April 27, 2012
by Jude Ellery
I never found out about my dad’s cheating till a few years ago, and he hid his drinking from me too. But still, I wasn’t sad when he left. He was a coward.
Now, I’m not saying he should’ve gone all out, become vegan, started buying tofu shoes and dusting the pavement to avoid stepping on bacteria — I’m just saying he could’ve saved Harriet. Sure, she was sick. Probably didn’t have long left, even I could see that as a six-year-old girl. Six months to a year, probably. But just because she’d started pissing herself and bleeding on the carpet, it didn’t mean he had to get a vet to stick a fucking needle in her neck and kill the bitch.
She just lay there on the kitchen floor, paralysed from fear, or from the drugs they were pumping into her trembling little body. Really little, she was — she’d never been a big dog, but she’d wasted away too, what with the lack of exercise and whatever disease she’d contracted. Dad thought she’d probably caught something from the bins out the back where she was always rummaging around. He tried to stop her going there, but the poor thing wanted to hunt for her own food, retain that bit of independence. I helped her sneak out there when Dad wasn’t around.
Mum had put newspaper down to soak up the various fluids Harriet was oozing, but when the vet’s needle went all the way in it must’ve relaxed her muscles, because the piss just flowed out of her like a tsunami, flooding the kitchen floor. It was like she’d been holding it all in, building it up for a whole week as one final “fuck you”. Mum tutted and scolded poor Harriet and tried to mop it up with the tissue handkerchief she always had in her pocket. That’s right, have a go at a dying dog, Mum. She wasn’t exactly in my good books for the following few weeks either, but at least she’d tried to talk dad out of it like me. At first, anyway.
Quality of life. It was all about quality of life, Dad kept saying. Cruel to keep her alive when she was in pain, and couldn’t go out any more. Cruel to fucking kill her, I’d said, and I think he’d been more shocked about my swearing than that I was standing up to him. He wouldn’t listen, and after a two-hour conversation in the kitchen with Mum (I’d been sent to my room, but the odd muffled phrase like “cost the earth” and “ruining the new carpet, dear” told me all I needed to hear), she, too, was of the opinion that putting Harriet down was the only option.
I tried to tell him I’d care for Harriet, I’d clean up her mess and I’d feed her and bathe her and do everything to make her comfortable, but dad just kept repeating that phrase. Poor quality of life, dear. Not fair on the poor thing, dear. It was like he’d been brainwashed — you know how people just regurgitate things they’ve heard down the pub, or on TV or in the papers? Recycled opinion, that’s what it is. They’re coming over here taking our jobs. They’re a bunch of diving, cheating foreigners, that lot. It’s all this bloody Government’s fault. It wasn’t like this in my day. You’ve gotta laugh.
So there she was, my poor little Harriet, doing quite the opposite of laughing, the life seeping out of her as the seconds ticked by on the big white wall clock, looking up at me with her big brown pleading eyes. Why are you doing this to me? she was asking. What did I do to deserve this? Nothing, was my silent reply. Nothing. Dad’s a monster and he’s too big a coward to do the right thing. Didn’t even have the decency to bury her, just left as soon as the vet had been paid and went to the pub. That was left to Mum and me.
So, last week, when I heard Dad chatting with his mates about the Grand National, I came up with the perfect way to help Harriet get revenge from the grave. He was a right arse, dad was; as I grew older I saw him less and less as my father and more like the booze-filled, lying, cheating coward he was. Didn’t have the balls to tell Mum he’d been having an affair, nor care for a dog, and now he was laughing about some horse that’d been shot, that his mate had put a tenner on. Great laugh, that. Bullet in the head, chortle, chortle.
The poor thing had fallen and broken its leg. Once a racehorse breaks its leg, it’s no use any more. So they shoot it. When I found this out I swore never to put another pound on the horses. Don’t support that shit. But now, I had an even better form of revenge planned, for Harriet and this murdered horse, and my poor mum who’d put up with this pathetic man for the first eight years of my life, and God knows how many before that.
It’s ever so sad. Dad’s been diagnosed with Huntington’s. They say within five years he’ll have gone doolally, and will more than likely end up on life support, too.
Well. Sounds to me like he won’t be enjoying a great quality of life now, will he? So, the only thing for it will be to put him out of his misery. There’s nothing I can do, Dad…
The Coward’s Way Out by Jude Ellery is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License