I meant to share this with you guys quite a while ago, but I was in the middle of my second-to-last week of my first (very intense) term at Oxford. So, slightly belatedly, here it is. In November, I got emailed two very specific, quite weird prompts, of which I was to choose one. I had to write a thousand word short story within a week and submit it. The four winners of Tin House’s weekly Plotto competition competed against one another and… you guessed it, I won! The link at the top of this post will lead you right to the page with my story.
I am honored, terrified, ecstatic, nervous, pleased, proud (and so many other adjectives that seem quite incompetent to describe the strange muddle of emotions in me) to share with you the following link, which leads directly to my first ever credited publication:
“Sorry. Stinky, get down. He’s got this chemical stuff all over him, you know, the flea stuff. Sorry.”
The paws receded, and the little dog with the wet, searching muzzle was pulled off my lap. His owner was a skinny woman with black hair and a bright metal ball dotting the skin above her lip. She was slurring and her voice filtered through a throat plugged by permanent cigarette smoke and a thick layer of mucus.
“Mummy’s trying to get you money. Oh, he’s so hungry. Stinky – no. You stink.”
The dog was under my legs, eating a sandwich that someone had abandoned at the bus stop. The woman saw me glance down at him, assumed that I wanted him away, and she pulled him back hard. He looked up at me with sad eyes, licking his chops.
“What’s his name?” I asked, reaching down to him. I didn’t meet the woman’s eyes. If the dog’s name was Stinky, I wanted her to admit it to me.
“Simo. Es-eye-em-oh. Si-mo.”
“He’s cute. Is he eating enough?”
“I’m trying, I’m trying, but he’s…” She stopped in the middle of her sentence. “Sorry, I’m just waiting for someone.” This was something she’d been repeating for a while. I’d stopped believing it. But this time she added, immediately, “There you are.”
The man I assumed she’d been waiting for seemed to step out of the shadows behind her, clutching a bottle of amber liquid to his chest. He looked as surprisingly clean, young and healthy as she did. He reeked of alcohol too, even worse than her. It was ironic that she thought the chemical smell coming off her dog was bad.
The woman picked up her heavy-looking black duffle bag from where she’d set it between other people waiting for the bus, scaring them away. She pulled Simo’s leash again. I continued not looking at her, kept my eyes on the dog. Animals are easier than people. Even when they’re fierce.
“Are you feeding him enough?” This was a different question than my previous one. I felt justified in asking it. The woman was shorter than me and she managed to stare at my face. I could tell, out of my peripheral vision. She had a pale face. I looked at the man behind her who was tugging at her puffy jacket now, trying to get her to move faster.
“Are you feeding him enough?” I asked him.
“Ask her, he’s hers.” He giggled, and hugged, actually hugged, his bottle. I stared. He ignored me.
“Come with us, you’ll see,” the woman said, jutting her chin up challengingly, pulling the dog’s head closer to her every time he tried to move. She was hurting him. “He eats better’n I do.” She didn’t emphasize any words; just spoke in a flat, dead tone. I met her eyes and thought about Nora, my last alcoholic.
“Okay. Show me,” I said.