An old dog deals with survival and the growing realisation that its owner is not going to wake up.
Sparrows and Lorikeets and Crows
Glenn H. Mitchell
Sparrows and lorikeets and crows—to him they’re all the same. Perhaps he knows them by their colours.
Two grumpy birds are perched on the rotting fence, glancing at the lazy old dog and wondering whether this might be the day he lunges with a paw or snaps with his powerful jaws—you can never be too careful. Their songs twist, intertwining and creating a confusing jumble of sounds that flutter like their wings. Again, the dog frowns at their shrill calls.
He rolls onto his back, disrupting a busy party of flies, which seem frustrated with their restless host, angrily hovering over his mangy rump. When he was younger, a single bark would make every animal in the neighbourhood flinch, but he hasn’t barked in a long time. He may have the ability but he lacks the intent.
Peering through the long blades of overgrown grass, he concentrates on the body sprawled across the tiles near the open back door. He decides to try his luck again.
Passing empty bowls and gingerly treading on scattered nuggets of mouldy dry dog food, he lopes to the flyblown mess.
The drool that lines his jowls has taken on a glossy appearance, well sculpted, moulded and hardened. His eyes are pale and yellow. There are several itches that he can’t scratch, not even when he rolls on the pebbles. During the rare times when he has energy, he likes to poke his nose at a ball and push it away as though John had thrown it. He likes to pretend.
The roar of distant machines becomes his silence. His diminished olfactory nerves struggle—only the strongest odours wafting on the breeze make him raise an eyebrow or take a second sniff—but when he does take a second sniff, there is one powerful fragrance that rises in volume, drowning the acrid melange of shit, rubbish, exhaust, dirt and flowers. One pungent stench sits on top of them all until they are submerged under the weight of it.
Looking down at the body, he still refuses to believe. He paws at the bare skin of a blue leg and this time the skin breaks. It oozes what looks like thickened water. The irony would be lost on a canine: how hungry he is for meat when there is so much on offer.
Hovering over the broken skin, he drools over its freshly ripped lip and backs away, doing a clumsy three-point turn before limping back to the flyblown bed.
He lifts his head inquisitively and looks in John’s direction one more time, hoping the body will suddenly rise and clap its hands, as though the whole week of silence and stillness was just an elaborate joke.
There is no sound or movement.
The dog lowers its dirty jaw until it rests on the edge of his bed. He listens, trying to unravel the aural maze of sparrows and lorikeets and crows.