The death of a family dog

Their family dog was dying. He was seventeen. His tail, once a flash of gold and white, no longer moved. He had patches of skin marked by baldness, a collar gnarled by scratching he’d done when his body could still respond. He was limp, wretched, with eyes that peered off into the distance like a man who had once known something, a philosopher gone mad in the hills. His breath was short. His bark retreated into a thin whine he let out when the pain was at its worst. He watched his owners from the corner of his dying. He showed them what it was to live.

“I think he wants to wait a week,” his father said, “until Simon’s birthday.”

Their mother found this morbid. She swept the flour from her hands and tried to think of other things. Simon would be twelve, he was taller than most of the other boys in his class. He had taken a picture of his dog to show and tell.

“He’s sick now,” he said, “but once he looked like this.”

The photograph was well-taken. His father had an amateur interest in cameras. Everything else in the house was in a state of disrepair. In its drawer the camera gleamed.

Death doesn’t arrive, it uncoils. It flowers first near the corners of the mouth. The leaves of autumn fell in their mourning song outside, and when Simon came home that night, his sister Iona’s eyes were the colour of roses beaten petal red.

“Don’t go in,” she said, and the two children waited outside.

Brett Darling is a writer from London. He is a graduate of the MA in creative writing programme at London Metropolitan University. His ekphrastic writing is forthcoming on the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London) blog. This is his first published work of fiction.

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