Glimmers of midday warmth couldn’t skim the frost off the lawn that November day. The ground was rock hard, and Jack’s eighty year old muscles strained as his shovel cracked the surface. Sweat milked his brow, but he persevered with the duty residing in a bin liner at his feet. He had to bury the dog.
The hound had passed on three days ago. Natural causes. In dog years he was actually older than Jack, although each hack of the shovel into the icy earth added a year to the old man. He sweated heavier, his heart thumped louder, his ears grew number, and every breath was a swallow of glass, but the hole slowly grew into a pet grave beside the rose bushes.
The dog had never liked him. They shared his wife’s company, never each others. The yappy rat had chewed Jack’s slippers, shit in his shoes, peed on his cornflakes, stared with disdain at his false master and growled menacingly whenever his wife’s back was turned. Over the years the antipathy had grown mutual.
Jack hated the hound, but after many years had finally bested the beast. He’d outlived it. He began to laugh, but the giggle choked in his throat, as his left flank tingled with a million needle pricks. He toppled to the ground, his head landing in the freshly dug hole beside his furry nemesis. As he palpitated his last Jack couldn’t decide if the howling he heard was freezing wind or canine chuckling.