‘Forty-Eight Dogs’ by Tania Hershman

So having trashed flash fiction with my comments on ‘The Exploding Boy’, I’m going to include another one. Not only that, but – God help me – it’s a dementia story too. Now everyone who’s ever judged a competition or read submissions for a magazine knows that the three favourite subjects of every single tyro short story writer are the three Ds: Death, Disease and Dementia. There’s a simple reason for this: it’s too easy to use them as a short cut to emotion.

So if it’s a dementia story, it had better be a bloody good one.

Fortunately, ‘Forty-Eight’ dogs is a bloody good one. It’s a deceptively simple story of a woman who is obsessed that her back yard is full of stray dogs, and how her husband gently tries to convince her she’s wrong. But right at the end, in the third paragraph, we get a glimpse of something else:

When he came back with the tea, her husband sighed to see her softer now. He added milk and spooned in sugar and as he leant towards her with her cup, from the corner of his eye he caught the garden, shifting slightly. And in that one blink he saw it. A tail, wagging.

First published in Metazen and collected in My Mother Was an Upright Piano, Tangent Books, 2012

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