don’t you get a real job?”
Brent leaned in the garage doorway, his frame filling the pass though back to
the house. “You’re just out here all day, playing with dogs.”
I looked up at him. My
scissors still in hand, the geriatric poodle standing on my grooming table
trembled, and I turned back to her, “Shhh… it’s OK Amber.”
that gets you out of
him, and was busy
patting Amber. She stood, wide eyed and trembling; she’d be a wreck to finish
grooming, and her owner was due back in fifteen minutes. She was one of five
dogs I was working on that day, the rest were waiting in cages, in various
stages of readiness. I didn’t look up. “You gotta go, you’re scaring the dogs.”
twisting off the table. Scooping her in one arm, I held my scissors away from
her vibrating body, “No they’re not, you’re gonna make me cut a dog.”
you were a pro.”
–” I set down the scissors
and cradled Amber’s head, crooning, “Shh…” I glanced over at Brent, still
hanging in the doorway. “Just get out of here, let me finish.”
He turned away, “Guess
I’m starting dinner then.”
yeah, I’m still busy.” I
turned back to the dog, cooing, “Shh… it’s OK, puppy,” and picked up a brush,
trying to fluff up her coat so I could finish shaping it into smooth curves and
a cute top knot.
I looked up
as the door slammed
shut, and a chorus of dogs started barking. Poor Amber started shaking all over
she’s lovely, you do such a
good job,” Mrs. Carlson beamed as Amber stood panting on the grooming table,
coat finally fluffed and scissored to perfection, top knot and pom poms in
place; the classic poodle clip.
Fixing a bow,
I stood up
stretching, a twinge of pain flared across my lower back. Long days on my feet
sure did me in.
a cheque’s still OK?” Mrs.
Carlson smiled at me.
I nodded as
she wrote out a
cheque for forty six dollars, her hands shaking in spidery script. Smiling, she
slid a folded twenty into my hand, “And here’s a little something for you, you
take such good care of her, I wouldn’t have poor Amber go anywhere else, she’s
such a sensitive little thing.”
thanks, Mrs. Carlson that’s
so nice to hear,” I stood up straighter, still rubbing my back.
just a long day on my
would be, you do a lot of
work; must be a big job,” she nodded at the plastic tub and drying table, the
row of crates with dogs sitting inside, all still waiting final touches. “You
must have the patience of a saint to do this.”
“I guess I have a way
ready,” Brent called
down the hallway. I was washing up in the bathroom; loose dog hair floated
around me, and swept down the drain. Sadie, my Rottweiler looked up at me,
a long day, eh, girl?”
at me, with a look
that either meant take me for a walk or feed me; or maybe both. She was a smart
you’re hungry,” Brent
called from the kitchen. The soft hiss of a can of beer opening floated down
the hall. I wondered how many he’d had already.
me to the table
and lay down on the floor, looking up occasionally but scanning the floor for
wayward crumbs. Brent slid a plate in front of me, steak and baked potato
drowning in butter and sour cream.
I tried to
scoop the sour cream
off, and remove half the butter.
at me, “What, you
don’t like my cooking?”
all the dairy’s a bit
much.” I turned the potato around, trying to find a grease-free spot and
nibbled at the peel.
can just say it, you don’t
like it, right?”
I am lactose intolerant…”
I trailed off.
His arms shot
out as he pushed
his plate away from himself, his voice already raised. “Here we go with this
bullshit again. Goddamned made up thing that everybody and his mother has. Like
well, -- whatever,
fucking bullshit, that’s what it is.”
I don’t know what your
problem is, but stop it.” I stared at him. Suddenly alerted, Sadie looked up at
me, then glanced at Brent. Her eyes narrowed.
down at the dog,
and forced a smile. “Look, I don’t know what got into me, I’m just a little
uptight from work, right. Why don’t you eat your steak, babe?”
my knife, I sliced
into the steak, red blood pooled across my plate. Raw flesh that had been
quickly seared and flipped; it was beyond rare. I pushed the plate aside, “Uh,
I’m not in the mood for it, got any salad?”
fucking vegetarian on
no, I’m just not in the
mood for it.” My stomach growled, the last meal I had was breakfast. It had
been a busy day.
at me. “I’m sure
your doggy friends would like it.”
the hell’s your problem?”
know, it’s time gotta get a
real job, you’re just sitting around the house all day.” He twisted his plate
around and stabbed at his steak. Blood juices ran across white porcelain as he
waved a fork at me. “You cost a lot to keep around here, babe, and you don’t
bring in much.”
I work –”
right – you fucking work
your problem Brent?” I
shoved my plate aside. “It’s like you’re looking for a fight or something.”
don’t even appreciate what
you got in front of you.” His knife scraped across white china, the sound
making me shudder. “Just spend your fucking day playing with dogs.”
that’s my job – it’s a home
all you care about,
freaking dogs.” He glanced down at Sadie, she stared back at him; clownish
black and tan patches and steely eyes. Her lip curled, slightly.
in his chair.
Brent, maybe you moving
in here was a mistake.” I stood up, “C’mon Sadie, let’s go for a walk.”
nails clicked on the
tile foyer as we came back into the house. Sounds of sports announcers drifted
toward us; Brent was sprawled across the sofa, caught in the light of the TV,
and staring straight ahead. The coffee table lay crowded with beer cans.
As I walked
into the living
room, he didn’t even turn toward me. I nodded at him, “You know Brent, I’ve
been thinking, maybe you should look for another place to live.”
I raised my
voice. “Brent, I
think it’s time for you to move out.”
head, he laughed, “I
knew you’d say that. What, you had a big heart to heart with your dog?”
you can’t afford to stay
here by yourself; whatcha gonna do, groom dogs out of a homeless shelter?”
I could feel
my blood pressure
rising, and stood silent, biting my lip.
wanted me here, right? I
left Jenna for you. And this is what I get?” Brent laughed. “Fucking dog
groomer – spend your days putting pom poms on poodles?”
Jenna would always take
me back, if that’s what you wanted. So what, she’s a bit of a head case, and
thinks you’re a freak, but…”
I stood staring
I put a fair bit of
money into this place, I should get my share out of it. Common law. And I don’t
think you can afford to buy me out.”
As I turned
back down the
hallway, Sadie followed, looking up at me. Waiting for me to do something.
I was doing
some extra dogs
Saturday afternoon when I stepped into the garage, and startled at the sight of
Brad standing in front of the dog cages.
what’re you doing here?” A
steady stream of barking and whining filled the air.
– dogs were making so
much noise – I couldn’t watch TV.”
only gone a minute, I
just went to the washroom…” Trailing off, I glanced at the pass through door,
“I guess I left it open.”
– but the dogs were
making a godawful racket.”
around me, looking
up expectantly, and then looked over at Brad. I followed her gaze. He turned
toward me, and smiled.
heap in the cage
behind him caught my eye.
happened to Fluffy?”
Pushing past him, I peered into a cage at the Pomeranian, now holding his foot
in the air.
do you mean, what
happened?” Brad glanced at the dog, “It’s still there, making noise.”
The dog cowered
in the back of
its cage, and whined.
wouldn’t shut up.”
did you do to Fluffy?”
he shrugged again.
–” I turned toward him.
Sadie looked up at me, then over at Brad. Her lip curled.
down at her and
forced a smile. “You know how it is, babe. Damned thing wouldn’t shut up – you
left him howling out here, making all kinds of racket, I couldn’t hear the TV.”
the hell did you do?”
back toward the door
into the house. “Just rattled his cage a little. Knocked some sense into the
hurt him?” I stared, “Go on
– get the hell out of here.”
smells like dog shit
out here anyway. Don’t know how you stand it.”
At the slam
of the door, all the
dogs started barking; and as I lifted Fluffy out of the cage, he whimpered in
pain. “There, there,” I crooned.
Damnit, I thought,
what the hell did I do to deserve this asshole in my life?
It was Sparky’s
owner that gave
me the idea. “Poor Sparky needs this before any kind of grooming, it just calms
him right down.”
said her name was,
recently divorced according to Mrs. Carleson, and here on her recommendation. I
smiled at the shaggy terrier, and held out my hand. Sparky snarled, lunging for
me, quickly, I jerked my hand away. His jaws snapped shut on empty space.
a feisty one, isn’t he?” I
looked up at Cass.
“Sorry about that. Poor Spark’s pretty wound up, aren’t you boy?” she patted
his scruffy head. Sparky growled quietly.
I stared at
the dog. “I don’t
know if I can do him like this. He’s terrified.”
muzzle him, but I heard
you were a miracle worker, you did wonders with poor Amber. He just needs to
get used to you.”
not sure if I –”
worry, he’ll settle.”
Cass slid a muzzle over the terrier’s shaggy face; Sparky’s eyes bulged, and he
panted, breathing heavily. She smiled, “Now, I just gave him his sedative a few
minutes ago,” and held out the bottle, “Give him about twenty minutes, then
it’ll kick in, Half the time he just falls asleep.”
Sparky stared at
me, bristly hair sticking out around the nylon muzzle; he growled again.
sure about this?”
“If he starts to
wake up, give him another tablet.” Petting Sparky, Cass looked up at me, “You
just have to be really careful, he can’t feel too much like this, he could get
the dog’s head, a
jagged scar ran across his throat. “The last groomer cut him so badly the poor
guy nearly bled to death on her table.”
I stared at
the scar. “And your
vet gave you those pills?”
“The medication was
covered under his pet insurance plan.”
Cass was right,
in the time it
took to bathe a cocker spaniel, Sparky was nearly asleep. I lifted him up on
the table, and eased his muzzle off, crooning, “There’s a good boy.”
His eyes half
hurriedly clipped and scissored, then gave him a quick bath, setting him in a
wire cage with a dryer propped in front. He fell asleep in the warm breeze,
As I opened
Sparky’s cage, and
slid in a bowl of water, I smiled. I had a plan.
It was simple
enough, a quick
call to the insurance company, to talk about life insurance policies for common
law couples, and increasing coverage for both of us; it would be tragic if one
of us was left without the other, but, as the agent said, it was good to plan
And then a
few days later at
doctor’s appointment, I cried and said how much stress I was under, and how I
simply could not sleep anymore. I needed something, anything to help.
smiled and pulled out
her prescription pad.
pharmacy with a
small paper bag and bottles of tablets followed by strict instructions to avoid
operating machinery and drinking alcohol, I smiled even wider.
surprised when he
walked in the door, the table set with wine glasses and the smell of pan fried
steak in the air.
over and kissed me.
leave your grooming crap
everywhere, don’t you?” he nodded at a pair of scissors lying on the kitchen
look at you cooking –
getting all domestic on me now.”
have been kind of tense
between us lately,” I smiled at him, “Thought I’d take some time to set things
as long as there’s no dog
hair in it.” He bent into the fridge and the soft hiss of a can of beer opening
followed. Standing up, beer in hand, he nodded at me. “Well, babe, let’s eat.”
the steak around
his plate. I smiled at him, “I know I don’t do it the way you do, but I hope
fine,” he shrugged. “Does
the wine taste off to you?”
it just needs to
breathe a little.” I sipped mine, “It tastes alright to me.”
his glass to his lips,
I held up
my glass, “Anyway, to
us,” he smiled, and took a
large gulp. And then another.
I was halfway
through my salad
when I looked up and Brent was pouring himself second glass, the first already
emptied. “I’m glad you’re enjoying the wine,” I smiled at him.
it’s not too bad once you
get used to it.”
It was just
like Cass said, in about twenty minutes Brent stumbled toward the
couch, red faced and slurring; he fumbled for the TV remote. Soon, the sports
announcer was drowned out by loud snoring.
I waited a
few extra minutes,
clearing the table, loading the dishwasher, and gave the leftover steak to
up at me, gratefully,
and then meat scraps disappeared in a shower of slobber.
did like my dog. Or
When I was
sure he was asleep I
pulled my scissors out from beside the microwave, the long shears that
scissored poodle legs with ease, each blade about twelve inches long. Those
blades always made quick work of pom poms.
still snoring when I
stepped into the living room, my scissors in hand.
It was a pretty
fast job. I
stood over him and opened the blades, dragging them across his throat and
pressed down real hard; his eyes flashed open, he gasped, burbling, and then,
in a few moments, nothing. Blood ran down from the sofa and spattered onto my
living room floor.
around the puddles.
up at me, her tail
wagging slowly, and then followed me outside.
mess behind, I
returned to the garage; I still had a spaniel to finish final trimming on. The
dog wagged its whole back end frantically as I opened the caged, and I smiled
at him. “Aren’t you a good boy?”
around me as I washed
my scissors in the tub, I held them out of his reach as the blood spiralled
down the drain. I didn’t want to cut a dog.
I would be
at least an another
hour finishing the spaniel; the owner wanted a full breed clip, and I still had
to scissor fluffy legs and a skirt. At least my scissors were still sharp.
It would be
quite some time
before the owner arrived on their way home from work, and then after I’d clean
up my shop; vacuuming the floor and wiping down my tools with disinfectant.
I liked to
keep things clean.
I’d go into the
house, and find Brent lying dead. And when I called the police, I’d let them
know his ex-girlfriend had some major issues. And Brent had some problems of
But me, my
customers would say,
I had the patience of a saint.
-- THE END
Liz McAdams is a short, sharp, writer and fond of dark things. Her work
appears in the usual places, including Spelk,
Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama,
Shotgun Honey, and scattered around Twisted
Sister lit mag. Check Liz out at https://lizmcadams.wordpress.com/.