Maybe you should be taking me to the vet too Ralph had joke that morning while trying to swallow the quarter-sized pills. One shot and it’d all be over.
She told him to keep his voice down that their son Joseph might hear.
Growth and decay. Only 14 in dog years but their golden retriever Alice Munroe had turned into a centenarian with her inability to stand up and even walk a few steps.
Now Ralph’s been dead for more than a year. She tries not to picture what he’d look like. Too much darkness, too much moisture. For her son Joseph, just the opposite, too much sun, too much dangerous light, his pale complexion soaking up the cancerous UV rays. She wouldn’t allow him to go anywhere without a hat and layers of sun screen.
The seasons were mixed up too with temperatures fluctuating wildly; spring-like days in the middle of winter, below freezing temperatures in late summer. Her calendar seemed off so she tried the Farmers’ Almanac, other indicators. Nothing quite predicted the rapid changes. And always the sun, no matter how cold, and her son, no matter how tired she felt.
One night she dreamt that Ralph chewed on one of Alice Munroe’s legs to feed his stomach cancer while the dog licked his face, blood everywhere. When she woke up she had twisted the blankets around so it felt like she’d been engulfed in a body, a twisted, maimed body.
Her psychiatrist told her to write down her dreams. So she did and would dutifully bring in the small notebook once a week and they’d talk about them. He didn’t comment on the dreams about Ralph. Instead, he paid the most attention to when she’d dream about buying new lingerie or a red party dress or having her hair done as a blonde.
So it didn’t really surprise her when he stopped setting up appointments with her and instead asked her out. He didn’t drive so she’d drive them to restaurants and movies and back to her place where he’d stay the night and sometimes the entire weekend.
It felt strange to have him sit beside her in the car because when Ralph was alive he did all the driving and when it was just her and Joseph, he liked to sit in the back and play his Nintendo games. Only Alice Munroe had sat there in the front with her when she drove and so he seemed like a dog next to her in his brown walking shorts, his small hairy legs trembling like Alice Munroe’s had in her final years and his hand sometimes aggressively in between her legs, feeling the smoothness of the silk stockings he insisted she buy.
Soon after she began dating the psychiatrist, Joseph began to have nightmares and wet his bed. The entire house seemed to smell of urine as if he was marking his territory. She tried everything to get rid of the odour, bleaching the floors, burning incense and even in the middle of winter, leaving the windows open.
She remembered how once in late October there’d been a snow storm and she looked out the kitchen window and her son and her husband had built a small wet snowman meant to look like her, a big empty hole in its side where its wooden heart had fallen out.
Philip Quinn's published books:
- Dis Location, Stories After the Flood
- The Double, a novel
- The SubWay, poetry
- The Skeleton Dance, a novel