• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 05
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They lick you before they eat you

“They lick you before they eat you.”


“They lick you before they eat you,” he’d repeated.

We’d been at the animal shelter, looking at an accidental cross-breed of a dog that was fervently licking my hand.

We had decided to get a pet. I wanted a dog, he wanted something more particular. His observation about the licking was his way of letting me know that we would not, under any circumstances, be getting a dog.

For a while, he’d been captivated by the idea of getting a sheep and fitting it with a collar and a lead so he could take it for walks.

“Where will we keep it?” I’d asked.

“In a kennel in the garden, of course,” he’d said. “But we can bring it indoors on cold nights.”

I’d asked him to consider the risk of the sheep covering our home in droppings. And the fact that keeping one inside a house was probably illegal. So he’d made a list of potential pets. I’d given a firm no to a pot-bellied pig, an old-world monkey and a fennec fox that he’d wanted to call Fitzpatrick. I’d pointed out that all of those animals had the potential to lick.

But he was determined. And so that’s how we ended up with Mallory, an unusually rambunctious water fowl. He’d carried it home under his arm as if we were headed off to market and not a two-up, two-down terraced house in Hastings. It was going well until we walked past the reservoir and the bird got the smart idea of striking out for freedom.


They lick you before they eat you

It wriggled in his arms, tapping at him with its beak. But he held fast. It tapped some more and tried to flap its wings. But they were firmly secured beneath his armpit. Then it opened its beak and began to quack. And there it was. Pink and undeniable. A slither of a tongue.

“They lick you before they eat you,” I’d said.