Kate LaDew

The Dog Under Her Bed | Waiting for Indians | The Tiger Dream

short fiction

The Dog Under Her Bed (The Drinking Story)

Under her bed there was a dog no one knew existed. She fed it fourths of whatever she ate and counted her fingers as she drew them back. She didn't want the dog no one knew existed to grow so big it oozed out of her bed like steam. She never took it on walks or gave it pats on the nose. She didn't want it to move from under her bed. Every night and every morning she heard the dog's stomach rumbling, like a metal sheet pretending to be thunder.

In her dreams the dog took her places. There was always a lake and the lake was always full of fish and she always sat beside the lake and watched the fish swim. The dog always sat beside the lake and watched her. And when she first put the tips of her fingers into the cool of the lake (it was always cool as if kept in a giant refrigerator) the dog would sneak its body until it was close enough to ease her into the water. The cold enveloped her body so slowly she never fought back until it was too late, fish scattering around her as the dog held her head under the water with his paw until she thought her lungs would pop like biscuits from a can. Then the dog would sneak his body back to the grass and watch her lift herself from the lake that was as cool as a refrigerator. She heard her heart slapping against her chest, water gasping from her mouth like air. She was always angry at the dog in her dreams but by the time she woke up she forgave it. She was always sure it was the last time the dog would hold her under.

And so every night she fed it fourths of whatever she ate and counted ten fingers and listened to thunder claps and followed the dog in her dreams. They got to the lake quicker each time, as if the fish butted against the shore until it moved to meet her.

The last night as she sat beside the lake and watched the fish swim, the dog sneaked its body closer and closer until it raised up to its full height, ribs cased in hunger. The dog pushed her under the water and watched her thrash and gasp and dig her ten fingers into the sand and rocks and scattering fish. She struggled until she was half buried in the earth, the edges of her hair floating on the surface, body as cool as a refrigerator. When the dog heard the final slap of her heart, it bit off the tips of all ten fingers, holding them beneath its tongue like a secret.

The next morning, a dog was sleeping on a bed, its stomach bulging. Under the dog's bed there was a girl no one knew existed. The tips of her fingers formed two layers of stars where her heart used to be. ❦

Waiting for Indians

We sit near the edge of the woods, waiting for Indians to gallop by from some long time ago.

It was my father who heard it first, when he was a little boy, waiting out one of my grandfather's all day drunks. A tremor of horses, people's cries, unashamed pulses of sound, pushed out onto the air. He braced himself for the hooves, the blur of feathers, because they must be Indians, not Native Americans like his mother said. Real live Indians like he saw in books, racing, racing, racing towards him. The flurry passed. His eyes saw nothing. It was only his lashes, fluttering in the wake of something invisible.

He tells me now he never questioned it, just like he never questioned my grandfather about anything he did or didn't do. He waited. And it was probably true, Indians riding in those woods. And it was definitely true, what he felt that day. He remembers it like he remembers to breathe.

And so we sit near the edge of the woods, waiting for Indians to gallop by from some long time ago with the house he grew up in behind us. And if we watch all night and never hear a thing it's time worthy of living, knowing in the deep place under my heart I'll never have to wait out an all day drunk. ❦

The Tiger Dream

I was in the dream forever before I realized it was a dream and still I could not stop the tigers from eating me up. They chewed so slowly I heard every millimeter of skin tearing, every shard of bone cracking and spearing into itself, every drop of blood diverting course into the tigers' mouths and the grass below and still I could not stop them eating me. I asked once, only once, if please, they might consider letting me go, but the tigers reassured me it was better like this. If they were to stop now, who knows what I would be left with. And I saw they were undoubtedly right, for they had left my head intact, and my brain was able to turn the images upside down so my eyes could watch and be informed of what the last of me was going through.

I waited a few more moments that might have been always, they took up so much space in my heart, before asking as calmly, as politely as I could, if the tigers might eat my ears next, so the chewing and tearing and cracking could, at least as far as I knew, stop. The very biggest of the three tigers replied he would be glad to, especially since I asked so calmly, so politely. The chewing and tearing and cracking dissolved, leaving me in the always, watching my body feed the tigers bit by bit. I saw a jumble of arms and legs and fingers and toes sticking up under the soft fur and muscle of their bellies as the tigers stretched and flopped in the grass. I closed my eyes and the dream that lasted forever before I knew it was ended. I raised my head up towards the ceiling, a blur of orange and black through green coating the backs of my eyelids, a fieId of grass empty, save for three tigers, licking their paws. ❦

Kate LaDew is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Studio Art. She resides in Graham, North Carolina with her cat, Charlie Chaplin.

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