October 27, 2020
"Her coat is so warm" by Rosie Garland
Inspired by "The Lovecats" by The Cure
My wife stops using the bathroom. Says she doesn’t need soap and water; can clean herself fine. After dinner, she stretches full length on the fireplace rug, tonguing the gaps between her fingers.
I love you, I say.
I wrap my arms around her, tight. She bears it for a count of three before flailing her limbs and wriggling away. She catches my cheek with a fingernail, slashes it with a deep red warning.
She grows fur where wives do not: in her armpits, around her navel, in a slither down her spine that loses itself in the crease between her buttocks. I’ll take her any way she is. I’m a broadminded guy.
She sleeps on my face, muffling my breath. I didn’t think it possible to be allergic to your wife. I take anti-histamines. They work for a week or two, before I start sneezing again. She rolls her eyes and curls up at the bottom of the bed. Says she’ll sleep there, if I’m going to make such a big deal.
When I wake in the night, she’s gone.
I pull the curtains aside, spilling moonlight across the lawn. Pawprints lead away from the house and disappear under the hedge.
She’s back every morning. She brings in a mouse, still struggling to breathe; a pigeon with a snapped leg that batters itself senseless against the kitchen cabinets. Its feathers leave dusty smears across the quarry tiles.
Stop doing that, I say.
I take to locking the door. She throws herself against it, yowling. Tears her fingers to shreds, trying to claw through. The neighbours give me funny looks. After she hurls herself through the window and breaks the glass, I give up...
The smell she drags in on her fur, of other men’s shirt collars and trouser pockets. I watch and pray for my own hair to grow, but it doesn’t happen.
I’m yours, I say. You’re mine.
I flash the ring. She lifts a leg, holding it vertical like the mast of a sailing ship; bends her neck into an impossible position and licks the valley between her thighs. I know marriages hit rocky patches. I know people change.
Let me change with you, I say.
She prowls close, as if for a kiss. Grabs my hand. The rasp of her little tongue, licking and licking until the delicate skin blushes, pinpricked with blood.
I love you, I say, louder. I want to understand. Take me with you.
The way she looks at me. Her teeth are long and yellow, edged with the blood of animals that stand in her way.
Writer and singer with post-punk band The March Violets, Rosie Garland’s work appears in New Flash Fiction Review, Under the Radar, Spelk, Manchester Review, Interpreter’s House, The Rialto, Ellipsis, Butcher’s Dog, Longleaf Review, The North and elsewhere. New poetry collection ‘What Girls do the Dark’ (Nine Arches Press) is out now. Latest novel The Night Brother was described by The Times as “a delight...with shades of Angela Carter.” In 2019, Val McDermid named her one of the UK’s most compelling LGBT writers.