Friday, February 1, 2008

in which the fish has a narrow escape

For the last month or two I have glimpsed it a few times from the corner of my eye, but have managed to look away. Too busy, things to do, life whirling about like a carnival ride.

But it was there on the periphery, clear enough for me to see quite a few times, approaching quite close, circling. I think it must have been frightened away by the noise and the movement. A dog. A black one. And its not Sirius Black, either.

I know this dog, I wasn’t sure if it was still around, but it knows when it might have a chance with me, and comes. I clap and stamp my feet and throw handfuls of sun in its eyes to blind it:

Bah! Go Away!

It’s been years and years since it came sniffing, I’d almost forgotten it. I thought I had well and truly poisoned it. I thought it was dead.

Apparently not.

Yesterday was featureless and hot: I sat motionless, completely flattened. The garden is tangled and overgrown. I made may way out the back door and looked up into the top branches of the Olive Tree.
There is plump fruit, green as yet, but fat and full. Among the branches I noticed the Silvereyes hopping, the tiniest of birds with the gentlest of peeps, from branch to branch. Olive green their hoods, silver their eyes, to match the tree. I imagine they are pecking some of those olives, they usually do.
The Olive is overgrown now, but a while back I had it trimmed into a shape which I the reverse of the traditional cup-shaped Olive tree: all the branches were thinned, making it look like a DR Suess tree, with fluffy tuft of foliage atop smooth pale branches snaking up to the sky.

I will have trouble harvesting those Olives. I wished to give them to a friend, I said I would, and I looked forward to salting them, and sealing them into jars lovingly.
Looking up now, I realise how very high they are, and think sadly that the intended recipient no longer wishes for olives.

The garden remains tangled: I have neither the inclination nor the fortitude to deal with it right now. I am too flat, which is why the dog is hanging around.

I went back inside, the sink piled with dishes and the clothes rumpled in baskets and sat, too tired to move. The Black Dog had the audacity to come right up and sniff at my feet. I didn’t have the energy even to clap my hands. I just sat there, and let it nose at my toes.

From this close, I could see it wasn’t a dog but a dog-shaped hole.
A void, black and deep. Disguised as a dog.

I thought to myself,
I don’t wish to go down there. I remember from long ago, that place is not a nice place to be.

In the past I have disguised myself very cleverly, and the dog can’t find me. I could even change my smell, yes, and the way I walk. I could change the scenery, I could always evade. Just today, I can’t. I have no spare limbs to chop off and throw to it. No imaginary houses to hide inside, no hiding place at the bottom of the sea. No winged angel to carry me away, no little boat to sail the oceans.

If it came any closer, I would slip down feet first in a flash.
If only I could get up.

We sat for a while, that dog shaped hole and I. Obviously it had been waiting till I was too tired to move, and worn down to sand, alone without the sound of the sea in my ears. Too hot and weary to even pick up a book.

Someone comes, home from school. Someone golden and shiny. It’s Boy!

He has eaten his lunch and liked it, he has run around the playground, he has asked some boys to come to the beach, can he go before swimming?
He wishes to surf before swimming lessons. By himself. He tells me that he is big enough to go surfing by himself, which he does.
I follow him down,unknown to him. Both the lifeguard and I watch him, undetected also .
He goes to swimming after that,
Then we make dinner. He makes mashed potato.
Holding the utensils feels like a ritual act, a charm. The dog is at the back door, frightened of the shiny boy. The boy enlivens my limbs, makes me move.

Later that night, Boy comes into my bed, because there is a space and the usual occupant is not home. He senses the presence of the Black Dog.


I like gazing at you, he says to me, his little cricket-face smiling in the dark.
We sleep.

In the morning we wake, with no dog in sight. I have escaped, with all limbs intact.

I visit the still silent sea, which washes my feet with saltwater warm as my own blood.

I am very lonely for you,
I say to the sea,
but I am not falling down into the dark, not now.

I scamper into my day


jellyhead said...

Oh fifi, keep that awful dog away. I can't bear to hear of him taking liberties like that with the sniffing and the nosing.

Swim, hug your family, write, walk, do whatever it takes to keep that damn mutt far from you.

If I were nearer, I'd sit with you and chat, and make you laugh by being silly. Because I can't, let me send you this.... XOXO

Take care dear fifi.

Arcturus said...


Wow. wow. wow.

Or maybe Bow. wow. wow.

But exactly who or what is the Dog? It's a shadow of an overgrown Dr. Seussian Truffula-like Olive Tree or an actual hole in the ground in your garden?

Please forgive me, Fifi my dear, these literalist questions that surely shock the artistic sensibilities and offend the abstract spark of the divine. As you can see, I'm not well.

I really wish, though, you'd write a book and get these amazing reflections, ruminations, and whatnot published. It is a waste of a truly wonderful gift otherwise.

P.S. I think it was also a wonderful thing how you watch your boy like that to make sure all is OK with him learning to surf.

riseoutofme said...

Beautiful writing ...

I know this black dog or his brother quite well ... all he needs is acknowlegement of his existence and a rather firm "not now, my friend" ... "I have chosen the other road".

Be kind to yourself and keep your angel close.

hasarder said...

I too am very familiar with that dog.
But I have never seen it written about so well.

Anonymous said...

I hope the dog is no longer sniffing around you.


meggie said...

So glad you have your shiny boy to ward off the damned dog. It is so sneaky, cunning, wily.

So glad you have kept him at bay.

Sometimes he leaps upon me in my sleep.
How else to explain waking after a lovely happy day, to the pressure, the gloom.

Keep happy. Kick his snout!

travistee said...

You go girl.
I often outrun that damn dog, too.
Seems like when he's not bothering me, he's swum himself to Australia to bother you.
Let's send him to space,
and get on with life.

travistee said...

PS I love when the Boy asks to 'spend the night'.
The other kids tease him, but we don't care.
We giggle before falling asleep, and tell dumb jokes. Sometimes I fall asleep thinking he is my best friend in the world.

Isabelle said...

Oh, I'm glad you've managed to fend off that dog and do a bit of scampering. My lovely son-in-law is being devoured by that dog at the moment - has been, more on than off, for the past year. I wish so much that we could help him to scare it away.

Suse said...

Golden boys are good at shooing away black dogs. Every home should have one.

take care

fifi said...

jelly: Thank you, you are soo sweet I am sure the dog would flee at the very sound of your footsteps. But thank you, he hasn't been seen.
Just a reminder, for me to watch out.
Arc:you flatter me. The Black Dog is that creature that drags you down the dark tunnel and gnaws on you. A creature best slapped and sent away!
Rise: I have chosen the road, but sadly that dog just knows when a person is down, no matter what. I really need to incinerate him.
Meggie: the dog doesnt come when I am asleep. perhaps you need to have the dreams I have?
travistee: yes, you have a little cherub to cuddle. Mine have been fighting over who gets to come in, because I have been going to bed early, but the surly girl wriggles and yell in her sleep and I don't much care for that. But I let her in anyway.
Hasarder. Perhaps the dog is known to many more than we might think?
Isabelle, its awful to hear that about the SIL. I hate it, I wish I could send some tricks his way. i am not being facetious when I say "cold water and porridge". Porridge is a wonder food, I swear. And immersing one's head in cold water must do something, a friend told me it's part of a procedure for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, as it stimulates something in the brain.
The water here is a bit too warm, but there is always the shower.
Suse, yes, I am sure lucky to have a Golden Boy.
As tarnished as he is, he is quite handy.

Luhlahh said...

You brought a few little tears to my eyes, with your black dog and golden boy. I'm glad you got through the day, and are back out swimming and painting.
xxx Lou