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Pom Pom-Fiction by Liz McAdams
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The Opposite of Dreams-Fiction by Beau Johnson
An Editor's Rejection Mistake-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Dig-Flash Fiction by Doug Hawley
Alibi, Inc.-Flash Fiction by Roy Dorman
A Slave to My Passion-Flash Fiction by Rick McQuiston
The Beckoning-Poem by Michael Keshigian
and so, naked us-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
fyi-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
last journal entry-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
the story to here-Poem by Meg Baird
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mon amie/my friend-Poem by Meg Baird
Ravens-Poem by John Grey
Tunnels and the Man-Poem by John Grey
His Body Dug Up from Your Garden-Poem by John Grey
Deuce-Poem by Sanjeev Sethi
Maxilla-Poem by Sanjeev Sethi
Resume-Poem by Sanjeev Sethi
Desperate for Entertainment-Poem by Michael Marrotti
Poetry in Need-Poem by Michael Marrotti
One Man Can Only Take So Much-Poem by Michael Marrotti
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

pom-pom.jpg
Art by Patty Mulligan 2017

POM POM

by

LIZ McADAMS

 

 

“Why 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.”

“What?” 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.”

“Something that gets you out of the house.”

I ignored 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.”

“They’re fine.”

Amber suddenly lurched sideways, 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.”

“I thought you were a pro.”

“I am –” 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.”

“Fine.” He turned away, “Guess I’m starting dinner then.”

“Well, 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 again.

Freaking jerk.

*

“Oh, 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.

“And 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.”

“Aw, thanks, Mrs. Carlson that’s so nice to hear,” I stood up straighter, still rubbing my back.

“You alright, dear?”

“Yeah, just a long day on my feet.”

“It 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 smiled, “I guess I have a way with dogs.”

*

“Dinner’s 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, expectantly.

“Been a long day, eh, girl?”

She stared at me, with a look that either meant take me for a walk or feed me; or maybe both. She was a smart dog.

“I hope 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.

Sadie followed 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.

Brent nodded at me, “What, you don’t like my cooking?”

“Uh, all the dairy’s a bit much.” I turned the potato around, trying to find a grease-free spot and nibbled at the peel.

“You can just say it, you don’t like it, right?”

“Well, 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 fucking gooten.”

“Gluten.”

“Yeah, well, -- whatever, fucking bullshit, that’s what it is.”

“Brent, 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.

Brent looked 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?”

Picking up 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?”

“Going fucking vegetarian on me?”

“Um, 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.

Brent smiled at me. “I’m sure your doggy friends would like it.”

“What the hell’s your problem?”

“You 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.”

“But I work –”

“Yeah, right – you fucking work –”

“What’s your problem Brent?” I shoved my plate aside. “It’s like you’re looking for a fight or something.”

“You 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.”

“But that’s my job – it’s a home business.”

“It’s 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.

He shifted in his chair.

“Look, Brent, maybe you moving in here was a mistake.” I stood up, “C’mon Sadie, let’s go for a walk.”

*

Sadie’s 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.”

He ignored me.

I raised my voice. “Brent, I think it’s time for you to move out.”

Shaking his head, he laughed, “I knew you’d say that. What, you had a big heart to heart with your dog?”

“No, but –”

“Look, 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.

“You 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?”

“But –”

“I mean, 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 at him.

“Besides, 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.

Freaking hell.

*

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.

“Hey, what’re you doing here?” A steady stream of barking and whining filled the air.

“Nothing – dogs were making so much noise – I couldn’t watch TV.”

“I was 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.”

“Maybe – but the dogs were making a godawful racket.”

Sadie circled around me, looking up expectantly, and then looked over at Brad. I followed her gaze. He turned toward me, and smiled.

A huddled heap in the cage behind him caught my eye.

“What happened to Fluffy?” Pushing past him, I peered into a cage at the Pomeranian, now holding his foot in the air.

“What 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.

“Something’s wrong –”

He shrugged. “Damned thing wouldn’t shut up.”

“What did you do to Fluffy?”

“Nothing,” he shrugged again.

“Brad –” I turned toward him. Sadie looked up at me, then over at Brad. Her lip curled.

He glanced 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.”

“What the hell did you do?”

He turned back toward the door into the house. “Just rattled his cage a little. Knocked some sense into the guy.”

“You hurt him?” I stared, “Go on – get the hell out of here.”

“Gladly, 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.”

Cass, she 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.

“He’s a feisty one, isn’t he?” I looked up at Cass.

She smiled apologetically. “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.”

“I’ll muzzle him, but I heard you were a miracle worker, you did wonders with poor Amber. He just needs to get used to you.”

“I’m not sure if I –”

“Don’t 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.”

Eyes bulging, Sparky stared at me, bristly hair sticking out around the nylon muzzle; he growled again.

“You’re sure about this?”

She nodded. “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 hurt easily.”

“Oh really?”

She lifted 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?”

She nodded, “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 closed, I 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, snoring softly.

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 ahead.

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.

The doctor smiled and pulled out her prescription pad.

Leaving the 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.

*

Brent was surprised when he walked in the door, the table set with wine glasses and the smell of pan fried steak in the air.

He leaned over and kissed me.

“You leave your grooming crap everywhere, don’t you?” he nodded at a pair of scissors lying on the kitchen counter.

I smiled, “Just sharpening them.”

“So look at you cooking – getting all domestic on me now.”

“Things have been kind of tense between us lately,” I smiled at him, “Thought I’d take some time to set things right.”

“Just 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.”

*

Brent pushed the steak around his plate. I smiled at him, “I know I don’t do it the way you do, but I hope it’s OK.”

“Yeah, fine,” he shrugged. “Does the wine taste off to you?”

“I think it just needs to breathe a little.” I sipped mine, “It tastes alright to me.”

He tipped his glass to his lips, and frowned.

I held up my glass, “Anyway, to us.”

“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.

“Yeah, 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 Sadie.

She looked up at me, gratefully, and then meat scraps disappeared in a shower of slobber.

Brent never did like my dog. Or my cooking.

*

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.

Brent was 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.

I stepped around the puddles.

Sadie looked up at me, her tail wagging slowly, and then followed me outside.

Leaving the 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?”

He bounced 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.

After that, 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 his own.

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/.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2017