I was weeping. It went from a tactful little dripping to the kind of violent spastic sobbing where you can’t get your breath and your chest hurts like someone with a jackhammer has mistaken you for a mean bit of pavement. Go on, despise me. I don’t care. But think about it—starting with the fact that the divorce hadn’t been my idea. I didn’t know if I’d still loved Gelasio or not, but I was used to him. I liked having someone else around and it had been fine that it was Gelasio. I liked knowing which was his favorite coffee mug and that I’d die if I ever touched it. I liked going to films with him because I liked talking about what we’d seen afterwards. I liked that we both preferred deep-dish pizza with extra cheese and then fought about what else to put on it.
I had thought we were still pretty good in bed together. Including when it wasn’t in bed. I’d thought that making love in the shower, in the roof garden, on my mother’s dining room table when we occasionally terrier-sat (that table is the only flat place in her apartment high enough for you not to be joined by interested, wanting-to-be-part-of-whatever-was-going-on Ghastlies, and you still have to move the chairs first. Before you ask, every generation of Mom’s Ghastlies learns to open doors) was a sign of a healthy, resilient relationship.
I’d been wrong.
I had already lost my husband. Now I had apparently also lost my mind.
I cried harder. There was a large black dog in the way. So I cried on her. Nothing I could snivel on her would make that situation any worse. First on the list tomorrow: Sid. Never mind unpacking. Never mind nine hundred and three book boxes. Brush Sid. A bath would be better but I doubted I was up for negotiating a bath, never high on the list of a dog’s favorite activities, with something Sid’s size.
At the moment I didn’t feel I was up for anything. Anything ever again. I hugged my dog. I had dog hair up my nose and in my mouth. I probably had it in my eyes too but I was crying it right back out again.
Tomorrow. Think about tomorrow. Think about the fact that there had to be a tomorrow because I had a dog to take care of. She’d only just come in off the street. She’d only slept warm for the first time last night. She’d only had a day and a half of remedial feeding. Remember your dog. You can’t disintegrate or run off into the blue or fall terminally into the lake. You have a dog. She chose you. She chose you.
As the convulsive sobbing began to ease I became aware that some exceptionally bony bit of Sid was digging a painful hole in my thigh. “Oof,” I said. I let go of her. She slithered off my lap again, taking her bony bits with her.
I was still shivering with shock and didn’t feel like driving yet. Sid and I leaned against each other and stared out through Merry’s windshield. There was enough moonlight to silver the fields—at least I assumed that was moonlight and not actual frost. These were the Willendorf fields, I was reasonably sure (although I wasn’t reasonably sure of anything after recent alleged events), but I didn’t see any cows (or trolls). Presumably the cows were all tucked up under their blankets with the central heating on back at the barn. Trolls are, I believe, more weather resistant.
There was a thought growing in the back of my mind. I tried to make it go away, but it wouldn’t. It got larger and started trudging determinedly toward the front of my mind. No. No. No.
Yes. I sighed. I unlocked the door and slid out. It seemed a long, long way before my feet touched ground. I stood, swaying, hanging onto the door. Sid whined. “I’m not going far,” I said. “I’m just going to look for . . .” I should have a flashlight. I’m not going to see anything without a flashlight. There was usually one lost somewhere in the torn lining of my jacket. As I groped for it Sid whined again. “Whatever,” I said. I found my flashlight. I reached for the end of Sid’s lead and unwound it from the seatbelt. She jumped down with perfect aplomb. My dog.
I turned the flashlight on and shined it around us but there was nothing to see. Black tarmac road. Big deal. We walked back a little way toward town, the way the horsemen (or horseamazons and Murac) had been going. It was still a paved road. It didn’t take hoofprints.
In the end we didn’t need the flashlight. We didn’t go far. Sid noticed before I did: her tail came up and I saw her focus on a black blob in the road. I carefully did not think about what the blob might be. We walked up to it and stopped. I shone the flashlight on it, but my nose had already told me what it was: a very fresh pile of horse dung.
Please join the discussion at Robin McKinley's Web Forum.