I’m out the back smoking when I notice that the dog is dead. My husband doesn’t like that I’m smoking again but these days he barely has time to complain. He’s too busy with his mother, who is in a constant state of hysteria over the fact that the latest One has left her. It’s sad, sure, but I think the she could have at least waited until we’d finished our honeymoon before calling up my husband, blubbering, insisting that we were absolutely not to cancel our plans just because of silly old her.
I can tell that the dog is dead because when I kicked the toy at it, it just lay there. Also, if I’m honest, there’s a bit of a smell, despite my best efforts to ignore it. I know I should do something but I can hear my mother-in-law howling from her bedroom, and my husband’s low voice, trying to comfort her. I look to the west and see the storm coming in exactly as predicted. It’s mid-afternoon. I would know this even if I were a blind woman just brought out of a coma because mid-afternoon is the time my husband’s mother has begun her crying every day for the last week. Every morning we’ve risen early, my husband taking tea to her bedroom, before the three of us make the long walk into town where we eat lunch at one of the cafés and wander through the boutique shops. And then we walk home, usually to meet an afternoon storm. I’m sure the drama of them encourages her.
The dog is a big, slobbering, balding thing. It’s so old that the fact it’s dead should really be no surprise to anyone but I can’t help feeling bad all the same. Since we arrived it’s been down to my husband and me to take care of it, which really just means me, because my husband has been so busy trying to comfort his mother. I didn’t take it for walks or even really pat it or anything, but when the crying would start in the afternoon I’d come out here with my cigarettes, kick the toy for it, and watch the storm edge in. Most of the time I’d only kick the toy once, because the dog would then keep hold of it, loosely, between its teeth. But sometimes I would rake my feet through the stiff hair above its belly. And the dog would close its eyes when I did this.
I find a shovel and dig while my mother-in-law cries and shouts at my husband as he tries to console her. The dog is heavy but I manage to get it in the hole respectfully. By the time I replace the earth it occurs to me that I can no longer hear any crying.
I take the bird out of my jacket pocket and put it on top of the grave. I found it in one of the shops earlier that day. It’s a lacquered, wooden thing, with a long beak. It needed dusting. I had turned to show my husband but suddenly he was outside with his mother talking to another older woman, who looked like she’d known him once. The shop-hand was nowhere to be seen, and I put the bird into my jacket quicker than I thought I could. On the walk home its beak jabbed into my ribs with every step.
I move back from the grave and put a hand under my shirt, to the spot where it still hurts. Then the rain starts, right on time.
Ben Goodfellow is a writer of most things short who lives in Brisbane and is currently undertaking Honours in Creative Writing at QUT.
Chloe Hume is a Brisbane-based producer who thinks making movies and pouring coffee is a neat way to get by.
Col McElwaine is a Brisbane-based designer and illustrator who thinks a washing net would be a great idea.