Tuesday 2 January 2024

Archie by Fran Levin, espresso

The grief, they had warned me, would mug me when I least expect it.

      I hear your voice greeting me when I return from work. You always know when I have had a difficult, demanding day. I feel the soft touch of your warm, pulsing body under my hand.

      I suddenly see you, your pointed snout with its chocolate button nose, followed by sturdy paws, a shocking, white body and a toilet brush tail.

     Sometimes you sit at my feet, poised and primed, your taut. triangular ears attuned to the sound of a familiar car door slamming, or a footstep approaching the door. That ready, rumbling growl when it’s a stranger.

      You are often seated in that guarding position, in our lounge, just inside the closed gate at the top of the stairs. You peer down into the hallway, glance upstairs, peep into the study and survey the living room, making sure that no harm is approaching. Trustworthy but aloof, devoted but self-contained. A noble prince.


The grief, they had warned me, would mug me when I least…

     In my dreams, you are running after the neighbour’s cat, desperate to catch her at last, blithely unaware that she will scratch your eyes out if you do. Or you’re chasing a ball for the fiftieth time in the dog park, or sniffing traces of dried urine on the pavement as we walk. You sit at the edge of the kerb before we cross the road, your hindquarters framing your stomach. We pass that house where your two restless enemies are tied up outside all day and you exchange warnings with them.

The grief, they had warned me, would mug me…

    In my nightmares, I rediscover the collapsing living room floor after the freak storm and greet the builders coming to fix it with poisonous glue. I see my husband taking you to your favourite kennels, where they love and know you. They have an extra large bed for you. You are pulling at your leash.

    I relive the day when my husband returns with empty hands and tells me that you don’t recognize him; that you are convulsing, that you are now at the vet having tests and they are transferring you to a neurological department in a hospital.


The grief, they had warned me…

    No sign of poisoning. Maybe a brain tumour. But most likely, a severe case of grand mal seizures, a possible reaction to the storm. I wait for you in the vet’s surgery and two assistants carry you inside, laying on a blameless, white sheet, your body inert and your eyes dazed and unfocused. For days, you are slumped in your cage there, an IV pumping medicine and hopeful fluids into your still handsome body. You don’t respond to us.

The grief…

About the auhtor

Fran Levin is a former Special Education teacher who recently completed her MFA at Bar Ilan University, in Israel, where she received the 2021 Lechter Institute Excellence Prize and the 2022 Dave Greber Nonfiction Social Justice Award. Apart from writing and mentoring teachers, she practices yoga, and produces bead art. 

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  1. This is such a loving and heartbreaking story. The grief....

  2. Dog owners everywhere understand the grief, or they will understand the grief. Good story.