My short story – The 100 Day Journal (and an update on Duke)

Duke – an update

Our 9 year old rescue Dalmatian, Duke, has caused us a lot of worry when he had to have emergency spinal surgery in November and has since had to learn to walk again. His recovery is slow, which as anyone who knows Dalmatians will appreciate is not something that comes naturally to them. But, thanks to the skill of the nurses and surgeons at Langford Veterinary College and loads of physio and hydrotherapy he is getting there. Our biggest challenge is keeping him quiet and calm!

Note: The above picture shows him quiet and calm. This does not happen very often!

One of my favourite short stories

I was delighted to be a guest on crime writer Robert Crouch‘s blog recently and he asked some really interesting questions which were a joy to answer.

But the one that stood out – and the reason for this post – was: ‘what was the best compliment you’ve ever received for one of your books?’  (A great question to ask an author!)

I said:

“I think the best compliment of all is that someone has taken the trouble to read one of them and I am grateful to each and everyone of my readers, particularly those who are kind enough to leave a review.  I treasure every single one.  

“But one of my most treasured compliments came from a story I wrote for Woman’s Weekly.  It was about a widow, struggling to come to terms with her husband’s sudden death,  who was persuaded to keep a journal to write down her feelings.  She did so quite reluctantly but gradually came to discover just how very therapeutic writing can be. The magazine forwarded a letter they’d received from a reader, saying that she too had been recently widowed and that after reading my story, had tried keeping a journal.  And it had worked!  She found (as all writers know) that writing can be the best therapy.  That just blew me away!  

“In fact, while I’m thinking about it, I am going to put that story on my blog,”

And here it is!  So, if you’ve come here from Robert’s excellent website, welcome.

The 100 Day Journal

It was a beautiful book.  Thick creamy pages and a butter soft leather cover in a deep midnight blue.  Sue frowned as she flicked through the empty pages.

“What is it?” she asked out of politeness.  She didn’t really want to know.

“It’s a journal, Mum” Melanie said.  “You write in it.  I read this article that said how writing can be a good therapy and I thought it might help.  You know, if you write about how you’re feeling, that sort of thing.”

Help? If Sue had the energy, she would scream at her daughter.  “You think writing about my feelings would help?” she’d yell. “That putting a few words down on a page is going to fill this huge gaping hole in my life since John died?”

But Melanie was looking so anxious, so eager to help that Sue’s little spark of anger faded away, to be replaced by the usual numbness that settled back around her shoulders like an old grey blanket.

“Thank you,” she said quietly and put the book on the coffee table, intending to put it in a drawer later.  

Melanie gave a long shaky sigh, like she’d been holding her breath. “I read the article and it says that for it to work, you need to write in it every day for 100 days.”

Sue shook her head.  “I don’t think I can do that. I wouldn’t know what to write about.”

“Oh, that’s easy.  You just write about what you’ve done, or seen.  Maybe even what you feel.”

“But I can’t write -“

“It doesn’t matter.  You’re the only one who’ll see it.  Promise me you’ll give it a try, Mum?”

She looked so anxious that Sue found herself promising and quite forgot to ask why one hundred days.

Day 1.

Melanie came. Gave me this book. Said I should write in it every day for 100 days.  How I feel, what I’ve done. That sort of thing.  All nonsense really but I promised to give it a go.

Day 2.

Today I did – nothing. Felt – nothing.  Saw – nothing.

Day 3.

Today I did – nothing. Felt – nothing.  Saw – nothing.

Day 7 (I think. Forgot to count)

Today I did – nothing. Felt – nothing.  Saw – nothing. As usual.

Day 8

Melanie came. Asked how I was getting on with the journal.  Showed her and I could see she was disappointed that I’d written the same thing on every page.  But that is what my life is like now.  Same nothingness. Every day. No point in trying to explain though.

Day 9. 

Today I did – nothing. Felt – nothing.  Saw – nothing.

Day 10.

Today I did – nothing. Felt – nothing.  Saw – nothing. (Added later) Not true.  My sister came by and I’m really quite cross with her.  I thought it better to write it down rather than say it to her face.  Margaret, you’re a bossy, interfering woman.  Always has been ever since we were children.  Just because she’s a couple of years older than me, she thinks she knows what’s best for me. 

And now she wants me to meet this – this Arthur.  But there’s no way I’m going to do that.

Day 11.

Nothing. 

Day 12.

Margaret came today.  Took me to meet this Arthur.  And it was really funny.  He didn’t want to know me any more than I wanted to know him.  Ha! Serve her right for interfering.  “Give him time,” she said.  “He needs to learn to trust again. He’s got no reason to trust humans, not after the way he’s been treated.”

Day 13

I went to Margaret’s precious Animal Rescue Centre again today.  I wasn’t going to but that dog’s sad eyes haunted me so that I couldn’t sleep last night.  I told her I didn’t want a dog.  She said fine.  I told him I didn’t want a dog and that it was nothing personal but he turned his head away and wouldn’t look at me.  Margaret says it’s the human contact he needs.  He says (in dog body language) ‘Go away and leave me alone.’  Well, I know that feeling well enough.  So I will respect his wishes.

Day 14

Didn’t go to the Animal Rescue Centre.  But I can’t help wondering how Arthur is.

Day 18.

Margaret called to say Arthur’s not eating and they’re worried about him.  Said he seemed to have taken to me so will I come?  But when I got there, he was as aloof as ever.  But this time, instead of leaving him, I sat down next to him and talked.  There in that scruffy little cage thing that is now his home, I told him things I’ve never told another human being. Of course he’s not a human being. I know that. But even so I told him how frightened I was when John collapsed, how I was frozen into inaction.  How I’m sure there were things I could have done to have saved him.  CPR, I think they call it.  Only I didn’t.  I just stood there, shouting his name and panicking. How I thought if I shouted at him loud enough, he’d come back. And how guilty I feel about it now and how I can’t look  our Melanie in the eye, because my pathetic behaviour robbed her of her beloved Dad.  Arthur didn’t respond.  Kept his head turned firmly towards the wall and I can’t say I blamed him.

Day 23

I slept better last night.  Must be all the exercise I’m getting, now I’ve taken to going up to the Rescue Centre every day to walk Arthur.  Not that he seems to enjoy it.  Just plods around the field, does what he has to do.  Never stops to sniff or follow rabbits.  Still won’t look at me when I talk to him but  after we’ve finished our walk and I take him back to his pen, I sit down beside him and keep talking anyway.  Now that I’ve started talking to him, I can’t seem to stop.  He doesn’t tell me what to do, or say that I’m doing great when I’m not – or tell me what I should be feeling. So I told him about the central heating playing up today and how fixing it was always John’s job.  I was going to ask Margaret’s Brian to look in and sort it for me.  But do you know what, I got out the manual, read it through carefully, twiddled a few knobs and what do you know?  Job done.

Day 28 (I think.  Losing count!)

Melanie’s going to tell me off for not writing in this every day  but I can’t see what good it’s doing.  Every day is much the same.  I go to the Rescue Centre most days to walk Arthur and have a chat.  But he doesn’t respond.  Maybe that’s what I like about him.  I can (and do) talk to him about everything and he doesn’t try to make things right for me, or tell me what I should do or how I should be feeling.  He doesn’t respond to me in any way.  Except today.  Today, I was telling him about how I’d woken up this morning, thinking I’d had this awful dream about John being dead.  And that crushing, awful thud to my stomach when I looked across to his side of the bed and realised it wasn’t a dream.  As I was saying this, I felt something cold on my hand and went to brush it away, when I realised it was Arthur’s nose.  He touched my hand briefly then went back to his customary staring at the wall.

Now what am I going to do?  I told Margaret and she said that was a brilliant sign, that I was the first human he’d responded to.  But I don’t want him to respond to me. I don’t want him to be dependent on me.  And I certainly don’t want a dog.

Day 30

Five more nothing days.  I decided not to go to the Rescue Centre, that I was being selfish, letting Arthur think I cared about him when if I’m honest, I was only using him as a sounding board.  Might as well talk to the wall, like Shirley Valentine.  Only I don’t.  Any more than I talk to this journal.  Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Day 32.

I went to the Rescue Centre again today.  Had to check up on Arthur one last time.  Margaret wasn’t there and the girl on the desk didn’t know me.  But when I went to Arthur’s pen, there was another dog there.  I asked the girl what happened to the other dog, the weird looking brown one with mis-matched eyes called Arthur and she said he’d gone.  Has he been rehomed?  Or was he -? She didn’t know.  Said she’d go and find out.  But I didn’t wait for her to come back.  I hurried away, came home and cried my eyes out.

You see, I knew I shouldn’t have got involved with that dog and am furious with Margaret for pushing me into it.  Then, in the middle of my cry, what do you know?  The bloody central heating broke down. Again.  Nothing I ever do works and I –

Day 33

What a day.  I was writing this yesterday when Margaret came by.  She said Gilli at the Rescue Centre was worried she may have upset me.  About Arthur.  It was her first day and she doesn’t know any of the animals or the helpers.  So, what about Arthur? I asked, hardly daring to breathe.  He’s fine, she said. Missing you though.  All the time you were coming, he was gradually improving, eating a little more, taking more of an interest.  But he’s gone back to the way he was when he first came in now.

I felt a wave of relief. I thought he was…  

Day 34.

I don’t want a dog.  I told Arthur that and he’s ok with that.  I said I’d come and visit him at the Rescue Centre and he shrugged and turned his head away.  I told him I was busy and wouldn’t have time for daily walks.  And that my garden probably isn’t big enough.  And I don’t have room in my kitchen for a dog basket.  He said nothing.  

I said I have the TV on too loud which he would hate.  I told him that I get days when I’m very, very low and don’t want to talk to or see anyone.  And that I’m grumpy in the mornings. I told him next door has a cat who would hiss and spit at him.  That there was probably room in my bedroom for his basket provided he didn’t snore.  And that if his presence in the garden kept next door’s cat away from my bird table, that would be a good thing.

He said nothing.  But gave a tiny, almost imperceptible flick of his tail as he touched my hand with his cold, cold nose.

18 thoughts on “My short story – The 100 Day Journal (and an update on Duke)

  1. Such a lovely story. I have a dog and she was such a help when I was at my worst with chronic fatigue. They are completely non-judgemental. Clever to have written it as journal entries as well. Thank you for a lovely read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I am so glad you enjoyed the story. It was a joy to write. And I am so pleased your dog was a help to you when you were ill. I hope you’re feeling better now.

    Like

      1. Apologise for replying to your twice, Miriam! I couldn’t see the original reply at first, even though I was fairly sure I had replied. And as soon as I hit ‘post comment’ there it was!

        Like

  3. What a beautiful story. Even more poignant, because as a dog (actually all animals) lover with a ‘rescue’ myself, I could so relate to this. When my first husband died very suddenly at the age of 35, I was devastated and felt very much like Sue, and it was only having to care for our three horses and beloved little beagle, Hans that kept me going. He was the most loving, faithful little dog and seemed to know exactly what had happened, and feel it his duty to look after me. After a while I started to write my first novel, and although a Science Fiction Romance, put some of the emotion I was feeling into parts of the book, and yes, it was very therapeutic.

    Sue and Arthur were obviously meant to be together. Dogs are so knowing and great givers of comfort.

    I hope Duke is continuing to recover.

    Like

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment. It touched me deeply. Animals do have a way of knowing when they are needed most, don’t they? We are so lucky to share our lives with them, even for a short time. Hans sounded a very special little dog.
      I’m happy too that you started writing. There’s something very therapeutic in escaping into a world which you can control when the one you live in is spinning on its axis, isn’t it?

      Thank you again for taking the time to comment. Your words have made my day!

      Like

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