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

Playing God, postcard story

Midnight at Catface, creative non-fiction

Midnight at Catface
by Joanna  Streetly
Writing the West Coast
Ronsdale, 2008

I could have stayed there all night, I think. Breathing deeply, I would have continued to stare around me, knowing that however long I lingered, my eyes would never be able to take it all in; my pores would never be saturated; my ears would still—even now—crave the windy quiet.
Does perfection have a time limit? When does one stop the clock on a sunset? Could a moonlit mountainside ever disappoint?
There’s a shushing across my face and the air is sharp with altitude. Falling away from my feet is everything that I love—the lands and waters of Clayoquot Sound, coloured in darkness and lit with silver. The moon is lumpy, fattening for the wane, and the sea is a viscous skin, deceitful in its limpid swirling. I’m tingling as I stand there. From this eyrie, I want to reach out my arms and read the landforms like braille.
I slide down the skirt of Lone Cone mountain with my eyes, pausing at the glimmer of God’s Pocket. On to Matleset Narrows and dreams of its waterfall—frigid green pools braved only in summer; small, snuffling black bears, casual on the beaches and distant wolves brightening an inky fall night. Closer now, past Bedwell, there’d been a morning of such softness that the sky in the water had been indistinguishable from the water in the sky, until the myriad porpoises had slicked up for air all around us. Down there, past the landslide was the pygmy owl in broad daylight, and over there, on Morfee, the cliff must nearly be yellow again with monkey flowers.
These shapes hum to me through the bright night. It is an indescribable language of personal connection and memory—the language of home.
I could have stayed there longer, I know. I could have watched the moon until it set. I could have stayed beyond the moment of perfection, whenever that would be. But it is better like this, I think, because now, as I gaze up at the mountain, I can feel the allure drawing me—enticing me. And I want to go there again.

Reprinted with permission of The Sound Magazine Vol. VI, No. 2

Midnight at Catface, creative non-fiction
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