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It was cold in the house, rain pouring outside and small rivulets of water dripping in through a window Maggie had left cracked open. She was dozing comfortably in a rosewood rocking chair in the living room next to the fireplace and I lay on the sofa atop a brown paisley-patterned quilt Maggie had made for me a few years earlier. A fire was lit and the warmth radiating from the flames soothed me and made my eyes heavy with sleep.
The dreary weather continued for a while longer, how long I didn’t know, maybe a week. Maggie never paid much attention to me when it was wet outside. She spent most of her time during wet days sleeping in her rocking chair by the warm fire, whimpering and making hink sounds through her nose. Sometimes a strand of her gray hair would mistakenly fall onto her face and tickle her, waking her up, but she would soon fall right back asleep. Oftentimes I wonder what she dreams about, or if she dreams at all. By the absence of life presented in her face during her slumber, I doubt she does.
The rain continued through the evening. For dinner, Maggie prepared cornbread and black-eyed peas. She put together two plates, one for herself and one for me, on which she sprinkled a few drops of hot tobacco sauce. Mixing the concoction all together into one light brown slop, just how I like it, she set it on the floor for me to eat, then poured herself a glass of tea and put her own plate on her designated spot at the table and proceeded to eat, slowly and carefully. She took small sips of tea after every other bite, gulping loudly when she swallowed as if each bite and sip were troublesome and difficult.
After we were both finished with dinner, Maggie took her seat in the rosewood rocking chair and I plopped onto the sofa, trying my best to get under the quilt because the fire had died down and it was very cold throughout the cottage. I hadn’t noticed, but Maggie had turned on the old-fashioned radio and soft, piano melodies played quietly.
“Isn’t this music wonderful?”
I didn’t know if she was talking to me, but I responded with an agreeable whine anyway.
“The rain outside is so dreadful.”
Maggie often talked to herself. It was sometimes difficult to figure out whether she was speaking to herself or to me.
She stood from the rosewood rocking chair and peered through the tattered, stained blinds at the rain. A faint sigh escaped from her wrinkled lips.
“I can’t go outside in all this mess. We’re simply forced to stay inside by ourselves.”
I stretched, lying atop my quilt again, watching Maggie as she stepped away from the window and into her room. I followed her, confused, because she was never in her room unless the night had come and it was time to go to sleep.
“I still don’t understand why the doctor insists that I take these pills. I don’t have a reason to.”
I could tell that she wasn’t talking to me this time. She was muttering to herself.
A glass of water sat on the top of the rosewood dresser, and Maggie had pulled a box full of small compartments marked with the letters S, M, T, W, T, F, and S from the middle drawer. She opened one compartment of the little box and dropped tiny white, cylinder-shaped things into her hand. She proceeded to throw the cylinders in her mouth and drank some water, swallowing hard.
She closed the lids of the box and put it away in the top drawer of her rosewood dresser. I panted and whined, unable to say anything, and gazed up at her with sad eyes. Thoughts raced through my head. What were those things, those “pills” she just swallowed?
Her eyes softened as she looked down at me.
“Oh dear, I’m sure you are hungry, you poor thing.”
Her words didn’t console me. My stomach was full from the cornbread and black-eyed peas I’d had for dinner. She stepped past me and entered the kitchen, pouring milk into a small ceramic bowl and set it on the ground, beckoning me with hand gestures to come drink. I obeyed wearily.
“Oh dear, you are not wearing your bandanna, and it is so cold in this measly cottage!”
She walked quickly back to her room and returned with a bandanna decorated with the American flag. She folded the cloth in halves and fastened it around my neck; secure enough to stay but not too tight to be uncomfortable.
When the night had come to a close, the rain was still pouring outside.
The following days passed just as the previous. Maggie woke up late in the afternoon and dozed in her rocking chair until the evening, then she cooked a meal with half-hearted interest, preparing plates for herself and me, went into her room and swallowed more of those “pills”, and retired to bed. All the while, the rain continued to drench the cottage. Cold spread through the house, seeming as thick and visible as fog on a cloudy day. I rested on my paisley-patterned quilt next to the fireplace, shivering, the fireplace black and void of fire. I still wore the bandanna that Maggie had put around my neck a few days before.
When Maggie swallowed more of the white cylinders one night, I sat in her room watching her. She put more cylinders into her mouth than she normally did, closing her eyes and letting out a long sigh after she swallowed. My lips were tightened into a frown, and my eyes felt moist and damp. I didn’t understand the feeling I was having, and it made me feel sick to my stomach, as if I knew something bad was going to happen.
Her almond colored eyes gazed down at me, full of happiness and sadness, all at the same time. A small smile spread across her wrinkly face, and she bent down and kissed me on my head. The kiss lasted longer than most of the kisses she gave me. It felt like she would never hug me again, a “last-time” hug, a goodbye embrace. She pulled herself away from me and lay down on her bed. I jumped up next to her and watched her eyes slowly close, the smile never leaving her face. Her chest stopped moving up and down, and her breathing stopped.
I whined and licked her cheek.