The Waiting Game by Josephine Clay

The Waiting Game
Josephine Clay

The dog just sits there. Centre plaza. Drooping jowls and long heavy ears. Black and brindle mattered coat. Its blood shot eyes have frozen me to the spot for so long that I can’t remember when I first came to be here.

The clouds above us move with time and the cars nearby make the world vibrate underfoot and send the birds flying overhead. I wait for my brother’s shift to end and the dog awaits an owner.

At least I think so.

It’s tethered to a bike rack and its legs are damp. It sat through the rain that morning and hasn’t moved since. Part of me is always moved to pity by its miserable state but mostly I just feel awkward. It’s a condition that renders me immobile.

I peer into the supermarket and see the eternal line that stems from my brother’s checkout. When I return my attention to the dog, its eyes are green and soft. Its fur is lighter; brushed. I had glanced away just as the sun had passed over and struck the pitiful creature with gold. It was better now. Calmer. Happier. I would reach out and pat its head, but who knew when it would change again.

The water beneath its legs is gone now. Dried up I suppose, in the golden sunlight. Things like that happened a lot. Wet. Dry. Wet. Dry.

My eternal shade has begun to grow, cast long upon the pavers before me. Soon the lights will dim and the cashier’s line has still not progressed.

Strange is this weather that plays out in our plaza. An open window to the world where no one but the dog and I exist; this bizarre pantomime. No one else witnesses the passing of time as we do. To be true, I relish the sanctity of inaction. I was unscathed. But the dog was not. It was entirely subject to the open sky. And I watched, unable to look away, as the harsh elements shaped it over time.

Clouds formed a barrier and shed grey over the plaza. And now the dog is cruel. It bares its teeth from stretched gums and its ears are sharp and alert. The muscles in its neck and shoulders ripple and it cuts into me with burning red eyes, no longer begging. No longer accepting of anything. It’s hard to remember that it was once approachable.

My hands are clasped inside the pocket of my hooded jumper and the whoosh of a car overhead sends my boots rocking back and forth. Back and forth.

A sandwich board collapses by the supermarket and I fall too. Stiff and awkward. I hit the ground. The vibrations send my limbs into shock. I’m shaking uncontrollably. Hot and blind. Deaf and mute. All I do is feel.

When I wake I am standing again. I can feel air between my fingers. The supermarket is gone and the plaza is empty without it. It’s just me and the dog now. Our veil is brown. Paper thin. Unpainted. My friend is sad. Drooping face and shoulders. Bags under its eyes exposing the pink flesh underneath. Neither of us have ever slept.

But I am closer than before. Within arm’s reach – and I stretch – with all of my might – to make contact.

A wind has brought the propulsion that I need, and I am cast beside the sorry beast whose owner may well never come.

The sun breaks overhead and we are bathed in gold. I fall against its thin body. My skin on its mattered fur is hot. Really hot. Its cruel face must still be pointed forward; to where I was standing before. I can’t begin to imagine why it is so angry at me. I cannot feel my hands anymore. The heat is unbearable. Perhaps we will melt together. Its soft neck twists around and I see pain in its eyes. I see hope too.

Perhaps it has been waiting for me all this time.

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