Thursday, January 4, 2007


It was Trudy's breathing that bothered Sarah the most, the consistent snuffling sound like a pig rooting in the ground. That and her eyes - huge, round, protuberant eyes, that would fix themselves balefully on Sarah's face, unwavering, intense in their mistrust and dislike.

It wasn't that Sarah disliked dogs, for she loved them actually, and was familiar with the way they cleaved to their owners with a passion reserved for the most stouthearted of lovers. Sarah had grown up with dogs - big lumbering retreivers galumphing around their small house with joyful abandon, lavishing sloppy kisses on her when she arrived home from school, their tails waving like flags, forever sweeping her mother's collections of knick knacks from low lying tables.

Small dogs like Trudy were something of an enigma to Sarah. They could insert themselves into the most inconvenient places. Trudy for instance was always fitting her rotund little body into the space beneath the rungs of Sarah's desk chair, where she posted herself as guard while Sarah worked, the relentless wheeze of her breathing a steady accompaniment to the click of the computer keyboard.

Sarah didn't think it was devotion that kept Trudy at her feet. No, indeed it felt more like imprisonment, a watchfulness born of Trudy's wariness and mistrust. Trudy's devotion was reserved for Christopher, her savior, her lord and master, her lover really, Sarah often thought with a small frisson of revulsion. The rotund little body - a fireplug with legs, Christopher affectionately called her - wriggled with obscene pleasure when he walked into the room, and she waddled toward him with as much haste as the four stubby legs would allow, only to prostrate herself at his feet and present her hard little belly for his loving ministrations.

"My adorable little pugsy," Christopher would croon, dropping to the floor beside the toast colored furball before him, while Sarah stood by, leaning against the wall half hidden from sight as if illicitly observing this reunion. Eventually, he would look up and smile sheepishly at his wife. "Hey hon," he'd say, continuing to massage the dog's belly with firm circular strokes until Sarah sometimes recognized an absurd urge to flop onto the ground beside them, desperate for those hands on her own flat abdomen, circling lower toward the place where pleasure had lately been denied.

"Hey yourself," she would answer softly, the standard greeting long established between them. At the sound of Sarah's voice, Trudy would freeze for a moment, even her noisy breath would cease, her ears alert for the intruder to move nearer, into the sacred space between her body and Christopher's. Those black eyes, rimmed in a darker shade of brown, would turn toward Sarah, penetrating in their bugginess, staring at her with a mixture of warning and victory.

Possessive, was this dog. Obsessed with Christopher in a way Sarah simply found unnatural.
Christopher laughed it off, anytime she dared make mention of it. "She's still grieving for my mom," he would say, his tone reminding Sarah that he too, was still grieving, and so any idiosyncrosies on his part (or Trudy's) were to be overlooked, forgiven.

Yet in Sarah's mind, they took it too far, were too connected. Christopher's mother, an overmade up synchophant in Sarah's humble opinion, had forged an iron grip on Christopher's psyche, a grip Sarah had hoped would loosen after she was ensconsed in her final resting place last July. Christopher was insistent that Trudy, the companion he had purchased for his mother when he and Sarah first moved in together seven years before, come an live with them after Grace's death. It was as if Trudy bore Grace's spirit inside her, for she attached herself to Christopher from the start, sensing Sarah's ambivalence, jealously guarding Christopher's attachment to her.

The fact was that Trudy's presence in their lives had created some weird menage a trois. In the six months that the chubby little pug had been living with them, Sarah and Christopher had not made love, because Trudy wouldn't let them.

*In response to Exercise 3, My Pet, by Alison Lurie, in Write Away! Exercises for Writers

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