Image of Short Story
An offensive beeping sound shatters my dreams. I could easily drift back to sleep again once the cacophony ceases, but the movement of My Love stirs my old bones to attention: the comforting weight of her arm is lifted from my ribcage as she brilliantly dispels the racket with a simple tap of her finger. Her warm body detaches itself from mine with a groan that only I can hear, and, as I force open my eyelids, I see her slide out of our warm cozy place and make her way to the door and downstairs.

Must follow! I am slower these days, and I struggle to keep her in my sight. The leap from bed to floor causes significant pain, but I persevere. I stumble on the stairs, and one leg gives way momentarily, causing me to tumble down the remainder of the flight. The noise brings My Love back into view; she bends, puts her face close to mine, and utters something incomprehensible to me. No matter: it is the beautiful, perfect sound of her voice that soothes the ache in my side where I landed. I hoist myself to my feet and follow her; always I will follow her.

My bladder is full. So full. So uncomfortable. I look imploringly at My Love, but she is very, very busy. She is moving things from here to there, walking from one end of the kitchen to the other, opening doors and closing them. Please, please open the back door for me, My Love, so that I don’t disappoint you by making a puddle on the floor. I follow her to and fro, keeping close to her heels, willing her to see the discomfort in my eyes. I have hope at one point as she shoves me aside with her foot: has she noticed me at last, remembered that I am old and have not relieved myself since last night? Another few interminable minutes pass, and—God bless her!—she does remember. I pray that she is not upset with herself for forgetting about me.

Ah, but now I have been outside for quite some time. It is cold. I hear voices from the other side of the door, and so I wait as patiently as I am able, given the frigid temperature. The voices belong to My Love and The Man. They converse as they always do: loud versus progressively louder, attack versus defend, furious versus tearful. This interaction is not the way of all couples, I am sure. I, myself, have heard people speak with great civility and kindness to each other. It tortures me that My Love is unhappy, and I feel useless and beneath contempt in my inability to help. Why they despise each other I do not know.

A final shout, a crash, a loud slam, the garage door beside me creaks upward, and the back door flies open. It is The Man, briefcase in hand, facial features pursed and squinty. When he sees me shivering at the door, I observe his face relax. He bends and pats my head, speaks in a gentle tone, so different from the vituperation he has just employed. He moves aside to let me enter the house—thank God! I thrust myself into the warmth and look for My Love whom I find crawling on the floor, sweeping up with a dustpan and broom. So odd: after his tender farewell to me, The Man is angry again. He shouts through the door, slams it hard. I do not understand.

I would really like to eat now. Yes, I am ravenous, and my meal is late, is it not? My rumbling stomach says it is. I take my position at My Love’s heels again, and look up at her, imploring her now to see the hunger in my eyes where once there was that urgent need to go outside. Oh, but here are The Children, tumbling into the kitchen, snapping and shoving and wrestling like two puppies. My ancestral memory recalls such behaviour with my own siblings; I wonder, not for the first time, where my brothers and sisters are today. I can see that my breakfast will have to wait, as My Love turns her attention to The Children. They are a lot of work, and I understand that their needs must come first. Such commotion! Eating, fighting, running in and out, picking things up, putting them down, dressing in coats and mittens and hats and scarves and boots. The three race out the door and are gone. Breakfast will be later, I am sure. I settle myself in a warm corner and wait.

In spite of my hunger, I doze successfully; old age does have its advantages, and sleeping ‘round the clock is one of them. How lucky it is that on long, lonely days when My Love is out I can sleep away the time so capably. I remember as a youngster being overcome with excess energy and loneliness when left alone for long periods of time. My cries could be heard down the street, I am sure. I am embarrassed by the memory of my selfishness. Now I just sleep, and am woken by any sound that might be the return of My Love.

And there she is! I hear a key in the lock and emit a happy yelp: breakfast time! But what is this? My Love is accompanied by a very tall man in dark blue; his boots are laced to his knee and look dangerous to me. My Love is sobbing! What has he done to her? I growl deeply and prepare to do battle with those boots, knowing full well that I am no match for such strength. Ah, so many words now, and they are all quiet and calm. Perhaps he is a friend? He speaks so nicely, he escorts My Love to a kitchen chair, he hands her a card. I am re-assured, but continue to growl, just in case.

And then he leaves. I follow him to the door to make sure of his exit, and watch him drive away in his black and white car. Where is My Love’s car, I wonder briefly, but that thought is overtaken by a more important one: is it time for breakfast at last?

But My Love is so upset. She continues to sob, and her head now rests on the kitchen table. I place my paw as gently as possible on the side of her knee, and wish for the thousandth time that I had the power of words to comfort her. I don’t know why she is so upset. I don’t understand.

Time elapses; I don’t know how long, but my stomach knows it is long past breakfast and approaching dinnertime, the changing light tells me that my walk has been missed, and—darn it!—my bladder is filling again. However, none of this matters when My Love is so distraught. I watch as she finally lifts her head and I see her beautiful face—swollen, red, and wet with tears. She looks around the kitchen as if she doesn’t know where she is. Still wearing her coat and boots, she makes her way to the next room and I follow her. She lays down on the couch and turns her face away from me, burying it in the pillows. With all the effort I can muster, I make one valiant leap and nestle myself into the small of her back. What can I do? How can I fix this? What has happened to My Love? I’m hungry, I have to pee, I’m sore and old and useless. I push a bit harder into her and breathe a sigh that I hope says, “I am here.” I feel her arm reach behind her and gently stroke my haunches. We console each other.