Kootsie does this trick. It’s me and Kootsie, Kootsie all the way, and I taught her.
‘Leap leap,’ I’ll go.
She knows the word now, and so she does.
Me the teacher, a dog’s best. And there’s an audience here: Passing people. First thing they look away but then they can’t help themselves. As they go by they stare, though mostly they’re pretending not to. They want to see a bit of something that’ll tickle em pink. Because where do you find that, this day n age? There seems to be a shortage. It’s a happy thing when you can’t help laughing. A bit of a laugh’s worth havin.
All of this when Kootsie was in her prime, like. When she was really here. I still see the gal jumpin up and up and taste her clammy kisses on my lips. The pulpy-moist experience of that and the way her spaniel ears go a loppin and a floppin as she springs. I know I’ve said this as if it’s all still happening. That’s to lift my spirits up, and also because I keep forgetting that then is not the same as now.
Though in any case, she is still present in a manner of speaking. For she’s right there in my heart while I am here. And it’s also true to say that in the dustbowl of the universe, a tongue, once pink, flies and settles as it will. In bits of course – stands to reason the tongue will have gone to dust. But everybody knows that dust, even when it’s blown away is somewhere. The watery aspect is missing, I’ll give you that. Plus the smell and the smile. So I’ll try to put things in the past from now on, though now and again I might slip up.
‘Go for all you can get girl, it aint that much.’ Is what I used to say.
When K was here with me, that was a time. Me an that dog, I can see us now, clear as you like, sittin in Lincoln’s Inn, a-sittin in the Fields there for the world and ‘is uncle. Her and me. Dog and Madog. A revelation.
Would come across the circle, netball players. On anther planet. Stuck there in their sensible shorts and tee shirts. I ask you. Me-an-Koots a doin our routine. They can’t help but laugh, and me, I’m avin a giggle myself. But nothin bad-like, never that. My pet. K, on display for all. And you know what, she adored that. Didn’t get enough attention I wouldn’t wonder. Before she came to me.
Some of the players have a bit of side to em and the laughter comes out like a statement to that effect. They have their hands half way across their mouths so you won’t see but you will see. But what the fuck, the doggie’s appy and it don’t matter about the way they laugh cos K’s big enough to overlook such a thing as meanness, and so she does. We got our audience see and that’s the thing that counts. Then there are the legal types who strut along the paths as if they own the place, and the oliday makers and the omeless lollin on the grass. All sorts steppin forward, comin to snigger and guffaw. But at nobody’s expense. For at the end of the day. K’d be doin what K’s adoin whether there was anybody watching er or not. A fact. That dog she had star quality, nothing less.
They was appy days. Kootsie the little girlie, the diva in the dog-a-log, and me. Thing is though, in another kind of a way it aint so fuckin funny. Because havin a pet teaches you what life’s about; shows you a few things that’ll bring you close to a sense of tragedy. First of all there she’ll be in the wee-widdle-pup days. I see her in her perky puppyness clear as clear. This dog was a stray one before she was mine, as they say. And then she was owned, or me, I was owned. You know, the way dogs spray everything. Omnipotent, omnipresent. All of that. Woof-Woof
Dear God, man’s best dog gone, hot dawg, dogged for a day. Friend. Well, that’s the way it was with us then, before she went. When that doggie died it did my heart in, I admit it freely as once upon a time I would never av believed it could av appened. But some of us can’t take an ending so we tells ourselves there isn’t one. Man’s best; dog’s best. Ad infinitum, so to speak. I love that pooch, dead or not dead. She might be gone but what we were together – nobody can take that away: So fuck mortality. She’s still here as far as I’m concerned. Ice-cream up to me eyebrows. That dog. How she leaps and licks. Eternal like.
You little darling, you dirty old bleeder. How comes your breath stinks when you’ve just gone and got the three holy letters juxtaposed and who cares about the order of the thing? OGD is as good as gdo. But that shiny coated animal. Nothing closer to perfection than the slinky slippery hair she had. For in the way of things¸ at least in our image of things, silk equals gorgeous and puts the S in sunny. That little King. Charles, as it happens. Now gone.
But what I have to get to, and really want to capture, is the moment. The day that every dog should have their own fair share of. For there’s no doubt at all that my best little K girl, she had hers. I’m telling you, if you’ll just take my word on this, that a doggie can do a trick, and be that pleased to have done it. And takes a pride. Say attention seeker if you like, but is that so bad a thing to be? Anyway, up there went Ms, her pink tongue a lappin and lickin and a sucking in all the sugary mulch. Slop slurp and who could say a thing against such a innocent activity, laugh all those that may. Kiss-kiss.
Laugh! Kootsie and her trick. Which works in sunlight only, I av to say. It would never be right in the rain, would never be right in the dark with a lamp. Purely a sunshiny lunch or afternoon thing. Sweetly warm, it has to be. Kootsie’s leapin up and up. You can’t teach a dog tricks they don’t see inside of themself. You can’t teach a dog to clean the toilet seat but you can teach her how to lick up ice-cream on the hot-doggie tongue no messin, clean as clean. Give or take the odd bit of saliva. The dog drool that’s seepin out of her at the thought; at the wish. Lush milky stuff, she’ll be thinkin. But not in words, cause she don’t know the words as such, do she. She sticks with the sensibility. That’s enough for me and for the both of us.
Ms K. In the best sun of the day. The lunchtime prats in the park. On the way to
pitch or pub or caff, they all give K a look an a half. The shopgirls and the netball girls, and the waiters starin out of the cafeteria. And the office workers and the legals. all lookin sideways as they go. At Kootsie jumping up to the face of the man. If he is a man, they’re thinking, as I can see writ plain. Well the dog’s eyes are shining, hair aflying in its wavy way. Ears akimbo. Up she goes.
It was a time n a half she had; we had together, in the smelly wet and licking time we call life. And the size of the audience we were capable of commanding you’d hardly credit. It was Kootsie who drew em, of course. I played the organizing and constructing role; was the stage manager seein to the props, goin into M&S, buying up ice-cream by the barrel load. I was the director, so to speak. But Kootsie was the charismatic pet they came to see. K lickin and lappin that mush from my face. Lap lap, till all was gone. It was her finest hour or two in Lincoln’s Inn. The very best.
She’s dead now that dog. Same as everybody comes to in the end. Now me I’m not so far behind but there’s still a bit more mileage in the dogless days. .I’ve got over the shock of seein Ms K hanging up her pail in the tooth and nail last fight she had. When she couldn’t breathe, and she just lay there with those two black eyes lookin at me and understanding I couldn’t do a single thing. She didn’t blame me. She knew I knew she knew. Dog tired as she was. She could not go on. Then it was the Happy Hunting Ground as came forward and offered her a home. And I think of her in a little vanilla and minty chipchoc doghouse – for who’d have the heart to deny K what she was used to in this world on a weekly if not a daily basis?
She looked at me all those sundae afternoons ago and I clipped on the lead to her designer collar. Then off we went to fetch the chilly substance of every child’s dreams, and then strolled down to L I Fields where we found ourselves in sunshine. And K for keen we were to get started before it foamed away to zilch. She’d be crouchin down on the ground, with me bolt upright on a bench. Both getting ready for the start of our best performance yet.
There’s a little crowd now, of regulars who know what’s coming next. An they’re all, ‘Oh look at that dog, look at that man. Look there’s ice-cream on the lips of the man and the dog licks it off. Disgusting or what. Who’d be a man like that, call it a man anyway? What does he think? Poor fuckin loser, poor bitch of a dog, if it is a bitch.’
We’ve got a nice cherry flavoured ice-cream in a cone and it’s a bit melted but not so bad that it’s run to trickles. So I plasters it over my face like shaving cream and K gives her bum a little waggle and starts to yap.
an I says, ‘Go girl go.’
And so she does.
She leaps up the first time and mops up a fair glut. Mid-air her body’s jerkin an wriggling, then she’s down and swallowing all the luscious creamy stuff.
Then I says, ‘Girlie,’ in a drawn out way with a gurgle at the back of the throat she likes. And a jostle of saliva on the tongue mimicking the slurp of remaining melty sorbet in a glass being sucked up by a straw. An I say it again and again till every last dollop of the ice-cream’s gone:
‘Go girl, go!’
We were all there in this life when we were able and dog willing, but I can’t say a truthful word to you about the dusty next.
I’m sitting on the bench on me tod now but in my mind she’s a leaping high. Her spaniel ears go fly-about. Soft as silk in my eyes and face. Only a memory but it soothes my pain. Hair of the dog that kissed me.
Jay Merill lives in London UK and is Writer in Residence at Women in Publishing. She is runner up in the 2018 Alpine Fellowship Prize, a Pushcart Prize nominee, the recipient of an Award from Arts Council England and the winner of the Salt short story Prize. Jay is the author of two short story collections (both Salt): God of the Pigeons and Astral Bodies. She is published in such literary magazines as 3: AM Magazine, A-Minor Magazine, Bare Fiction Magazine, Eunoia Review, Jellyfish Review, The Literateur, The Lonely Crowd, The Manchester Review, Storgy and Unthology 10. She is also published in the US in Anomalous, CHEAP POP Lit, Crack the Spine, Entropy, Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Ginosko, Gravel, Heavy Feather Review, Hobart, Literary Orphans, Lunch Ticket, matchbook, Matter Magazine, Per Contra, Pithead Chapel, Prairie Schooner, SmokeLong Quarterly, Spork, Thrice Fiction, Toasted Cheese, Trafika Europe, upstreet Literary Journal, Wigleaf and other greats.