'The mystery of Bay 53' by Sharon Telfer

You’re clattering across the car park with the files from your two o’clock slithering under your frankly by now full-on sweating armpit, the phone on loudspeaker under your chin, letting Jasminder know you’re going to be late for your 4 o’clock and can she please call on because you’ll be driving and, under your breath as the signal drops in and out again, if Jasminder could also tell you where you parked the bloody car in the first place that would be tremendous and while she’s there does she know what on earth possessed you to buy a silver hatchback when the world is full of them each one exactly the same as the other, and your fingers are clawing in your bag for the keys which are just as elusive as the bloody car but at least if you could reach them you might be able to get the damn thing to bip its dinky little lights for you when you almost step in it and, though some instinct makes you swerve a neat last-minute side-step, there go the papers all over the tarmac.

For fuck’s sake, isn’t there supposed to be a law about cleaning up your dog’s shit these days?

You’ll call her back, you tell Jasminder.

You squat, awkward muscles and joints complaining of too many hours behind the wheel and on metal-legged chairs in rooms darkened by vertical blinds. You reach gingerly for the nearest spreadsheet. At least nothing actually landed in it.

But it’s not shit at all.

It is as plush and black as the inside of a jewellery box. Its pinhead eyes are as blind in death as they were in life. Its velvet coat ruffles in the slight breeze. Its great paws are lifted as if in prayer, its snout raised to follow some irresistible scent.

How did it end up here, when everything for yards around is concreted over? 

You pick up a sales brochure, slide it gently under the tiny corpse. You hold it carefully in front of you like a ceremonial plate as you walk past bay after bay towards the thin line of cotoneaster and stunted mountain ash by the exit, the only growing things for as far as you can see. With each step you go back one year, two years, twenty or more into the field stretching down to the stream, and the tree pollen is tickling your nose, somewhere a blackbird is singing in the early morning light, and you’re hunkering down like it’s the easiest thing in the world, watching the soil heave gently into soft mounds as if the earth itself is breathing.




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