Jan/Feb 2014  •   Fiction

Anything At All

by Randall Brown

Image courtesy of the British Library Photostream

Kipper, our King Charles Cavalier, wakes me up with "Cheerio!" In the afternoon he asks for tea and crumpets, calls me "Guv'nor." It's been that way for the past three days, since the wife and kids left for Santa Domingo without me. It'll take awhile for me to adjust to the new medicine, a last chance before some kind of institution, no shit. It's come to this. Somewhere my wife backstrokes with her parents in an infinity pool, the chef serves them a holiday shepherd's pie, the kids float in the ocean, wave to cruise ships. I'm a million miles from them, in winter, out by the covered pool and dead trees, the King Charles chasing doves while someone sings "Feed the Birds." I'm scared, terrified. "Wish me luck," I say to Kipper. "Bugger off," he barks. I have to keep the anxiety at bay, accept uncertainty, stop fleeing and hiding away as I did as a kid in a world I couldn't control. I see worms, or is it grass, or is it an old acid trip, aneurysm, stroke or nothing, nothing, fuck. Don't try to make it stop; don't push the panic away. Accept it. Let it in. Okay. All the birds chased away, Kipper leaps on my chest, stares at me. He has such a small head. All fluff, like Winnie the Pooh. He curls up and falls asleep in the crook of my neck. I want a head like that, I say to him. I'd give anything for it.