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by Jonathan Pinnock

She carries it with her wherever she goes, in a faux-antique octagonal bronze verdigris cage whose delicate ogives lean in towards each other at the top, meeting in a twisted wire hook. On one side, worked into the spindly mesh of the design, is the single word GAR. I have no idea what this means and she claims she doesn’t either.

It’s not its name.

She’s never given it a name.

Sometimes she takes it out of the cage and lets it sit opposite us on the table, watching us as we eat, licking its blistered lips and snickering to itself. From time to time she tosses it a tiny morsel, which it catches and swallows in one hungry movement, rewarding her with a belch and a lascivious grin.

When we make love, it squats at the foot of the bed, its eyes tracking our every caress with micrometric precision. Sometimes, at the climax, it joins in with little tender cries.

I have told her I find this off-putting.

She tells me she has no choice. It will stay with her as long as she lives. If they are separated for the briefest instant, it shrieks with the power of a thousand inconsolable new-born infants until they are reunited.

We have had to move eleven times already this year.

Every so often, I try to engage it with a smile. Mostly it ignores me but sometimes it responds by lifting a shy claw in salute. Perhaps we can still work this out.

Jonathan Pinnock is the author of the novel Mrs Darcy Versus the Aliens (Proxima, 2011), the Scott Prize–winning short story collection Dot Dash (Salt, 2012) and the bio-historico-musicological-memoir thing Take It Cool (Two Ravens Press, 2014). His second short story collection, Dip Flash, will be published by Cultured Llama in 2018. He also writes poetry from time to time. He blogs at www.jonathanpinnock.com and tweets as @jonpinnock.