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It was the sharp pain in my stomach that woke me out of a sound, albeit chemical, sleep. I sat up in bed, doubled over, and took a few deep breaths. I carefully massaged my gut, hoping it work the pain out. For two days I felt like I had swallowed a piece of glass, scratching the inside of my gut, just under my right rib cage. For the most part I tried to simply ignore it, but this morning it was clear it would no longer be ignored. In truth I hadn’t been able to sleep for several days either, so had taken a sleeping tablet convincing myself a goodnight’s sleep was all I needed.
I stumbled to the bathroom to have a quick shower. Gus, my Boston terrier, whined at the bathroom door.
“Damn it! Sorry Gus”, I called to him over the running water.
I forgot to let him out. I showered quickly, and towelled myself off. I would have liked to have stood under the hot water allowing it to penetrate my sore stomach, but Gus was now a priority. He was probably busting, and I didn’t want him to turn to the sofa leg in desperation as he was wont to do.
Since Jack left I was no longer organized. I couldn’t seem to find my bearings in life whatsoever. This came as a surprise, as I abhorred Jack. He was the last in a long line of roommates. People who rented out my spare room for a time, their lives intertwining with mine, but temporarily and I was never much for small talk. I preferred my own company, or so I thought, but it would seem that I lost my groove since Jack left. But it was only his schedule that was helpful. He was a nasty man, always trying it on with me, despite me being old enough to be his mother, and always getting into fist fights with other young men in the area . In fact, the day before he left we had had a nasty row, when I once again turned him down. He had called me all sorts and actually tried to strike me, but Gus intervened and bit him on the calf. Needless to say I was happy to find his bags packed the next day.
Jack, despite being a complete wanker, was one of those people you could set your watch to. He got up every day at the same time, ate the same thing at the same time, turned out his light every night at the same time. His sheer presence and schedule seemed to provide me with a schedule of my own, some predictably in my otherwise chaotic world. I created my own strict schedule around trying to stay out of his way.
I am an artist. Watercolour landscapes mostly, and I have managed to scratch a living out for myself for the most part. The extra income from the room was an important for me, and I realized I would soon have to post an advert for the vacancy in Mrs. McGullicuty’s shop .
“It’s probably a bloody ulcer”, a mumbled as I opened the back door for Gus. I checked the time, already after nine. I switched on the kettle and called Dr. Porter and make an appointment. Shortly after putting the phone down it rang again and I spent some time speaking with an elderly relative. At last I went back to the door to let Gus in but there was no sign of him. I called out, but my eyes fixed on the hole in the fence.
“Damn it!!!”
Once again Gus had wriggled his way under the dilapidated chain-link in my backyard and had probably headed into the woods behind my house. I was annoyed, but as much at me for not having the fence repaired, as at him for always taking advantage. I was worried. He had been gone at least half an hour. If he had managed to happen upon a rabbit he would surely give chase, possibly disorienting himself. Of course, apart from losing the dog, my real concern was the other creatures that inhabit the woods. Porcupine, skunk and coyotes all call the place home, none of which would be good for Gus to get in a tumble with.
I pulled on my wellies and trudged into the forest. It was a light rain that day and the whole place, newly green from the arrival of spring, had a very surreal look. It was like looking at one of my paintings, almost too perfect. After making my way along the path for the better part of a kilometre, I called Gus, pausing to listen for any rustling. It was at that time I heard water. The undergrowth had gotten quite thick in a few short weeks. I headed in the direction of the sound and was gifted with a little stream. Not more than a foot wide, it followed a distinct path of its own, parallel to the footpath I had been on. It flowed over the smallest of rocks to make music, a soft gurgling. Despite my urgent quest, it prompted me to pause and reflect in its serenity.
My day-dream was broken by a splash. One hundred yards downstream was Gus, busy pouncing around at the edge of the stream, mud up to his chest. “Gus!” I admonished. He looked up to me briefly but immediately turned his attention s back to his task. As I approached I saw he was busy frogging, but not being terribly successful.
I picked my way over to where Gus was having his fun. As I bent down to clip on his lead, the pain in my stomach became all consuming and I sank helplessly to my knees in the mud. A loud crack of a branch nearby caused Gus and I to turn our heads.
“The poison is taking effect I see”, Jack growled at me from his vantage point five metres away.
I felt my throat swell and struggled to catch my breath. Gus let out a low growl but had come to my side to see what the matter was.
“It was the tea.” Jack was smiling now. “The one thing I could count on was you drinking tea.”
Gus nuzzled my face as my head flopped to the mud. As hard as I tried I couldn’t get air into my lungs. I reached for Gus, a limp attempt at a pat on the head for a faithful companion, and allowed my eyes to close.

Kaileigh Richter

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