The first time I took you from your grave, there were spaces where your eyes used to be.
Your taut middle rippled under my fingers, the patterns in your fur familiar, though the bloating was unexpected. I’d thought you might have changed, but had expected a withered carcass, not something turgid.
When I brushed the loam from your body, you felt like an overfull bladder; not the mummified corpse I’d visualised. The skin broke when I rubbed your neck, yielding maggots small as pinpricks.
I returned you to the earth and left you there for a fortnight.
When I did it again, you were wet through, though it hadn’t rained. Gritty soil blended with your coat. I wanted to shovel earth over your body because you were rank with gases of putrefaction, but I hesitated.
I missed you. I was happy to hold you, despite the odour.
I missed you in many ways. How you’d cry for a feed, then walk around my ankles afterwards, hoping for something better. I missed your old smell, somewhere between stagnant water and sausage fat. I missed your meow, loud and operatic at times, quiet and pitiful at others. I missed you positioning your bottom against my lips, as if doing me a great service.
I put you back.
This morning I took you out again.
You have turned fragile in the last month. My spade almost split you in two. You are dry as sticks, brittle as chalk, your centre hollow. I fold the pieces this way and that. Something scuttles from you into the dirt. It is black and beaded, like an overcooked raisin, but with legs.
You are the colour of soil. Your bones roll like dropped pencils.
I know I have to stop doing this. I have to let you go.
You once inhabited the space between nose and tail, front and backbone.
Now there is nothing but emptiness where your eyes used to be.
Nod Ghosh graduated from the Hagley Writers Institute in Christchurch, New Zealand. Stories and poems feature in various New Zealand and international publications. Nod’s day job involves working in a scientific laboratory, diagnosing cancer and monitoring foetal-maternal bleeds amongst other things. Further details: http://www.nodghosh.com/about/