He could smell her sadness. It dripped from her like rotted onions or his favorite stink, the one just below the porch. Her face was Monday, though the weekend had come, and it still lied her workaday smile.
It smelled of death.
Death smells were frightfully interesting, on a normal day, but this one portended a sorrow future, without her infrequent belly laughs, the one she made when she hit his scratchy spot just behind the ear. His leg would dance, and she would laugh. He liked his little pack.
One is an awful, terrible number.
He could smell accepted sorrow amidst the cancer in her cells. And to his houndy nose, the one he got from his mother, it was oddly sweet, like love-soaked urine. It excited and crippled him. He would freeze there, his damp nose buried in the soft folds of her lilac-scented dress, and he sat, still, his head upon her lap. She would rub, absently, while doing whatever peoplely thing needed be done. But she could not smell the sickness, and was not houndful enough to read his point.
His father’s genes enabled him to point, but it didn’t help.
Soon, as she began to wilt, he came to fear the false redolence of her growing death. It changed, over time, or perhaps his awareness of it increased. He was far more peoplely than she was hound, as it turned out. The reek permeated the home, oozing within her veins as the sickness spread. She wilted as the flowers in the garden would when he tore them from their beds.
As she folded inside, as the pack shrank and the world began to grow bleak, he began to wail. He wept, a mournful cry, the one surely he’d learned somewhere from his mother, the one heard by the moon. He wailed the death song, nose pointed to the blurry stars, his back Pointer straight, and cried. As she lay still, the scary silence beyond her shallow breaths, he hugged his baby toy, the one that still smelled of her, and chewed. It was wet with his tongue, his droolful kisses urging it to live and live to live and live and for her, whose soul had died and left its home.
When she cut, so deep was the cut that he’d wailed her pain, the one she couldn’t feel. Her grey arms grew strangely dark and smelled of kill, fresh and hot and ill, and he sang of remembered pain that wept the heavens and heard her beating heart … that slowed and slowed … and slowed … and stopped.
And he cursed his mother’s houndy ears.
Alone he was, a pack of despairing one. He crept to her bed, coated in red, the color he could see the best and smell the strongest. It was a metallic smell, like one of garbage can lids, and beneath her fading lilac smells she began to reek of the inside of the can. He rested his mournful eyes, lay his heavy head by her side, wishing, wishing he could have been people enough to save her.
Four legs are far too many to find their way through sorrow. So by her side he lay, as faithful puppies do, with the sound of silence deafening and empty in the air.