A rat. Only one this time. Two mice. One lemon. All gifts from the dog. The security camera footage showed the dog came about every hour to deposit his treasures. Thera rubbed his prickly chin and scratched while he shook his head. Not his dog, not his concern. But …
“Go away, dog, I’m not the person for you. I’m not the person for anyone, but especially not a dog. Find a proper pack.”
There he goes, talking to himself again. Well, he could say he was talking to the camera, or to the dog, or … but it was talking to himself because there was no one else to listen. He’d been alone for so long, immured in his own company that the only person he ever spoke to was himself.
Who was he this day? The suave good-looker, close-shaven and well-dressed? Nah. The ex-soldier with the marching gait and blank-eyed stare? No. Too close to home. He’d be the hermit with no clothes and a stink that stretched for a week – that should keep people away.
In fact, he’d stay home today. Again. Watch a movie. Get drunk before lunch. Thera lurched to the kitchen and swung open the fridge. Empty. Not a single can. No beer. He swung around to the corner pantry and opened the door as he leaned on it.
Dust lay on the shelves. Little drag marks, tiny paw prints, the horrendous stink of rotten potatoes. No bottles. No booze.
No choice. He’d have to leave the house and … and … and go out there.
A shudder wracked his skeleton. He had to pee. Now.
He almost didn’t make it; couldn’t stand up. Sat on the cold seat with the splintered break at the side – and it pinched!. He lifted his left leg and slid the flannel over the break. Sat there.
How could he get booze? Who could he call? Did these e-services do it? Did he still have a computer?
Of course he did! That’s how he’d looked at the camera footage of the dog.
The tap was too tight; he struggled to turn it on, but he had to. Cleanliness saved lives. Had to wash properly. Had to have clean hands. Keep the germs away. Keep … he couldn’t remember the rest of it.
He smashed at the tap until water dribbled from the tip. Soap? Where was the soap? Panic set in as he looked around and saw empty packets and containers, but no soap. No shampoo. No toothpaste. Not even a toothbrush.
What did he do last night?
Thera ran back to the kitchen and lifted the lid off the bin.
“Phew!” He slammed the lid back down. Something needed to happen. What? What could he do? Who could help him? Who to trust?
Not that lot! They lied. They let people die. They didn’t care.
Who else? Not family – they wouldn’t have anything to do with him anymore, not since …
Not friends – all long gone; either dead or …
He realised he was sitting at the computer desk. Internet. Find something. A shopping service. Did he have any money in his account? Check that first. Did he have an account? Where was his wallet? He stood up and paced around, pounded the walls and stamped on the floors.
A bark at the back door.
“Go away, dog!” he yelled.
The dog barked again. Thera stormed to the back door and flung it open. The black dog stood there looking up the steps at him. The mouth opened and the black leather wallet fell to the ground with a thwup. His wallet! He blinked. Twisted his head. Did the dog …? No, dogs didn’t do that stuff. The dog found it and returned it. A gift. Had to be.
The tail wagged.
Thera sat on the back step, shuffled his bum down another step.
“Come here, dog,” he said, his voice crumbly and trembly. “Bring it here.”
The dog didn’t move anything but the tail, which swung wide and hard enough to create a breeze.
The dog waited. It was Thera’s turn to … reach out with one hand, slow, the tremble not so bad if all he saw was the bright light in the eyes of a dog. A bit more. The head lifted up to reach his hand, came closer.
His other hand reached down for the leather wallet, gripped it like a life-line. The dog licked his hand, looked up at him, lowered his eyelids in a slow close, smiled the dog-smile.
A small hole in his heart stopped bleeding. It still hurt, but not as much.
Copyright Cage Dunn 2017
A short short this time. Today is Anzac Day. I’m watching the sun rise, and remembering.