sister, who everyone loved.

Read more >

2

The zzz of crackle and distortion

They don’t love me,
these people.
The one combing my hair,
she and he, so smartly dressed,
hoping I may win a prize.
But I won’t, you know/
They’ll see the anxiety in her eyes,
and somehow they’ll know.

He was born as the long war was just coming to an end.
And she, she still stammers with the aftershocks of bombs.
These things can coat a life.

Last night, over curry and menthol cigarettes, they made the plans.
Discussing what time to leave, and how much leeway
to give the traffic.
There’s a lot of money riding on this.

They were up early, earlier than usual.
The day misty, the sun just barely puffing through the cold.
He’s had me three years; she came into our lives two years ago.
There’s so much hope riding on this.
Too much hope you know, I want to tell them that.
But no-one’s listening.

Read more >
3

The Animal Whisperer

- He scoops me under the muzzle; twigs that scratch and tickle like I remember in the autumn - that split and slip under muddy paws. Only except this smell is different. I can't describe it - for a better word - it tastes, feels, human.

- It rakes just across the neck and for a moment and I can feel the furs yawn and stretch across my back. It's a delicious feeling and the fear of the crowd flits away.

- In-between fights on the street, I can feel my atavism melt away like a pill on the tongue - creating new sensations, new thoughts to the point I get lost in them. I barely see other dogs anymore. Just these aliens waddling slowly on two legs whilst I wait for them to catch up. Those beautiful humans. They have moulded me into their shape. I should be grateful.

I mean, we'll never know if the look in the dog's eyes is a forlorn plea to the world to release it to the fields where it can pin and tear a rabbit without being called a criminal, but I'd be in the wrong business. I don't think the Pet Shop would appreciate the copy.

4

Him

Did he see the shoes I put on this morning? He didn't hear me saying what a good time we had in the park on Saturday. His mother has sewn the seams of this jacket, he said, after a night out with his mates. I remembered when I first saw him, holding a drink as if it was a hidden plea - I thought he wanted something from me. I answered his call as he ruffled his peacock feathers and I sat on the stool as I ordered a drink. He seems taken by the dog. I think he's buying it. We are taking him home.
5

NOT ALOUD

I lost my hairdo.
You really really loved the fabric.
Tell me the words that yesterday barked
like a promise with a shoulder pad
like an eyebrow on the promised land.
I feel your ribs.
You comb my dog's heart.

Our love is the opposite of a gesture.
Weak or tender, not aloud.

6

Well Groomed

That morning she’d puffed up her hair to a perfect bouffant, teasing out the curls with a plastic comb until it sat just right.

She presented herself to him in the living room.

“Morning Jerry.”

But he didn’t look up.

He was busy fluffing up the hair around Angelina’s paws.

He used a special brush for this, one with soft horse hair bristles and a mother of pearl handle.

An expensive and extravagant trinket for a dog, she’d always thought.

“She looks nice” she said.

He looked up then, a little startled, as if only now aware of her presence.

A small smile unfurled at the corner of his mouth and he released a little sigh of satisfaction.

“Attention to detail Sarah” he explained “That’s what distinguishes the winners from the losers.”

She thought about that.

She’d been a winner once herself.

Back in the day, Jerry had been quite a prize, the one all the girls wanted.

She had strutted like a beauty queen when she nabbed him, relishing the jealous stares thrown at her every time they walked down the street.

Read more >

7

Strike A Pose

He bought the dog in the stage of early love. The showing started later. He poured all in to the grooming, the stance, and hours of placing every hair just so.
      Such fuss over details was beyond her.
      The dog endured his nuances of touch that signalled waiting atop tables, the waft of shampooed fur, and yaps of other competitors. Worse, though, were the stranger's hands that evaluated strength and shine.
      If rewarded with a rosette, he was assured of their progress.
8