Tonight the dog isn’t behaving. He’s had a go at Tilly the cat and is now twisted and leering; refusing to walk in single file. Behind him, I’m cursing and tugging at his lead while his goofy face drools spit. Then he squats right in front of a house.
I’m weighing up my options until I notice two people on the verandah watching me. I look down at the dog and realise I have no escape. They’re waiting to see what I do next. Then the woman gets up and walks towards me with a drink in her hand.
There’s nothing to do but apologise. Ask for a bag. Make sure the dog doesn’t tread in it. Try and be quick about it. Not engage.
I’ll give you a bag on one condition. You stay and have a drink with us.
There’s a man there too, slunk in the bull-nosed veranda’s shadows. When he stands up I can see that he is old enough to be the woman’s father. Gnarled with eyes that dart.
I really just need a bag and then I have to
But the woman cuts me off and tells me her name is Michelle. That she used to live in Cairns but came to Adelaide for a fresh start. She looks me up and down and starts talking about people I don’t know as if I do.
Stu her Ex.
Tracy and Dave.
Dave’s dog Kruger.
She talks about them quickly, ignoring all the full stops while she runs the fingers of one hand continuously through her long, straight hair. She is wearing a lot of makeup for a Tuesday night but she looks worn, her glass is rimmed with dark matte lipstick. Behind her there are toys buried in the long grass and hanging from a tree along the fence is a stuffed monkey with all its limbs torn off. There are no sign of any kids.
I have Vodka or Bourbon.
Michelle keeps letting her glass lean so drops of liquor fall onto her jeans. She doesn’t seem to notice and tells me that Mick is her new man. She winks at me and says they have only been dating for a week while I shift on one foot and pretend the dog is needier than he is.
She’s right next to me on this street at dusk. I’m inching back; trying to remain polite against her breath. I can see the lines around her lips, a small scar near her collarbone. She talks faster, chipping at things I don’t want to reveal.
Are you married?
Where do you live?
Where do you work?
Do you like to party?
When Mick returns with a crumpled Foodland bag, I grab it too quickly to scoop up the dog’s mess. Michelle doesn’t let me leave without the bag.
Give it here.
I hand it over. It’s darker now. The street is empty.
You owe us now. Next time you won’t be able to refuse a drink.