This short story is dedicated to Jesse James, who died on 21 January 2008, aged 14, the best life companion and assistant dog warden a girl could ever ask for, as long as he got to go everywhere with her. Stephanie King wrote this story the day after his death as part of a writing challenge on another website. It helped... a lot. Someone persuaded her that she should submit it to Agilitynet in his memory. The characters used in this story are the property of Janet Evanovich and are used without permission and not for profit. Not to be read before the 9 o'clock watershed.
They say that every cloud has a silver lining. I think about that a lot, because time to think is my silver lining. Itís a very thin silver lining, and it peeps around a huge black cloud of boredom that could drown me at any minute, but itís there. Of course, if I had my way it would be wrapped around a sausage instead, and it would be wrapped just tightly enough to take some real effort to get the sausage out, to make the reward worth having, but maybe thatís just me. In the world where I get my way, silver linings wouldnít hurt your teeth so much either. Youíd think that there would be an opportunity there for some enterprising mind, but no-one ever seems to think about people like me. Silver linings that donít pass right through and hurt your behind on the way out would be nice too.
But I digress. I do that a lot. Itís an occupational hazard when you spend as much time thinking as I do.
I spend a lot of time playing Ďanywhere but hereí with myself. Chasing squirrels in the park, thatís always a good one. You canít beat a squirrel as an opponent in the game of death. They think Ė yeah, thereís that word again Ė and I always respect a thinker. I have to, because therein lies my self respect. I think, therefore I am. And I am. I might be in this unintentional, loving prison, but I still am.
Anyway, there I go again Ė back to squirrels. They donít just run, they think. You see them thinking: if I jink and turn, heís too big to follow. If I can get up high enough, he canít climb. If all else fails and he catches me, I can claw his rotten eyes out, then letís see how much he wants to hold on to me. I like squirrels.
Swimming: thatís another good anywhere but here. The water is cool, and all my hair floats and I feel as light as a feather. All my instincts scream find the bird and bring it home, and itís good. Water is good. Then thereís that glorious moment when I get out and shake and my whole body is in motion and the water flies and the air feels cool and I feel fresh and alive. In this prison of mine I never miss a chance to feel alive. The moments are that much more precious for being so rare, like finding a diamond in with the coal. Not that Iíve ever understood the point of diamonds. Sausages: now those have value in the real world. You canít beat a good sausage. Little tubes full of glorious grease that bathe your whole tongue with flavour. If itís possible to experience a sensory overload of flavour, the overload would be sausage-shaped.
Running: I like running, too. Feeling all of my muscles stretch and pull and move together, and the wind ruffles my hair and I am speed and I am power and watch out world for I am the hunt and maybe it will be your turn next.
Itís possible to forget how much simple pleasure comes with using your body, with feeling your muscles slide together under your skin. But not me. I never forget. I think about it all the time. Because thatís one thing I have is plenty of time to think.
When you canít indulge in the simple pleasure of unrestricted movement, you start to rely on your senses a lot more to keep you occupied. Taste is a big one. Sweet, savoury, sharp, it doesnít really matter. Whatís important is the stimulation of your senses, the ability to feel. I feel therefore I am. I am. Remember that I am. I do. If you can taste something, you arenít bored. When you taste something you know that you are still alive. Just.
Texture is just as important. Taste without texture is fleeting, gone too soon. Taste is nothing without the pop of the sausage skin, the springy give of the tennis shoe, the crunch of the table leg.
Youíre probably thinking that varnished wood doesnít taste good, and youíre right, it doesnít. But even a bad taste is stimulation, a reminder that youíre alive.
Smell should be the best of all. Sometimes it is. Sometimes I can smell grass and trees and squirrels and birds and other people, and some of them are girls, and the smells are like bright, glowing trails in the air that I could follow for ever. Sometimes all I can smell is furniture polish.
Iíd like a wheel, too. It doesnít seem much to ask. Maybe Iím smart enough to know that Iíd be going nowhere fast, but at least Iíd be going.
Sometimes I think that it would be good to be as dumb as the hamster. He doesnít know that heís in prison. He just thinks that heís King of his steppe, just his kingdom is really small. I donít think hamsters have pack.
Heís lucky. Pack is everything. Pack is life and love and belonging. It would be good not to need pack. I need pack.
I dream of pack sometimes: I dream that we run in the forest at dusk, and I know what to do without orders. No shouting, no 'sit', no 'wait', just the knowing of it, the moment when we know and we move and we are death on many feet. Pack is power. Pack is life. I try not to think about pack too much. It makes my prison feel even smaller. I want to think about something else now. I need to chew something.
Chewing is mouth comfort. Love by mouth is the first thing we learn, the softness of mother, the suckling and mouth movement that brings life and love and comfort.
Thereís a subtle art to chewing. It goes back to texture, but thereís taste and smell to think about; the combination of them to create something that can engage and stimulate all of your senses. But it mustnít be over too soon, because then youíre bored again.
About the only thing I donít think about much is sex. Girls smellÖ interesting, but thereís nothing there, just the faintest of memories. Give me sausages instead any day.
You might be wondering why Iím still here. I wonít lie and say I donít think about leaving. I think about it all the time. Sometimes I even make a half-hearted attempt to leave, but I never get further than the end of the road. I come back for love. Well, love and dinner. I have love. I am loved. It isnít pack, but then how many people can say that they have that anyway? Human love is likeÖ half-pack. Thereís no power, or knowing, but thereís love, and sometimes thereís fun. Sometimes there are toys, and hugs, and a tiny hint that they could be pack. But then they go to work, and what happens to pack then? If they were pack they wouldnít leave you behind. Pack hunts together, even if it is just meatball subs instead of the game of death.
I need to chew something. I need pack and I have no pack and I need to chew something right now or I might break inside.
Shoe, I have a shoe. Taste of leather and smell of sweat and texture that springs and I have comfort. I am not bored. Chewing is good. I chew, therefore I am. I am.
She has the best things to chew. Shoes that have a crunchy part and a chewy part and even thin parts to pull and shred. Her shoes last longer Ė keep the boredom away for longer Ė so I open her cupboard. Itís not hard for someone who thinks as much as me. Just a little pull and a tug and here comes the door.
And then I find the Holy Grail. The best thing to chew that I have ever found. Its texture is firm and springy, and the taste and the smell are hers and they entice and allure. It is chewing heaven. It is Godís chew toy. Thereís even a part for my foot to hold it down. I hold it down and it buzzes and makes my nose tingle and I sneeze and I know that I am alive.
Of course, I forget that I am in prison, and chewing heaven has no place in prison.
'Dammit, Bob. Drop it!'
It figures that it would be her toy and not mine. Nothing good is ever mine.
'Give me that! Next thing I know youíll leave it on the floor somewhere, and I can do without Joe finding my Herbert Horsecock.'
Whoís Herbert, anyway? Is he someone like me? Because a friend would be nice. A friend who stays with me, and we could be a pack of two and the world would be better, and maybe I wouldnít be so bored.
She currently lives in Watford and trains with Watford Agility Club.