Sara’s dog lay with her legs in a triangle, vertex aimed at Tom. Snout aloft, She-Wolf took in the aromas of last night’s stew, overgrown basil from the window planter, Tom’s ripe socks.
Tom shifted uncomfortably on the sway-backed couch. “I can’t do this anymore,” he said, chewing at the angry-red cuticles of his pinky fingers.
Sara lowered her book and blinked at him over her glasses, mind spinning like a flywheel. His moving in during the pandemic year had put them both on edge. Too little space, too much togetherness. But all in all, Sara thought they were muddling along reasonably well.
“Do what? What this?”
“It’s your dog.”
She-Wolf’s nimble nose twitched right, left, left, right.
“She-Wolf? What’d she do now? Pee on your pepper patch?”
The dog curled her tongue in a yawn, shimmied her legs forward into an even more acute angle. The sun skewed in through the window, casting half of Tom’s face in shadow, a tragicomedy mask of emotion.
“It’s so obvious she hates me. How do you not see it?”
“That’s ridiculous, Tom. Example?”
“Like every time I play a sour note on the keyboard, I swear to God she winces.” He nibbled at the skin of his middle finger now.
Sara narrowed her eyes at the thought of Tom playing the same three Ragtime pieces over and over, never very well, and of how She-Wolf’s pointy ears would flatten whenever she heard the squeak of car brakes or squawk of a blue jay outside the window.
“OK. What else?”
“I get no respect! She pulls away and groans when I try and pet her, hides my stuff where I can’t find it, turns her tail to me and farts when I tell her to stop yapping.”
Sara snorted. While it was true that she was usually the one She-Wolf snuggled up to on the loveseat, and followed her around like a canine twin, Tom mostly seemed to take it in good humor, throwing the occasional remark about being a guest in the “lady lair” as he’d nicknamed the apartment.
“Well, y’know,” she said, “Shibas are super smart and willful, in addition to mad cute.”
“Yeah—and alpha to the max. Always busting my balls.” His laugh had a jagged edge to it.
“A good thing,” Sara quipped, her words muted by the jackhammering and car horns out on the street.
“It’s a good thing. Being alpha.”
“Not when we argue and she curls her lip over her gum and it sticks there like a southern sheriff pulling his shirt up over his holster.”
“Mmmm. Mm-hmmm. Tom?”
Tom didn’t answer, just glowered at her, not even chewing. Sara set her book down, pushed her glasses up onto her head. It seemed so clear now, what had been half-hidden in the rhythms and routines of their life together, so clear what was right in front of her all the time, but she hadn’t wanted to see.
writes short fiction, long fiction, and poetry. Her stories and poems appear or are forthcoming in Atticus Review, Bending Genres, Boston Literary Magazine, Bright Flash Literary Review, Cleaver Magazine, Ellipsis Zine, Flash Boulevard, Flash Fiction Magazine, MacQueen’s Quinterly, New World Writing, Six Sentences, The Drabble, The Ekphrastic Review, Unbroken Journal, and Rusted Radishes: Beirut Literary and Art Journal, among others.
Read more of Kathryn’s work at her website:
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