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by Kathryn Kulpa

I had a secret dog, a dog only I could see. He was a common brown dog, medium-sized, and one of his ears drooped, and I liked to pull that ear. When I did he’d turn his head to the same side, stare at me sideways with his liquid-brown, cherry-pie eyes. “Oh, Booboo,” I’d say. 

In those days I also had a husband, one everyone could see, but some pretended not to. His eyes were powder-blue and they scanned me like an avocado at the fruit counter, measuring me for a sell-by date. 

He took me on a picnic but forgot to bring salt. I watched masses of birds across the river, birds to blacken the sky, spreading apart and folding together in jellyfish pulses. A murmuration of starlings, those birds are called. 

“I never know what the hell you’re thinking,” he said. 

In my mind I kicked off my shoes, eased myself into the river. The current would take me far away. Hands I didn’t know would pull me out of that water. 

“I’m thinking about you, Booboo,” I said. 

Kathryn Kulpa was a winner of the Vella Chapbook Contest for her chapbook Girls on Film. She is a flash fiction editor at Cleaver magazine and has stories published or forthcoming in Emrys Journal, Pithead Chapel, Milk Candy Review,  and Wigleaf. Her work was  chosen for Best Microfiction 2020 and 2021.

Lead image: “Starlings” *with edits* (via Flickr user Marilyn Peddle)