Too Much Heat
The dog was hot. She could see this because she felt it herself. Even outside of the cottage, hot and sticky, a guest in her body, wanting to leave. Not nearly as uncomfortable as the dog, with so much fur. Today there were gnats in the air, tasting blood in the dog’s discomfort. She could imagine blood because she loved the dog too much and the dog wasn’t young. The man she was with did not like her dog, did not think her dog worthy of a white-sand beach excursion. “There aren’t many white beaches around here,” he said, wiping sweat from his careful brow. Her face was the colour of blood. She had to guard her face from this man, but it kept getting redder and more embarrassed by its embarrassment. “Be careful,” she said to the dog when he walked to the sea, just to dip his toes in, he said. “A man like this never gets wet”. The dog was panting and laying on one side as if dying or dreaming. The sun drizzled down on the sand, and she kept touching the sand with her toes. It was so hot, and she loved the pain of it, the way the tips of her toes started to feel as if they were on fire.
The three of us were at the white sand beach again. And what he said, or was hinting at, was that there was something wrong with my dog—that she wasn’t the right type, or something like this. He didn’t say it outright, about me or her, but he said it in ways of not saying it directly. And I had, once again, been feeling like maybe I had met someone great, and that we understood each other. I liked his face, it reminded me of Jack Lemmon, or uncle Sydney, someone I trusted. But it meant nothing, this dumb kind of recognition. Anyway, the day really started out happy. I felt breathless, and young. I woke up feeling good about my cottage, damp and dusty, but mine. I liked myself and I loved my dog, but only in the morning. The dog too, looked so hopeful that day.
The man didn’t seem excited about her dog. He laughed, pointing at it with amusement. “Unusual markings,” he grinned. She too smiled, as if to seem unbothered, blood evacuating her cheeks. “That’s what they call a mutt,” he said, wiry hairs poking out of a yellow tank top. She couldn’t stop staring at the brightness of the man’s attire, lime-green trainers, chartreuse sweatband, eyes that didn’t want to land on anything dented. “So, you always had this kind of dog?” he said. She didn’t say anything, just nodded her head, and threw him her cutest expression. Here was the kind of man who could design his very own dog, she mused. He stood there like a glowing problem, because she didn’t concur with his rude diagnosis of her dog. A ciggie dangling from the slit of his mouth, and she thought it might fall on her foot. She felt itchy around this man, and suddenly thirsty, as if he had sucked all of the water out of the sky.
What Wasn’t So
It didn’t take place at a dowdy dog-park or new cinema by the river, it took place on a white-sand beach. He was not a nice man and he was not a smart man, he was a rich man. Her adopted dog wasn’t an Irish Setter or a Labradoodle, it was a spotted, unknowable dog, the result of some random dog hook-up. He didn’t say it nicely and he didn’t say it ironically, he said it straight-forwardly. She didn’t admire it and she didn’t get upset, she stood there laughing as if he was funny. He was not a bad person or a good person, he was a person who believed that whatever he thought was the truth. She wasn’t the kind of woman who lived in a condominium or the kind of woman who lived in a treehouse, she was the kind of woman who lived in a musty old cottage. She didn’t dislike the rich man and she didn’t feel disgusted by him, she thought he was the kind of man who was born to stand on a white-sand beach making comments about impractical animals.
He reminded me of my late uncle Sydney. Of old movies and the smell of a pipe tobacco shops. A cigarette drooped from his lips. He wore a porkpie hat, very cool, very smart! There was something about walking next to him that made me remember my childhood. And the beach was so quiet, and perfect, and bright, and the dog was ecstatic to be out of the cottage. There were so many things about the day that were remarkable. The way he teased me about adopting the dog, as if to say he understood me and my desire to nest. There was the sound of the sea and the shriek of seagulls above us, as if they were being murdered, or falling in love in some terrible way.
MEG POKRASS is the author of eight prose collections, including Spinning to Mars. She is the two-time recipient of the Blue Light Book Award . Her work has been anthologized in two Norton Anthologies of flash fiction: Flash Fiction International (W.W. Norton 2015) and New Micro (W.W. Norton 2018) as well as The Best Small Fictions, Wigleaf Top 50, and Best Irish and British Flash Award. Meg’s work has recently appeared in Electric Literature, Washington Square Review, Wigleaf, Waxwing and American Journal of Poetry. She is the Series Founder and Co-Editor of Best Microfiction.