The Dog Catcher
Kate Wyer

"Are you gainfully employed?" I ask Mom.

She laughs. She opens her palm. There is a new tattoo of a cross on the fat base of her thumb.

"Chris gave this to me last night," she says. Her palm stays open. I give her two twenties. Her palm closes.

"I'm such a pariah!" She has always loved using that word because it sounds like piranha. She flashes her teeth.

"Are you living with a boyfriend?" I ask. "Where are you living?"

"Yes, Chris the dog-catcher. I'm staying with him." She slips her feet out of their sandals and pulls her legs into her body.

"You need a shower," I tell her.

"Of course I do," she says. "Won't you bathe me? Wash my back?"

She has reclined on the couch, arms over her head. I look away.

"Last night, Chris brought home a Doberman. They are such sexy dogs. He is supposed to bring the dogs to the pound, but he really fell in love with this one. We are going to keep him. We named him Christi."

I say, "That's nice."

She turns to watch me make coffee. "Sleeping with a dog-catcher is like nothing else. It's like I can feel all the dogs barking."

I stir in some sugar, silent. I slurp the coffee even though I know it's going to be too hot.

Again her hand is out. I give her a mug. She cups it, letting a little space form between the mug and her new tattoo.

I ask, "Why a cross?"

She looks into her hand. "It was easy, I guess. I don't know. I like it, it makes me feel good."

"Mom," I say.

She looks up.  "Sam, are you dating anyone?"

I say, "Why are you here?"

We are both quiet. The sun has started to come through the blinds.

I say, "Never mind." I pass her the cream.

Kate Wyer has stories in Fringe, Dogzplot, Abjective and others.

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Detail of photo on main page courtesy of jafferinaballerina.

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