Tosca' by Calum Kerr

How did it know? And why this day of all days?

How did this dog which he had never wanted, and to which he begrudged the cost of food and the daily expenditure of energy required just so the damn thing could take a crap, know to bring him here?

Archie looked up at the dark, dirty brick of the bridge, and Tosca looked up with him. The ageing chocolate Labrador had pulled and growled, snarled and barked until Archie had, as usual, relented, and the dog had led him here. The distant streetlights did nothing to illuminate the shape of the bridge, but each approaching car – rare on this cold winter’s evening – transformed the black surface into a geometric shine.

Tosca was a stupid name for a dog, Archie had always thought, but Jack had liked it. Archie had looked it up once, and found that Tosca was an opera. Figured. What really annoyed him, though – more than it should – was that the Tosca in the opera was a female character, and Tosca the dog was male. The dog didn’t care, and Archie guessed that Jack hadn’t either, but somehow it always served to wind him up when he thought about it.

Archie had never wanted a dog. He didn’t want the hassle of looking after it. It had been bad enough with the kids but at least he’d had Edith for that. With her gone, and them moved out, he had been able to do his own thing. That was, until his sod of a brother once again showed how inconsiderate he could be, and Archie found himself dumped with Tosca.

Over the year since he’d had the dog, he’s rarely been able to walk it where he wanted to. The dog took him on his own paths. Probably places Jack had taken him, thought Archie. The pair of them had ended up in woods, down by the river, walking through the remains of old mills, wild-flowers growing through the cracks in old loom-floors.

Tonight, however, in the cold and the dark, Tosca had brought him here. They hadn’t been here before, and Archie still wondered how the dog knew about this place. Archie himself had only been back once after the accident, and hadn’t really thought about it since, but here it was again.

He stared up at the uncompromising, unyielding, blank-faced bricks and remembered the night – exactly a year ago - when he got the news; remembered going round the next day to his brother’s flat to be told by the council worker that if no-one took the dog then it would probably be destroyed – too old for re-homing they said.

He remembered and remembered, and stared upwards, lost in thought. He reached down and scratched gently at the top of the dog’s head. Tosca let out a low growl – almost a moan – and Archie felt the cold wind sting his face as it wiped away his tears.

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