Weekend Fiction: Man's Best Friend
‘"Look at him!’
Marcus skidded across the floor on both knees, welcoming the cockapoo into his wide-open arms. Rolling left, right, and allowing himself to be licked and nibbled: the willing victim of an adorable attack of canine amour. He growled. The cockapoo growled. All in good fun, though!
Olive looked on. This was annoying. Such a rare display of excitement and life. Did he... love this dog? She continued to stare, the innocent bystander in an unbridled display of affection. She felt like the gooseberry in a threesome; embarrassed, on a number of levels.
"Get up Marcus for God’s sakes. You'll rip your trousers."
But her husband wasn't listening. He'd taken off his shoes now. He was whipping the dog with a sock, playfully of course, and letting the mischievous hound grab the cotton in between its tiny teeth. And then in a move of utter madness, Marcus proceeded to put the sock in between his teeth too, and gestured for the cockapoo to try and wrestle it away.
He heard her this time and rose to his feet, eyes rolling in despair at the ball and chain that was once again spoiling his fun. He gave the cockapoo an apologetic look. "Fine. Come on then, Oli" he sighed. "Mum's probably finished making the dinner. I forgot to tell her you're a vegan now so be a love and eat the cauliflower cheese? I can't handle her getting upset."
It was Easter Sunday and Olive was a guest at her husband's house to celebrate the rising of the Lord Jesus. Everyone had declared themselves exceptionally excited because it was Mungo's first Easter: Mungo, the 3-month-old Cockapoo that Marcus's mum and dad had recently introduced into the family. " He’s your new brother!" his mum had joked as she tied a red tartan bow around Mungo's neck. "Me and your dad love him so much. And he doesn't answer back, like you did when you were a kid! You little shit!" They all laughed.
During dinner, Olive watched as Marcus sneaked roast beef into Mungo's open mouth. Went in for a kiss while the puppy licked his meaty chops. Held his young face with both hands and looked squarely into those naive brown bubble eyes, sharing a look that she hadn't seen in a long time. Not since their honeymoon, perhaps?
They hadn't had sex for six and a half months. For Olive (an insecure 30-something with an insatiable sexual appetite) this had hit hard. Every night she gave the signs: sexy lingerie, filthy talk, porn. No reaction. She'd even instigated arguments so they could think about having rough make-up sex. But these just turned into even nastier arguments, ending with Marcus sleeping on the couch, annoyed at her disobedience, probably flicking through the S&M annuals that she'd bought him as a cheeky surprise. Wanking in a pool of resentment and regret.
On their wedding day she'd read out a 17th century French quote, in her speech:
"Vivre sans aimer n’est pas proprement vivre."
To live without loving is to not really live.
"So, all that stuff going on in Nigeria is pretty terrifying!" Olive ventured as they were tucking into Eton Mess. His mum and dad looked at her. Confused. Concerned. No response. Now was not the time. "Yeah..." said Marcus. "I don't think any of us are really keeping up with the foreign stuff. Boris Johnson's funny though, eh? Saw him on Question Time in the week!" He snorted like a pig and performed a bumbling impression of big-toothed toff, as his parents started to sigh with laughter. Regular service had been resumed.
After dinner, Marcus ran into the garden. He'd purchased a bundle of expensive toys from the fancy pet shop on Friday morning. Said he was 'working from home' but instead had spent an hour and £78 on bells and whistles and resilient frisbees. Olive watched from the kitchen window as her husband hid behind the mulberry bush waiting for Mungo to pounce on the felt squirrel tied to a stick that Marcus was swooshing across the floor. His laughter filled the back yard as the puppy’s squeaks became more and more animated and addictive. You could just eat him all up, couldn't you. Well why don't you then, Marcus? Go on, eat him.
Her thoughts were violently interrupted. "He looks so happy, doesn't he," his mum whispered behind Olive's shoulder. "It's a shame, really. Might be the closest he ever gets to a child of his own."
Olive span round. Was this woman being serious? Oh, she definitely was. This was the intense look of a grandparent-in-waiting. A disappointed in-law, frustrated by her son's choice of woman and his wife's choice of a childless life. She looked fucking livid; not hugely appropriate for the most important day of the Christian calendar, Olive thought. She pushed past her accuser and went to the bathroom. What better way to seek revenge on a bully than by using their very best hand towels instead of toilet paper?
But on the drive home, Olive couldn't get the puppy out of her mind. What was it that Marcus loved so much, showering Mungo with all that affection? He’d spent the loveliest afternoon hugging, and kissing, and chasing birds with a dog, when these days he wouldn't even stay in bed past 7am for his own wife.
Olive missed the cuddles, the early mornings of undivided attention and sex. She missed the thoughtfulness and the presents. She missed the companionship. Sitting there, in the car, being driven in silence by the man she loved she knew something - surely that moronic canine - was driving them apart. On the speechless 3-hour ride home Olive hatched a plan: the only way their love - dead, buried and boring beyond belief - could rise again.
À grands maux, grands remèdes.
As soon as they arrived home Olive stormed up to the bedroom and dabbed her nose with a cold, wet flannel.
* * *
She’d set her alarm for 5 o’clock the next morning. More than enough time to prepare his breakfast, wash and blow dry her hair extra fluffy and most importantly make an early morning trip to the butcher’s to grab some offcuts, kidneys and bones to rub all over her naked body in their en suite as he slept.
As his normal waking time approached, she leapt onto the bed and started writhing around in and amongst her husband’s arms and legs. She gave a tiny little growl that she’d been practicing all morning - the perfect combination of cute and crazy.
“Ha ha ha! Wooooooah! Hey! What are you up to there, Oil? Get off!”
Yesterday’s Olive would have got off, embarrassed at letting her cool slip and by the rejection. But not today! Today she persevered! Slobbered and licked and kissed and kicked and mounted and snarled and showed him who was boss. As predicted, after a minute or so he let down his barriers and joined in, started tickling her back and laughing at the ridiculousness of his new morning alarm with ADHD. How lovely it felt to laugh! To be laughed at! They rolled and smiled and giggled for at least another five minutes: an eternity when you haven’t so much as had your bottom slapped in months.
“Ha ha! OK! Get off now I need to have a slash.”
He jumped to his feet and ran to the lavatory. She followed, and sat on the floor until he finished. “What the fuck”, he whispered as he turned and saw her there by the sink, on her knees, tongue out, hands bound in a begging motion.
In the afternoon she managed to convince him to go to the park. It wasn’t something they normally did, but she’d grabbed some tennis balls and eagerly ran after them each time he threw one away. He’d asked why they hadn’t brought rackets. “I prefer it this way!” she said, as she grabbed his leg and hugged it for a while. By the end of the day she was knackered, exhausted by the role play but filled with love. She’d seen a change in him. She knew it.
“Oil, I…. I love you? You know that, right?” Marcus said softly as he drifted off to sleep, that night.
Olive smiled, lying at the end of the bed, by his feet. Fuck you, Mungo, she thought. Marcus has a new best friend now.
* * *
The next few months were bliss. She’d actually started to lose some weight from all the running around. Her tongue hurt, of course, from the panting and slobbering, and her mouth was permanently dry. She’d broken a tooth from chewing on too much femur and there’d been that unfortunate incident when the branch of a field maple tree smacked her in the face as she was hanging out the car window on the way to Center Parcs, but fortunately the first aid room at Center Parcs was top notch.
The sex hadn’t improved though. In fact it hadn’t reappeared at all. They were now at 9 months of sexless union, a gestational period of dry, inactive bodies lying in the marital bed. They were getting on better than ever before, but the spark was no nearer.
"Thanks mate!" Marcus chirped one Sunday morning as she brought him a cup of tea, newspaper fixed firmly in between her teeth. She leaned over and let a breast fall out from her slutty-as-hell nightdress, and he patted her on the head.
Olive sat down, on the edge of the bed. She'd been building up to this - the crescendo! The potential turning point in their relationship, a sign of her loving sacrifice. "I've been thinking..." she began. "You love Mungo so much... How would you feel if we... got a dog of our own?"
He looked up at her, bemused. Shrugged.
"Dunno. They're a bit much, aren't they? Alright for a bit of a play and that. But I'm more of a cat man, really."
* * *
She sleeps, all day. It's what he wants; what he prefers, she thinks. When she lies in bed he can do as he pleases away from the house but he knows she's there, tired and lazy and thinking of him.
He brings her takeaways sometimes and she lets him tickle her warm belly, getting fatter and fatter by the day. Sometimes kicking, if he’s lucky! He likes her silence, her aloofness when he comes into the bedroom. It makes him work harder. As she lies, cold and distant on the bed he rises, desperate to please both her, and himself.
At last! she thinks, quietly. This is what we were destined to be! Marcus is happy and I am happy, a devoted servant that stays, faithfully yet emotionally unattached, longing for his warm, teasing touch at the end of the day. This is what we were destined to be. Our partnership. Our life. Mon maître, et sa chatte.
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