Dog Days were popularly believed to be an evil time “the Sea boiled,
the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became
languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers,
hysterics, and phrensies.” according to Brady’s Clavis Calendaria,
I’ve accidentally got another story published in CAKE.shortandsweet this week. I wasn’t planning to write for this issue, but with so many people on holiday or busy we’ve had a dearth of quality submissions over the summer, and the kind author who stepped in at the ninth hour to fill up the last slot was unable to finish – so there was me at the eleventh hour, trying to put some words together!
Anyway the issue is done now, so here is my story Dog Days. Please go to CAKE.shortandsweet and download Issue 4 to read the other stories published this month. They’re some of the best so far, and I’m really proud of both authors, they’ve done an incredible job. You can read more about them on the Authors page.
Jack always called them the God Days when we reminisced.
“Remember the God Days,” he’d say, sharing a wistful smile with his cider. The glass would shudder, rocking away from his loose-fingered grasp, and settling itself upright at last with a final, indignant shake.
“The long, lazy Dog Days,” I’d reply.
The preacher was new and his sermons were short. Jack and I never discussed the hand we’d had in Father Joseph’s passing earlier that year. How were we to know about his heart condition? The new preacher was young, but not what you’d call enthusiastic. More nervous really, especially of us, though we couldn’t fathom why.
As soon as God’s wisdom had finished flowing over us, we’d run down the hill to the shoreline and wash off the goodness in the freezing cold water. After the cold of the church and the cold of the sea we’d be shivering, but the sun soon warmed us. When it refused, we’d run and run from one end of the cove to the other. No matter the weather we’d sprawl in the sand together, and our fingers would meet in between us.
“Father Cyril saw us today,” Jack whispered. “Does that mean God saw?”
“God sees everything, stupid,” I muttered, rolling over to him. “I don’t care, he’s not real anyway.” I didn’t have much conviction then, the tyrannical rants of my parents had taught me of an all-seeing and vengeful God, but I chose not to care. Just as well Jack’s education was less abrasive; he didn’t have the constitution to stand up to an angry all-powerful being. As it was, he was happy wrapped in the cotton-soft lie that God would love him whatever he did.
For me, those days weren’t about God. I had other things on my mind.
The night that changed me was the night the carnival came. Buttered popcorn, candyfloss sticking to his cheek, and the damp night smell of grass underneath us. We couldn’t help ourselves.
My cousin Bren saw us, and ran straight to tell my father. He whipped me like a dog, beating me again and again until I fainted and my mother screamed. I lay on my stomach later, trying to get comfortable. Between the fierce burn from the lashes and the sultry heat outside I could barely close my eyes, let alone rest. A rustling stirred me in the middle of the night as I drifted in a feverish doze. With difficulty, I pushed myself up, whimpering as the movement opened the wounds on my back and thighs again. As I sat up, a white face appeared at my open window.
I smiled. “Jack.”
“Lie down,” he whispered, holding up his mother’s carpet beater.
I eyed him nervously. “I’ve been thrashed once tonight already.”
He grinned. “We heard the screams two streets away. Lie down.” I did as I was told. Jack propped himself on the windowsill, and used the carpet beater to fan my poor, burning back. It felt like bliss, the cool air soothing the fever on my skin. “Does it help?” I nodded. “Go to sleep now.”
Jack’s glass shudders again, and I catch it before it topples. “Let’s get home,” I say, helping him off the stool. His hands are shaking as he reaches for his jacket, and I help him into it.
“Give him a kiss, grandpa!” one of the local kids yells at me. I’ve mostly grown out of fighting. Jack lays a hand on my back, over the old scars.