Flash fiction: Sheba

This short story is in response to Ronovan’s prompt—a surprise. It’s dedicated to all those of you who are sick to the back teeth of my sad endings.

Senior-lady-dog-walker

It was lonelier than she had ever thought possible, this life without Sheba. Even lonelier than after Bill died. Bill had never been much company, never been much of a talker, not to her anyway. When Bill had wanted company he went down the pub. But Sheba followed her everywhere with her brown impenetrable eyes, waiting to be spoken to, always ready for a walk, even if it was only to the shop on the corner. She’d been company, Sheba. Never complained about the soup being too hot or the chop too fatty or the bacon too crisp. She never left dirty socks under the bed, wet towels on the bathroom floor or forgot to take her pills then swore about it.

Bill had slipped out of her life with no more fuss than the making of a few ham sandwiches and a pot of tea for the neighbours after the funeral. But she couldn’t look at the place next to her chair without thinking: Sheba should be lying there. The collar and lead were still hanging up behind the door; her bowls were cleaned and empty but still in their place, on the floor by the sink. She couldn’t bear to throw them away.

“Get yourself another dog,” Hilda Scally had said. She’d even been to the dogs’ home to look for one but had come home without. They weren’t Sheba. She’d started avoiding people because she had nothing to say. Meals were just a chore when there was no one to share them, and if her routine hadn’t been so firmly anchored, she’d have forgotten to eat at all.

One afternoon in early summer, she was staring into the garden and the bare plot beneath the open window. The roses weren’t open yet, and she found herself almost regretting Bill’s begonias even though she’d always hated his stubborn refusal to plant anything else. Something made her turn inward, the breeze, a slight movement behind her, and her heart flipped over. The newspaper lying on Bill’s chair fluttered. Her hand flew to her mouth and she froze.

Letting her breath out slowly, she realized with a pang of guilt, that it was shock, not joy she had felt when that silly thought hit her that Bill was sitting there. The paper hopped again. She pulled her agitated thoughts together and moved hesitantly towards the chair by the hearth. A tail waved, a furry head appeared, and a small stripy cat pounced on the crackly paper.

“Hello,” she said, her voice trembling like the heart of a captured bird. “Who are you?”

The cat stopped in the action of shredding the paper and looked at her, its eyes big and round, the picture of innocence. She almost heard it say, “Who? Me? Sheba, of course.”

 

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

25 thoughts on “Flash fiction: Sheba”

  1. I love what I think of as “redemption” stories. When things turn out well, despite a world that is pretty poor at times. This one made me happy.

    Because, though It has nothing to do at all with how we got our one-eyed cat, it reminded me of what a bright spirit he has turned out to be despite a rough start and jut how much fun it is to have him.

    See what you did? Thank you!

  2. I read part 2 before this. So sad for the main character to lose her Sheba. I had a dog I loved too my Sheba. They are difficult to replace, I’m pretty sure you can’t replace a dog who has died. But you can make new friends as your character does.

    1. It’s hard for old people. I know so many of them with elderly pets who say they won’t ever have another one. They feel too fragile in every way, but most of all they don’t want to die before their friend and leave it alone. So sad.

      1. Yeah, I understand that. If no one in the family will take it, the dog goes to the humane society or whatever it’s equal would be, and it could be older too and no one might want the dog. Very sad indeed.

      2. So many old people have told me that. And they’re people who have always lived with a dog or a cat. They really care about what happens to their friends.

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