1st Place * John Paul Davies

Comments: Wonderful, lovely stuff. You submit this to Ireland’s best fiction journal. You’ll win a prize! Thanks for submitting. It was a joy to read.

Crutches

Sue, limping, placed the parrot’s cage down onto the kitchen counter, setting its hanging toys and mirrors to jangle. She craned her neck to look at the bird.

“Why won’t you talk?” Sue asked the parrot. “Do you think I can wait twelve months for you to speak, eh? I’ll have gone loop-the-loop by then!” Her head darted as she spoke, imitating the parrot’s awkward movement.

“When I was home from the hospital, Leigh came in- he’s on the two ‘til ten shift- and he goes, ‘have yer made me dinner?’ There’s me, foot in plaster, crutches under me arms.”

The parrot, not yet able to find a voice, shifted its weight impatiently along its wooden perch. Chest expanding, head twitching as if seeing everything for the first time. Its plumage was almost too colourful to bear; head of electric blue, too many greens and yellows to name.

Gripping a steaming mug of tea, Sue limped to the back door, scouring the garden from the worn step. Rain began to bend the overgrown grass double, forming pools in the ceramic bowls lining the path. It began to darken gnomes and stone rabbits and frogs.

“Come on, there’s a good girl!” Sue shouted into the garden. Then, to the parrot, “They’re all dog lovers round here, you’ve got to be careful. Get in here, you one-eyed monster! If I have to come out there…”

The saddest dog in the world slunk away from Sue, looking over one shoulder now and again as it trotted towards the safety of the undergrowth at the bottom of the garden. It eventually thought better of the idea of escape and came towards the house slowly, head bowed, looking up at Sue with its one good eye. It was a white dog with the squashed jowls of a bulldog.

Come ‘ere, frying pan face!” Red spots that could have been some canine version of measles blemished its white body. It slid in the gap between the doorframe and Sue, its body tensed, expectant of some reprisal. It lay on the kitchen floor, snout on paws, one great eye on Sue; the other a red mess, a hanging cut.

“Why are you so miserable?”

Joe let himself into the kitchen through the alleyway and the dog scrambled to its feet, claws scratching for purchase on the kitchen tiles.

Come here, girl! Has she looked after you, eh?” The dog licked the man’s hands as he tried to pat its head and stroke behind its ears. “Did she give you the good stuff, eh? The Pedigree Chum? Nah, knowing Sue it would’ve been the old shitey blue stripe.”

Sue kept her back turned on Joe. “How much should you get paid for dog-sittin’ these days?” she asked the parrot. “By the hour? Fifteen hours it’s been.”

“That bloody eye,” Joe said, ignoring Sue’s outburst. “Some kind of infection. Ninety-seven quid to get it stitched up, it cost me! They had to stitch up its second eyelid until it heals. Second eyelid!”

“Fifteen hours’ dog-mindin’ you owe me, Joe.”

“What are you on about, woman? Y’see, this is what yer get with women – the back ends of conversations. Bet your teeth are glad for the rest when you go to sleep.”

“You see, this is why Joe isn’t married,” Sue explained to the parrot.

“That’s ‘cos I choose to be single,” said Joe. “You know what? The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion all this nagging’s good for Sue,” Joe speculated to the dog, ruffling its head. “She’d just explode if she kept it all bottled up. You’d find pieces of Sue everywhere.”

The parrot began to squawk, exploring its range. Its head disappeared into green feathers momentarily. The dog collapsed back to the floor, its open eye falling on Joe. It continued to rain in the back garden, beads welling like tears then dropping from the empty washing line.

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About annanddanbooks

Authors. Neighbors. Friends. Siblings. Described as an acquired taste in our Creative Endeavors. We have fun.
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