Playing God, postcard story

Playing God
(Or, the worst moment in a dog owner’s life. In 300 words.)

I show him the beach one last time, let him gulp the salty air from the open door of the truck. After that everything changes. Smiles fade. No matter how slowly I drive, drift logs and sea foam shear away, too fast, out of sight. In my rearview mirror I see a pale fleet of gulls. They glare at me from their runway of shining sand.
They know where I’m taking him.
Maybe he knows, too. His warm white muzzle rests on my hand. He sighs, the long sigh of one who has endured too much. Rushing wind sweeps away the stench of infection.
At birth, this dog was a slippery grey ball, falling onto straw. I know. I was there.
I push some travelling songs into the stereo. Then I reach over to ruffle his ears. He pulls away from me. Empty Judas fingers hang in air. I shut off the music. In the new silence I imagine a cock crowing, once. . . .
The road to the vet is rutted and bumpy. One big clearcut. Stygian, fire-blackened stumps loom and creak.
Twice. . . .
I cannot stop cancer cells from running amok, but I can stop suffering. Humanity allows me this. My murderous humanity.
When the plunger goes down on the final syringe, pale liquid pushes the light from his eyes, leaving only the flat grey sand of the beach.
The seagulls rise and scatter. Their wings beat chaos in the freezing sky of my mind.

Joanna Streetly

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