Microfiction: Lola

The Daily Post prompt today is ‘sacrifice’.

Photo ©Canudo1024px-Sans-abri_Bruxelles-DSC_6408.jpg

The boy shuffled about on the piece of cardboard. Better than sitting on the ground but he was still frozen. The dog raised her head from her paws and looked at him. He reached out and scratched her ear.

“Yeah, I know. I’m hungry too.”

Lola let her head back down wearily. She was patient, he thought. She’d wait all day, and then some. The thought wrung his heart, squeezing out tears. He wiped a hand over his face, pulled himself together. He shivered and pulled his jacket tighter.

He had nothing. Not the price of a packet of fags or a bottle of wine. If he was lucky, he’d get a bed in the hostel. Not much better than sleeping rough. He glared at the sky and hunched back into the doorway. But he’d be out of the rain at least, and the other dossers would leave him alone since he had nothing to pinch. But they wouldn’t let him bring Lola. He’d done it before, left her in the park while he spent a night in a bed. Just once. She’d been frantic. Running round town all night looking for him. He couldn’t do it again. Wasn’t fair.

He stifled a cough. Lola raised an eyebrow. He looked into her eyes and he made the decision he’d been putting off for weeks. There were hardly any leaves left on the trees now, the nights were cold as fuck, and he was sick. It wasn’t fair. Lola was his only friend, but he couldn’t do it any more. He got stiffly to his feet and slung his backpack over his shoulder.

“C’mon, Lola.”

He tied her lead to a post outside the supermarket. There were always loads of people around and it was a poor area; there were lots of people liked dogs. Lola had a nice face. He turned away, couldn’t bear it, knowing how she would be standing with her head on one side, her ears raised, asking herself, what the fuck’s he doing now? He didn’t want to watch, to see who unhooked her lead and took her home. But he had to. He wouldn’t let some shitbrains take her for dog bait.

He turned the corner and slumped against the wall. It felt weird not having Lola’s warmth against his leg. He wiped the tears away with the back of his hand and watched. He watched until one of the checkout girls on a break noticed Lola. She said something to a grey-haired fella come out with his shopping, untying his own dog. The old fella looked at Lola and scratched her ears. The girl stubbed out her fag and they both waved their arms a bit, looking around. The boy held his breath. The old fella unhooked Lola’s lead.

The boy closed his eyes tight to stop himself floating away in the empty space his world had become.

 

 

Flash fiction: Sheba Epilogue

Couldn’t resist it.

768px-Tabby_kitten_playing_with_lure

Hilda Scally put down her cup of tea and her head turned slowly, following the antics of the kitten as it chased an imaginary mouse behind her chair.

“Whose is it?” she asked.

Irene started. The idea that the little cat might belong to someone hadn’t crossed her mind.

“Nobody,” she said, defensively. “It just wandered in.”

The kitten made a grab for Hilda’s ankle and she swept her feet out of the way.

“It didn’t just drop out of the sky, though, did it?”

“I’ll leave a notice in the shop. If anybody’s lost a cat they can come and claim it.”

“I’ll bet it’s got a dozen brothers and sisters,” Hilda went on. “You’ll have ’em all traipsing in sooner or later.”

The kitten rolled on its back and looked at Irene upside down. She smiled. “Sheba used to do that when she was little.”

Hilda huffed. “A dog’s different. More intelligent. You can talk to a dog.”

Irene gave her a look. “Not like your Stan.”

Hilda huffed again and chuckled. “Let’s just say, I get more sensible conversation out of Blackie.”

“I’ve never had a cat,” Irene said. “It’ll be an experience.”

“You’ll have to get it spayed.”

Irene shrugged. “Time enough for that. We’ll see if somebody claims it first.”

She cleared the tea things away and got a piece of paper and a biro out of the drawer. Stripy kitten found Nelson Street, she wrote, and added her phone number at the bottom. She looked at the paper wondering what it would feel like if the phone went and it was someone who’d lost a cat. She knew. She felt it already, the slow, tearing pain of loss. She sighed and the sigh came out as a sob. Suddenly aware that she could no longer hear the skitter and patter of paws, claws and balls of tin foil, she pushed back the chair in a panic. She looked under the table and the dresser, behind the coats in the hall, inside the corner cupboard. Her breath was short, her heart pounding when she found the kitten in the bedroom, curled up asleep in Sheba’s basket.

Irene went back into the kitchen and tore up the notice.

“You’re my Sheba now,” she whispered. “Don’t let anybody tell you different.”

 

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.”