Til tiptoes into the room. “Hey Jamie?” she whispers.
“I just wanted to check… How much longer will Buster be staying with us?” she asks. She makes sure that he is still asleep in the hallway, then looks back at me.
“I dunno. Until he goes, I guess,” I reply.
“Yes, but when will that be? Only, you said this was just temporary but that was 3 weeks ago,” she says, a trifle anxiously.
“Well, we’re fostering him. So he’ll be here until someone adopts him. Could be another few weeks, maybe months, or even years,” I explain with a shrug.
She lets out a little bark of distress. “Years!”
Buster suddenly snorts in his sleep and snuffles in his blankets. Til freezes in silence until he resumes snoring.
“Years!” she repeats in a strained whisper.
I am a little surprised. I thought that they had been getting along fine.
She agrees, mostly. She likes that Buster doesn’t hog her bed and that he always gives her little kisses. Which is kinda nice, even though she thinks that his breath smells a bit. And she supposes that living with us is much better than languishing in the pound because his owner had to move to a retirement home.
“So what’s the problem then?” I ask.
It all comes out in a rush. He always steals her toys right when she’s playing with them. He doesn’t take no for an answer when he wants to wrestle. He leaves her ears and forelegs all soggy and messy after playing. He farts in his sleep. He jumps onto the couch when we’re not around, and he ignores her when she reminds him that he is breaking the rules.
“I tell him that he’s a Bad Dog,” she says earnestly.
But worst of all… She looks down at her paws as she says this. Worst of all, she doesn’t get as many cuddles now because he always pushes in. Maybe I love him more? Read more…
Tilmonster and I stare into the pond.
“I think he’s dead,” I say after awhile. “Or maybe he’s asleep”.
I use a stick to gingerly prod the body lying still at the bottom of the pond. We watch it brush aside water lilies as it floats to the surface and bobs there, turning gently until it is belly-up. “Nope. Definitely dead.”
Poor James Pond. I wonder how he died. How long do koi live anyway? Maybe I overfed him. He does look quite bloated, but I am uncertain if this is due to overeating or his state of deadness. Death from too much food, what a stupid way to go. I can certainly go to town at a buffet and might pop a button or two, but at least I have the sense to stop stuffing my face before I explode all over everyone else’s dinner. Guilt assails me. Not only have I possibly killed my fish, I’m also thinking ill of the dead.
I quickly look to Bubble07 to check that he’s not going to cark it any time soon as well. He looks ok, very ok in fact. He weaves merrily through the water lilies, not even bothering to give unfortunate James Pond a wide berth. What a cold-hearted bastard. Grew up his whole life with him and not even pretending to mourn the death of his best (and only) buddy.
Til leans out and noses at the dead fish. I yank her back before she can chomp down.
Jesus. Monsters, the both of them.
My family flies over to visit me. This is the third time they’ve seen me this year but they obviously miss me too much to stay away. This is understandable. I would miss me too.
I decide to make it an extra special visit for them and offer to take them on a road trip down to Albany. They are all excited about it and tell me what a good idea that is. I am full of good ideas!
My dad starts planning the boring logisticky details while I begin a list of sights to see and games to play in the car. I ring a friend who grew up in Albany to request recommendations of picturesque places where my family can take photos with me.
Tilmonster paws at me while I’m thanking my friend.
“Stop interrupting, I’m on the phone!” I snap at her. The dog has no manners.
She paws at me more insistently, using some claw for good measure.
“I’ve got to go. I’m being mauled,” I tell my friend, then turn to Tils. “What, you demon, what?!”
“Do you think I’ll get to chase a kangaroo?” she asks eagerly. “And should we take my ball or do you think there will be plenty of sticks to play fetch with?”
Oh. This is awkward.
“Tillybilly. Puppydog,” I try to use my kindest voice. “I was thinking that it would actually be easier if we go without you. I’ll drop you back at your parents’ before we leave. We play fetch at the park all the time anyway. And we can always go look for a kangaroo another time, yeah? You see, there won’t be space in the car for you. And it’s hard to find dog-friendly accommodation. It’s just the practical thing to do. You understand, don’t you?”
Til stares at me for a long beat. I walk out of the room and give her space to see the logic of what I’ve said. It might be tough but it’s the decision that makes the most sense. She will just have to grow up and deal with it.
I start working on a playlist for the journey down. It’s a 4½-hour drive so we’ll need plenty of songs. I hum to myself as I go through my songs. We’ll sing along together in the car with the windows rolled down! Our aura of happy familyhood will waft out and bless all the other cars! In fact, everyone who sees us will want to do a family road trip of their own too!
I show my family the list of places we can check out and our sing-along playlist. My parents look at each other awkwardly.
“The thing is,” my dad begins kindly, “there are six of us and just your little car. We were thinking that it would actually be a lot more convenient if you don’t come along. You live here anyway, so you can go to Albany another time. It’s just a numbers thing. You’re fine with that, aren’t you?”
My heart shatters.
I jerk awake.
Thud! The sliding door rattles.
Is someone trying to break in? I can hear scuffling and panting outside, then the sliding door is attacked again.
Thud! More scuffling and panting.
What is going on?! I creep out of bed and peek through a gap in the curtains.
It is Tilmonster. Playing football.
“Go to sleep, Tils! It’s past midnight!” I yell at her.
She continues scuffling with the ball, as if to point out the irrelevance of time when she has so much energy to burn.
Demon dog. I know for a fact that I left the football at the other end of the house earlier today. All that lovely space to play in, but she deliberately brought the ball around to my bedroom for maximum sleep interruption. Evidently, this is a planned consequence because I didn’t take her out for a walk.
Fine. Let’s see how long she can keep this up if I pretend that I don’t care. I resolve to ignore her and return to bed.
WARGHHH!! I fling the covers off and shove the sliding door open. Tilmonster wags her tail, ball rolling (escaping) away from her. I stomp over and confiscate the football. Hah!
She glares at me. Then runs off to get the rugby ball.
“Christ,” my friend stops and stares. She points to the bruises on my leg. “What happened to you?”
“Oh, kickboxing,” I tell her.
“Kickboxing?! I thought you were doing boxing!”
I explain to her that I thought I was too, but mistakenly walked into the wrong class when I went to the gym again.
“Your partner must have been kicking you really hard!”
“No, no,” I clarify. “These were from a pad.”
“You bruised yourself kicking a pad.”
She takes a moment to digest this.
“I don’t think kickboxing is the right sport for you.”
I want to counter that maybe the bruises show how powerful my kicks were. But it is two hours too late by the time I come up with my response.
It’s that time of the year again.
When I get a little restless and the shed looks too empty. I’ve hung up my rugby boots, packed away my football shin guards, and my road bike is collecting dust in the corner.
It’s time to try out a new sport!
I feel a little intimidated as I walk into the gym. A couple of overly-muscled guys are pounding away at the punching bags, boom boom! boom boom! boom boom boom! The punching bags themselves look like three of me could fit in each.
But I scan the room a bit more and see that there are heaps of girls around too. Normal looking girls without broken noses or black eyes. Whew! I sign up, skimming over the waiver form…injuries, death…and hand my money over. I walk over to the girls waiting for the class to start and set my bag down.
“Is this your first time here?”
A friendly girl already! What a welcoming gym! I am pleased I paid for two weeks of classes in advance.
“Yep!” I beam at her. “Gotta say, I wasn’t expecting so many girls at boxing. I’m so relieved!”
“Oh. This is Ladies Kick Fitness.” She points to the back of the gym. “Boxing is over there.”
I look across. To a group of tattooed, muscular guys with shaven heads strapping on their wrappy hand thingies, rolling their necks and doing general getting-ready-to-beat-someone’s-face-in warm-up exercises. Even the couple of girls I can see there look kinda scary, already smacking their gloves together.
I look back to Kick Fitness, full of ponytails and giggles and unicorn sprinkles. I waver for a moment, but then gather my courage and move on to the Boxing section.
Oh hooray! Another hesitant-looking girl! I missed her earlier because she was hanging back, equally unsure about the whole boxing lark. I immediately attach myself to her side.
She is a godsend. We do half the number of sit-ups/push-ups as the rest of the class and giggle through learning punch combos. She talks about being used to Zumba and doesn’t try to bop me in the face. She tells me that I must be super fit because I’m not even drinking water during the breaks. I preen and don’t say that it’s because my hands are trembling from exhaustion so badly that I would just splash the water everywhere but into my mouth.
I make her promise to be my boxing partner. “Promise!” I grab her shoulders. “Promise!”
“Ok, ok!” She hurriedly agrees, partly because she’s excited to have me as a boxing partner as well, and mostly because my face is so close to hers. If she didn’t have the wrappy hand thingies on, I would make her do a pinky promise too.
Let’s see how long this phase lasts!
What’s that?! I bolt upright in bed. It might be a burglar jumping off my roof!
Ever since I started checking out Perth WA Crime Reports on Facebook, I’ve been super vigilant for crime in the neighbourhood. I didn’t realise dastardly deeds were being committed so often in these quiet, unassuming suburbs!
I really should check the window, or I’ll be lying in bed all night preparing to defend my home.
“Tils!” I hiss urgently. “Wake up!” I prod at her until she turns a disgruntled eye to me. “I heard something. Go check if someone is in the garden!”
She tucks her nose back under her tail. “Check it yourself.”
“No, you check! Your nose is black, no one will notice you peeking out!” I shove my feet under her insistently until she gets up with a huff. She nudges the curtain aside briefly, then returns to her warm spot.
“It was just a lemon falling from the tree.”
“How do you knooooow,” I wail-whisper.
“Because that’s what it always is. Every. Time.”
“Are you sure?”
She barks half-heartedly. “There. Even if someone was going to break in, they now know there’s a slavering hell hound in the house.”
I lie back down, comforted. “You’ve always got my back, Tils!”
“Mum’s picking me up from our sleepover tomorrow.”