Anastasia Jill

Seeing Eye Dog

Alice sees a dog in the fake flowers: a golden lab and its slobbering, edelweiss tongue. She knows there is
no dog, just sleep deprived eyes finding guidance in the periphery of her vision. The fake dog, it bounds
along the rheumy corners of her eyes. It’s been days, weeks? Since she’s slept well. Her wife is dying. This is no time for sleep.

           Donna sits in her recliner, a fleshy slip of carpet against the leather cushions. Her legs are leaky, and the chair appears to sweat. Alice sits on the couch, a book in her lap, and reads by light of the Super Bowl. The only sounds are stadium cheers and errant page flips.

           Her wife asks, “How can you read in the dark?”

           “I see just fine.”

           Alice has not read a word this night, nor any day prior. She cannot focus on anything but her
wife’s arms. They are swollen — bat wings of blood cells float in pools they should heal. Adipose tissue
mocks her: look how I can stretch, look how purple I am. Her wife’s body is failing; she sees that clear as
the vibrant colors on her polyester floral arrangements.

           Donna’s allergies worsened as her prognosis was cut in half. Alice, who normally filled their
home with lively flowers, switched to their plastic, dollar store counterparts. The sunflowers are not as
vibrant, the roses wilting like wet skin.

           Alice knows she’s losing more than just a wife.

           The Patriots score a touchdown. A referee’s whistle roars through the room.

           Donna says, “They’re on roll, I’m glad.”

           Alice doesn’t care about the Patriots. Instead, she watches Donna, who shifts uncomfortably.
Under the skin folds, there are sores, bubbling pouches of blistering pink. Alice washes them daily, places
gauze between the flaps. It does very little to deter infection.

           “Look at them go,” Donna says, pointing to the television.

           Alice looks. A fake tulip stands like an errant spine blocking her view. She studies the bulb long enough to find a husky; nose pointed in defiance, howling in a tantrum. She wishes to do the same. Instead, she closes her book calmly as a sunset tide and asks, “What do you want to eat?”

           Donna says, “I’ll have the fried fish,” in a fraction of her voice. “The fish and a glass of Merlot.” She shouldn’t have either, but Alice gives in. Healthy dining doesn’t matter at this point.

           It’s well past dinner time, but Alice doesn’t move. She watches the tulip-husky, face tilted, a myopic football game blurred in the background. Donna makes an off-hand comment about Tom Brady, his skill, his brawn.

           Alice says, “Which one’s Tom Brady?”

           “He’s off to the side, there.”

           “Damn, he’s a big guy.

           Donna was once a self proclaimed “stud.” Now, she is distended and tumefied, but face skinny and ankle weak. She could be a little better, with some lifestyle changes.

           Alice finds her pluck. “Grilled fish is better for you.”

           Donna shrugs and does not press further. Her wife is too tired from dialysis to make a fuss about things anymore. It’s sharp as a bite, how much she misses Donna’s temper.

           The fish and wine will make Donna happy. Oh well. It’s not good.

           Somewhere, in the uppermost corner of Donna’s brain, she must know Alice is beyond exhausted. Hard as it is for her, she doesn’t make it easy on Alice either. Nothing comes of this introspection, from Donna or her caregiver wife. Alice simply stands and walks away from the woman
and the game. Into the kitchen, she starts the stove, preheats the oven, and washes her hands.

           She dries them on an embroidered towel, a gift from her mother a decade ago. In faded yellow print, it boldly declares:

           A man may work from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done!

           Her own mother watched her husband wither and decay from bladder cancer once upon a time.
Alice was in college, but saw her mother buried under the weight of compassion fatigue. Her father knew death was coming, yet her mother worked tirelessly on medications and healthy diets, only to lose him one day on an errand. She was on the phone with him as she drove to Winn Dixie for his prescription and a bottle of apple cider vinegar. He died mid-sentence, asking for a donut, “For fuck’s sake, Beth, one donut ain’t gonna kill–”

           Alice found herself much like her mother, panicking when the phone rang, watching for a skip of
her spouse’s breath in the middle of the night.

           She closes her eyes. In the black lid, she sees a German Shepherd with a triangular nose and
striking blue eyes, much like the one she lost. An older lady across town agreed to adopt him when the dander became too much for Donna’s lungs. Neil, Alice had named him, was her support through the
trying times. She missed the soft pelt she’d buried her face in and cried. Neil knew when she was upset, when she needed a guide when she was blinded by affliction and needed some clarity in the terminal haze.

           Alice wants her dog and her wife. She cannot have both. According to the nephrologist, in about
six months, she will not have either.

           “Al, come here.”

           Alice obeys. Her wife points a waterlogged finger at the screen.

           “Look at that.”

           Donna can’t see much on her own anymore, but can somehow make out what’s on television. A dog runs onto the field. Spectators point and cheer, their smiles like curled pork rinds on their sweaty,
meaty faces.

           Alice knows this dog is real, unlike the ones she’s conjured up. It looks happy, bounding on the green. Even Tom Brady grins and claps his meaty hands. The dog flies through Alice’s gaze, as
illuminating as light in glass.

           She returns to the kitchen and fries the fish

Anastasia Jill

Anastasia Jill (she/they) is a queer writer living in the Southeast United States. She has been nominated for Best American Short Stories, Best of the Net, and several other honors. Her work has been featured with, Pithead Chapel, Contemporary Verse 2, OxMag, Broken Pencil, and more. IG