Salt Dogs

Betty, our neighbour’s cat has jumped on his car. Get off, Betty, he says laughing, wanting to drive away but can’t. I call her. She comes eventually, jumping down off the bonnet with a tinkle of her bell. It’s the warmth of the engine, I’d said, when he told me a few days ago about her doing the very same thing. Our farmyard cats used to the do the same with Dad’s jags. He hated it. Bloody cats, he’d say, trying to wipe off their muddied paw prints with his handkerchief.

There was a dead seal on North Beach this morning. Washed up, it’s immobile body dotted with red flowers of blood. Just like flowers, the fake ones that magicians use. Flowers of blood. Flowers of death. Do you think it was attacked? I asked him at breakfast. Probably, he said. By porpoises or dolphins, I asked. One of the other, he said. It looked so heavy. So heavy in death. Will the tide reclaim it? I asked, or will someone have to come and take it away? I don’t know, he said, clearly wanting to read his paper.

The back of truck read ‘Salt Dogs’. It had a kind of funnel mechanism on the back. A salter. Do you call them that? A small truck, salting the road. Pink salt. They said there would be frost. It was just two where we are, she said as she passed our goods through the scanner. I don’t mind the cold, she said, its the snow.

The grief always takes me by surprise. It pours out. And then more. It was the love in his eyes, his concern and care that made me start all over again. And then the next day I wonder what was all that about. Just do it. Just do the work. All this thinking. And yet, that is what I do, think. Think away the concern, the failings, the insecurity. And I feel so tainted by it. The grief. Tawdry. Ugly. I need to go back. My dream told me that. I was in a large department store and someone, a girl, an irritating girl, was helping me fill a trolley. I was buying clothes for a child. And then when we got to the till to pay she lost the trolley. So we had to start all over again. Start all over. Some of the clothes were exquisite, made with filigree and diamonds. Diamonds on the soles of her shoes. (The Desert Island Discs guest yesterday kept quoting from songs, too.)

Is such grief a madness? Is this disquiet, this unpeacefulness a madness? They told her she has a mild personality disorder. What is that about? Are our personalities so fixed, so rigid, so determined that they can’t wobbled, can’t become disordered without seen as an illness? They told another girl the same thing. A beautiful girl with sharp blue eyes, deep blue eyes and auburn hair whose name I always confuse. They told her the same. Incarcerated her for a time. When they let her out she threw herself under a train. Is such grief at not being good enough a madness? Not fitting in. Not feeling right? May she rest in peace. Forever.

Did you hear the fireworks? he asked when I went in to wake him. No, I said. Oh, good, I did worry. They were quite loud and seemed to be just outside. Just here. No, I didn’t hear them. Dead to the world.

A milky sky.



By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.