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The London Magazine| August/September 2022

Over the years he had slowly downgraded his ask from a dog to a rabbit before eventually getting his way via a goldfish that hadn’t managed to see out a month. He’d hoped his mother could at least tell him about the neighbour’s pets as compensation. But it was not to be.

I’ve told you a hundred times, Colm, it doesn’t work with animals…

I can see people and photos of people and paintings of people and even ornaments that are shaped like people…

but there is nothing bloody doing when it comes to animals.

Colm thinks of this, of her, as the train begins to slow. He turns her over like a dry leaf. With every twist and every inspection, he risks a break, a crack in the margins, in his outline of her. She is three weeks gone and things are getting brittle already.

Colm lets the window of the train vibrate against his skull. If he gets the distance right it hurts just enough to distract him from the day ahead. His plan for the day is to be useful. When he doesn’t know what to do, he will have a look around and ask himself what might be useful. That’s his plan. Stack a chair, clear a plate. Be useful.

He’s been doing it for weeks, keeping busy to block her out. If he keeps busy it quiets her. Stops her breaking in. He has found that if he is still for too long, he starts to hear her. She is always almost laughing. Too much, that. Too much for now.

ah, and you might ask Colm, what if I see a picture of a person WITH an animal…?

well, you can use your brain on this one. In that case, I just see an empty space where the animal is supposed to be and then take my best guess…

I’ve got pretty good at it, if the person is floating then it’s usually a horse, and if there is a lead or a collar then things get simpler still.

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