The Long Walk

Mother and daughter walked together along the dappled path through the forest next to the beach. One strong and sturdy-looking, her children back at school, itching to go faster, to rush. The other slightly stooped, panting gently, laden with thick layers in spite of the crisp Autumn day. Sporadically, a small dog would appear to check on them. By far the sprightliest of the party, it dipped in and out of the trees, relishing the feeling of sand beneath its paws, bogs to wallow in and pheasants to spook. As the duo meandered forward in a long-established companionable silence, they reminisced about previous afternoons filled with familiar tracks and gone-but-not-forgotten canine comrades. They even permitted themselves to consider the future. Shorter walks certainly, then fewer walks, then none at all. Downsizing, carers, weekend visits, a stench of urine. A separation.

They came to a parting in the trees and the azure-blue ocean seemed to glow in front of them, sparkling enticingly. Conjuring up Sirens and mermaids and folklaws, the women stared out and revelled in its beauty. Their reverie was suddenly broken when the dog snuck up on them and shook vigorously, its coat wet from swimming, the droplets cold against their legs. Laughing – “Oh, you rotter!” – they continued on their way.

Later, in the car ride home, a smell of fish seemed to shadow them. Whether it was from the trout sandwiches they had eaten at the beach, or whether the dog’s secret romps were to blame, the distinctive smell permeated their hair, nostrils and the back of their throats. The sweet, rotting undertones overwhelmed and intoxicated them and it seemed that wherever they went, they could not escape the scent of decaying fish.

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