No one saw the black dog living in their house. It left empty beer cans in the sitting room, spilled food scraps on the floor, knocked over the laundry basket and its silent footfalls turned the carpets grey. The wife said she had tried to clean up the mess, work night shifts and care for her child but every day was a nightmarish existence.
The dog waited until the husband left, taking her child with him to live in another country, and while she slept it would lie on her chest. It whispered that she was an unfit mother; that she would never have enough money to support her child. It insisted she should sign it over to her husband and not put up a fight. When she tried to resist, it swore at her down the phone. It stole her wedding ring and sold it at a pawn shop to buy beer for the ride home on the train. Its ghost hid keys, bank cards and invoices, chewed her hair, dressed her in drab clothes, emptied the fridge, turned off the electricity and left the gas on.
By the time three burly figures arrived she was as phantom-like as the dog with its teeth around her neck.
Now the only living thing in the house is a black cat and a plant, tended by a greying woman who arrives on alternative days to pick up the mail, fill a bag with the wife’s clothes and, if time permits, remedy the dog’s foul mess and stench. The woman has changed the locks and leaves a light on in one of the rooms as a message to the invading creature that its secrets are known and it is not welcome in her family’s home.
Somewhere across the city in a hospital ward the wife waits with a packet of fairy cakes, armbands and a new pink swimsuit. Her purse is nearly empty. She falters when she walks and panic rises as soon as she steps outside. But she used her one hour leave to walk to the supermarket, so she could feed the little fish, who had lived inside her for nine months, and teach it how to swim.
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©Talia Hardy 2014.