Kelly Pilgrim


My dog is slowly dying. Each day a little closer, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it.



Under no circumstances do I want any of my immediate family or friends as pallbearers, she told me.


It's three a.m. and I'm sitting here alone. Alone all but for the sound of his rasping. I can't see him, but I know how he looks right now by the noises his body makes.



  And then later, in an email, you must choose a song. I replied, Sure, but can it wait until you're dead?


His belly is bloated with fluid and he's sitting propped up against the television cabinet. His shoulders have dropped and they sit further apart than they used to because his heart is enlarged and he finds it difficult to breathe.



  Well, actually, I'd kinda like to know which song you choose before I'm gone.


There's rhythm in the way he sits, dying. His heart is drumming—I can feel it through his chest when I pick him up. His lungs sound like a watery rainforest and his breathing is the woosh of rainfall.





He drags his feet along the linoleum flooring to the water bowl and drinks an amount of water that shows me he can't quench his thirst. When he's done, he rolls onto his side, exhausted.



  Because then I'll know what you think of me now—the person you think I am by the music you set my death to.


I should have made the decision by now, but the way he looks at me clearly says not yet. The vet told me I'll know when.



  Have you always been this morbid or is it something that's growing on you with age?


I fear I'm wrong.



  Not morbid, just organised—practical.


What if the not yet look is actually please end it?




  But you're not even sick. Will you at least wait until you're sick before I pick a song? What if I pick a song and it doesn't meet your expectations of what you think I should think of you?


I've been keeping him alive for months with yellow and white tablets. Double the dose recommended by the vet.



  Stop your 'what-iffing' and just do it. Oh, and while I think of it—I don't want to be buried near my Dad, but don't tell my Mum.


Still, his body makes music.







Don't you think that will be a little difficult? I mean, won't she have a say in where you're buried? Damn it, you're dragging me into this scenario—is there something you want to tell me?


Every night I go to bed, I think the following morning I'll reach down and feel a stiff, cold body harbouring by my feet.









Honestly, I know nothing. If I knew I was dying I'd tell you. I'd buy loads of alcohol and have you over for pizza. We'd drink until we vomited like teenage binge drinkers and we'd tell each other the few secrets that we've kept to ourselves all these years.


Instead, I've taken to not sleeping much at all. If I don't sleep, he won't die alone.





  Yeah, and then I could remind you of the time I caught you kissing my girlfriend and I threw a toilet roll at you because underneath it all, even though I hated you at that very moment, I loved you enough to not pick up something heavy.


He doesn't sleep much either. I wonder if he fears shutting his eyes and not waking like I fear it for him. Does he know what awaits him on the other side? Is that why animals can't speak?




  You'll never let that go will you? Every time we have a 'moment', you bring it up. It's not all about you—this is about my death. I'm leaving you my ring by the way, the one with the blue stones.


They say animals don't have souls—that's what they say. When a person dies, they say they don't look the same, they appear empty, like a shell. They say it's because the soul has left. I want to believe his soul will rise above and see me gently laying his small body on the bed as I wonder what now?





  I don't know what you mean by a 'moment', but that's so like you to use a word indiscriminately and expect that I will understand. It's conspiratorial. Don't tell me what you're leaving me—I don't want it anyway.


When an animal dies, live fleas rise to the surface of the skin looking for another host—something warm. Tomorrow, I'll go to the cupboard and take out the flea powder and shower it over him. I'm preparing.













Fine, don't take it, but make sure I'm cremated. I don't want to be buried whole. Oh, and I nearly forgot... on my epitaph I want the following:

Opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor.

And make sure they put a full stop after my middle initial. I'm going to pick my plot before I die because you know how I am with numbers. You don't take it seriously enough to pick a good number for me.


I'll have him cremated and they'll place his ashes in a grey lunch box sized container. They'll supply a little marble plaque and with apologetic voices they'll ask me what I want engraved on it.




  And I want you to write a poem and recite it. Before you have another go at me for 'dragging you in' to my scenario, just say you'll do all these things. And, yes, I know I'm weird.


What to say?



  Okay, okay, I'll do all these things. And yes, you are weird.


I'm keeping him alive.

Listening to his music.


Waiting for a song and the opportunity.


Kelly Pilgrim lives in Perth, Western Australia. She has a BA Arts (Creative Writing) from Curtin University. Her poetry has been published in Hecate, Idiom 23, Muse, Blast, Pixel Papers, Australian Writer’s Journal, Centoria and several US and UK anthologies. Her first collection of poetry, People from bones was released in the UK and Australia in June 2002 (publisher, Ragged Raven Press, UK) and is available through the
publisher online or Amazon UK. Kelly’s fiction has appeared in Blythe House Quarterly (USA), Australasian Anthology of Short Stories, Piping Shrike and online sites. In 2002, she was the editorial associate for the Australasian Anthology of Short Stories, (publisher: Spiny Babbler, Nepal)—a 300 page collection of short stories by tertiary students throughout Australian universities. Kelly also writes articles on a freelance basis.