by Nicola Belte
He sits upright on his haunches in the middle of the rug, sticks out his paws, and lets his tongue loll from his mouth. No. Too keen. He rolls onto his back, arms and legs in the air, and wriggles on the floor like there‘s an itch in the middle of his spine. No. Too cute. He sits cross-legged, shoulders slumped, as a fist of sunlight punches through the curtains and raps its knuckles on his head. He feels silly, almost scolded. He just can’t get into it today.
He gets on all fours — that never fails — and growls, scrambling up as a car door slams shut outside, yanking the curtains together. He can’t have them peering in, not after last week. It’s bad enough when the postman leaves his packages with his neighbors, but when they “accidentally” open them. He peers out and sees her head bob along above the hedgerow. Nosey bitch. He imagines her in her immaculate kitchen; her lips puckered and her eyebrows near jumping off her face as she pulls his beautiful new tail from the box, like it was gross matted hair from a plughole.
Fence panels, he thinks, ten foot high ones. Anticipating all the al-fresco fun that he and Bonnie will then be able to have, he shakes his fluffy head, making the tiny silver bone dangling from his collar bounce.
She’s late. He’s given up waiting in the middle of the floor; he’ll assume position when he hears her key in the door. She hadn’t look impressed when he’d given her a key. He’d covered her eyes, and slipped it into her hands, and she’d looked at it like it was something he’d emptied out of a pooper-scooper, and then complained that he’d smudged her nose.
He sighs and slumps down on the lumpy floral sofa. He runs his hands across the greasy armrests, faded and worn from too many nights crashing out when he was too drunk to get to the bedroom — before they’d met, of course.
It’s humid, and his suit is beginning to itch. It’s dry clean only, and his mother’s friend works at the laundry. The last time he went in he’d told her he’d been to a fancy dress party. The time before that he was making balloon poodles in disguise, for the sick kids in the hospital, stuttering and going red as her long nails scratched at the stubborn clumps in the fur.
He drinks a beer. He’s hungry, but he wants to wait for her. Their bowls sit next to each other on the floor, filled with pink marshmallow hearts. He thinks of their noses touching as they eat, their bottoms wiggling harmoniously in unison. She must be working late. But surely she’d have called?
She wasn’t herself last time. She didn’t bother with the whiskers and she’d lost one of her feet. She’d kept going on about the taxi driver, who’d asked her too many questions — who’d stared at her — and then over-charged her, knowing that a racoon wouldn’t argue back.
She’d lain stiff and grumpy in his paws, not yelping or yiffing or mewing or panting, eyes glazed over, like roadkill. She said she was tired, that she had stuff to do, work stuff, and that she couldn’t be expected to spend all evening sniffing and scratching at each other. She’d said that she rather they just mate quickly, and be done with it, and crouched forward over the bed with her nose in the pillows and her tail in the air.
He calls her and reaches her voicemail, her professional one, and listens to her posh voice that sounds nothing like her. She sounds like a dog trainer, one that reigns with a rolled up newspaper, a stern finger, and a whistle. The girl he knew would bite her.
She was probably out with them. Those men. Those successful men. He imagines them all jostling about together in a crowded bar, their knees pressing together under the tables, talking about marketing strategies until the booze kicks in. Human hyenas. Pack animals. Men. His heart races, and he reminds himself that they don’t know her, not at all, not like he does.
He’d felt the tips of her tiny ears pricking into his chin as they’d fallen asleep, fingers and limbs intertwined. They hadn’t. He’d seen the glittery freckles of glue on her cheeks when her whiskers came off, the way that her tail hung so perfectly between the curves of her buttocks, the shape of her wonderful breasts in her black and white leotard. They hadn’t. These things were his and his alone.
He remembers when they met. He hadn’t been sure about the party. Chatting online was one thing, but actually meeting those people? He’d sat in his car, tapping the wheel, trying to guess who the furries were amongst the people walking past. Him? No way. Her? Perhaps. What am I? In or out? Fuck it. He walked in.
It was meant to be. She, nicknamed Bonnie, named after her grandmother’s dead terrier; he, a coyote named Clyde, because it sounded dangerous and wild and edgy, and he was anything but.
“Well fancy that,” she’d said, foxily flicking her tail as they were introduced, and as Clyde looked into Bonnie’s black-ringed eyes, and took her paws in his, the huskies and the bears and even that beautiful leopardess blurred into hazy dots on some distant savannah.
She isn’t coming. He sits in the back yard, watching his stained white pillowcases blow on the clothesline; the black blurs left by her make-up like the mouths of sad ghosts. Something rustles in the trees. A cat wails. He thinks of her, burrowing in, her lithe striped body moving through the battered dustbin of his soul; sees her running away across the fields with his heart shredded in her teeth. Bitch. He pulls off his collar. He’s a coyote, not a dog.
He’d howl, but he’s forgotten how.
NICOLA BELTE lives in Birmingham, U.K, and has never dressed up as a woodland creature. When NOT doing that, she writes fiction, and you can find her at her blog nicolabelte.blogspot.com