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  • How I chose a name for my dog

    I was sick,
    so no one played with me.

    I saw a black cat catch a mouse.
    It happened in an instant. All I saw was a dark shadow leaping out, and before I knew it, there was a black cat with a mouse in its mouth.
    The mouse didn’t even twitch - perhaps the cat had hit its vitals. As if noticing my gaze, the cat looked my way.
    Her large, golden eyes were wide open.
    Only moments later, the cat vanished off into the alley.

    I let out a great sigh. How beautiful it was. The image of that black cat was burnt into my sight.
    Such a nimble body, and with eyes like full moons. Gold like mine, true. But I had no fangs like her. And I had no freedom.

    I sprawled out on my dirty bed and gazed outside. All I could do every day was look out the window into the back alley.
    Why, you ask?
    Because to do so was my way of life, and my duty.
    The people passing through didn’t notice me. And if they did, they pretended not to notice the pale girl glaring at them.
    Honest people scowled as if they’d seen something taboo, and quickly departed.

    Naturally. These were the slums.
    Everyone is focused on living for themselves, unable to spare the time to lend others a hand.

    My mother gently calling my name returned me to reality.
    “Did you see something?”, she asked, placing a bucket of water down on the floor.
    Perhaps she’d noticed how I looked outside with more of a gleam in my eye than usual.
    I nodded slightly and opened my mouth.

    “A cat…”
    A voice more worn than I was expecting came out.
    I coughed slightly, then continued.
    “I saw this dark black cat catch a mouse.”
    “Ah,” she smiled. Her loosely-wound light brown hair swayed above her collarbone.
    She dipped a cloth in the bucket of water and wrung it out. She neatly folded it, then put a hand on the blanket.
    “I’ll change your bandages.”
    As soon as I nodded, she pulled the blanket up to my knees.

    I had bandages wrapped around both my calves. There were faint splotches of red in places.
    When she removed the bandages, the cracked skin discolored an awful red became evident. Mother began wiping it with expert hands.
    I tried to tell her about how quickly, how elegantly the cat had caught the mouse. But as it truly had been over in mere moments, I soon ran out of things to say.
    While I kept silent, mother finished wrapping my bandages and pulled the blanket back up.
    She looked at my head, and as if only just noticing, said “Oh, your ribbon’s slipping.”

    She reached for it. Not that I would know myself if it was slipping or not.
    She smiled and gestured for me to look the other way. I obliged, turning my body toward the window.
    She untied my red ribbon and began to slowly comb my long, light-purple hair. Carefully, so it wouldn’t touch the bandages on my face.
    I knew not to move a muscle. I waited for her to run the comb through the entirety of my waist-length hair, from top to bottom.
    It was almost like she was playing with a doll.

    Every time her arms moved, a sweet scent grazed my nose.
    My mother always carried an aroma like sweet confections. I would expect it was because it was her job to make such things.
    She always replaced my bandages around evening. Which was roughly the time she came home. I liked the combination of her sweet smell and the slightly chilly air that set in as the sun set.
    Time passed slowly.
    I closed my eyes in comfort.

    Just then, mother whispered.
    “I’m sorry I can’t let you play outside.”

    My eyes flew open.
    A small electric current ran through my head. It was a sort of signal, warning me of danger, that rendered me immobile.
    I had to choose the right words at times like these. The gears in my head turned to find an answer. All this in only a moment.
    I replied as cheerfully as I could muster.
    “It’s fine. I like playing inside the house, you know?”, I said, looking toward my mother.
    She smiled and combed my hair as if nothing had happened. Once I’d confirmed her smile, I awkwardly brought a smile to my lips.

    I was born sickly.
    But that isn’t to say I was always confined to this dark room from birth. I couldn’t see the sky from this window, yet I knew the blueness of the sky and the smell of the grass. When I was younger, I had played outside.
    Since birth, the skin on my face and legs was inflamed. There was something wrong with my joints, so it hurt even to walk.
    No one knew why. Much less how to cure it. There were no decent doctors around here, nor did we have money to spend.

    I recalled what the fortune teller had told us.
    “This girl’s sickness is to be blamed on the wrongdoing of her ancestors. She will suffer for eternity.”
    My mother shouted something, and took me by the hand out of the fortune teller’s. As we went through the alleys, her face was so pale that it seemed she was about to faint.
    Ultimately, all mother could do for me was protect my skin with bandages and have me drink medicine.

    I didn’t know what it meant. At the time, I was just a child, who just wanted to play outside. There was pain in my legs, but not enough that I couldn’t walk. My mother had allowed me to go out and play as I wished.
    I could hide the bandages on my legs with a skirt, but not those on my face. Every time I moved or scratched my face, the putrid skin like crushed earthworms was plain to see through the gaps in the bandages.
    Children my age found me repulsive. It wasn’t a contagious illness, yet parents feared me and would not let their children near.
    Some would see me and whisper at a distance. I feigned ignorance and played alone, sniffling slightly. Yet it was still better than being in a gloomy room.

    When I tired of playing, I’d return home.
    I’d lie down, leaving my dirty clothes and bandages as they were, and wait for mother to return.
    One day, she returned from work like usual. “Did you have fun?”, she asked, reaching for my dirty clothes.
    I saw her hand.
    I don’t know why, but I was overcome with unease, and every pore seemed to sweat cold.

    …Were mother’s hands always so rough?
    I couldn’t open my mouth to ask. Just imagining asking made my legs buckle. I felt I heard a whisper - “It’s your fault.” I trembled.
    I couldn’t definitively say the roughness of her hands was entirely due to her attending to me. But there was no doubt it had an effect on her life.
    At this rate, my mother would surely someday abandon me.
    That was the hunch I had.
    You can only be kind to people when you can afford to.
    My mother said nothing. And yet without words, I saw her tightly-pursed lips blaming me, and was frightened.

    No. I don’t want to be abandoned.
    It screamed through my body.
    I believe that was when those signals started to fly in my head.
    Starting the next day, I stopped going to play outside. I just obediently waited in bed for mother to return from work. I would get itchy, but refrained from scratching. I wanted to keep the time she spent tending to me to a minimum.
    She thought it odd to see me do this, but only at first. Soon enough, she stopped paying it any mind.
    In fact, she seemed to become kinder than usual. Perhaps only my imagination, but it didn’t matter. I was much, much more terrified of losing my mother’s love than of not being able to play outside.

    By the time I turned seven, I was a prisoner.
    I had chosen the foolish path of a prisoner, bound by the chains of bandages, given only the food of my mother’s love.

    “There we go.”
    Mother adjusted my ribbon and held up a hand mirror.
    I saw in the reflection a skinny girl with face wrapped up in bandages. Light purple hair decorated with a red ribbon. Beside me, a woman with rustling light brown hair, quietly smiling.
    She hugged me from behind, and gently swung my body like a cradle.
    “My dear Ellen…”
    I was put at ease in my mother’s sweet aroma. I grabbed her thin arms and closed my eyes.

    My mother. Mother who had loved me.
    I loved her as well.
    To be abandoned by my mother would be the same as death.
    Because she was the only one who loved me.
    If she wasn’t smiling, then neither could I. If she wasn’t loving me, I couldn’t breathe.
    Like such a weakling desperate to have something to hold on to, I clung to my mother’s love.

    Because these were the slums.
    Just like everyone here was desperate to live, I was desperate to have her love.

    “…Dammit! You gotta be shittin’ me!”
    The sound of the front door violently opening told me that father had come home.
    Mother and I parted in surprise. Or rather, it was she who immediately let go.
    She held my hand, and the slight shaking of her own told me her nervousness.

    It was a small house, so the entryway and where I slept were nearly connected. There was a big table in the middle of the room; father sat and slammed a bottle he was carrying down on it.
    I didn’t know what kind of job my father had. I recall he came home later than mother.
    His short hair and worn clothes were always dirty with soil or whatnot.
    “Gonna have to take out another loan…”
    He muttered something. I knew that he wasn’t talking to himself, but directing it at mother.

    She talked to him questioningly.
    “What about the union?”
    Father just shook his head.
    “Not gonna happen, they won’t talk. And they knew we got nowhere else to go, so - dammit!
    As if angered by the memory, he kicked a nearby bucket.
    Mother squeezed my hand tightly.

    Time passed awkwardly. The tick, tick of the clock echoed through the room.
    Father let out a big sigh, and his gaze wandered. He looked past my downturned mother into my eyes.
    I was startled, and opened my mouth to say something. But in a moment, he looked away with annoyance, taking a swig of the drink he had with him.
    My heart sank deep.
    It was always this way.

    My father didn’t look at me.
    He treated me like I didn’t even exist.
    He never said he loved me and hugged me, but he never said he hated me and scolded me. There was no doubt he was consciously aware of me. In fact, it seemed he did all he could to keep me out of his vision entirely.
    I once asked my mother, “Does father hate me?” She solemnly shook her head no. “Certainly not. Your father works for you, Ellen.”
    “Then why won’t he talk to me?” She laughed a little and said, “He’s just shy.”
    I wanted to believe her. I wanted to think that my father loved me.
    And when I hoped that his glances at me had meaning, I generally found myself disappointed.

    My father never said my name.
    He only said my mother’s.

    At length, he rose from the chair and approached.
    His target wasn’t me. It was mother.
    He roughly pulled her by the hand. My hand and hers were separated, like we were lovers torn asunder.
    Father dragged her into the other room - the only other room - and closed the door. Afterward, I heard the sound of a lock from inside.
    And then I was left alone.
    I heard a clamor through the wall. The noises became quiet, then changed to speaking voices.

    This was the usual.
    They would always talk where I couldn’t see them.
    I didn’t know what they were doing. But I felt like it was something necessary for relationships between a man and a woman.
    I once asked my mother when she exited, “What were you doing?” She just worriedly laughed.
    At these times, I could smell something distinct from her sweet confection smell from around the back of her neck. I supposed it might have been father’s smell.

    While they were talking, I wasted time pointlessly looking outside and scratching away the labels on medicine bottles.
    I wanted to say that I had been given some time to be free.
    In truth, I was being left behind. But it made me sad to think about that.

    When I got bored of scratching labels, I reached for an old doll I kept underneath my bed.
    It was a doll of a blonde-haired girl. She wore a purple dress and a hat, not to mention an eerie smile.
    Mother had given it to me, saying “There weren’t any dolls with hair like yours, Ellen. But her clothes are the same color as your hair!”
    I accepted it, feigning happiness. I didn’t care what color the doll’s hair was. After all, I didn’t exactly like my own hair.
    My hair was the same faint purple as my father’s. But I would have liked it to be light brown like mother’s. Maybe then, if I had hair like hers, father might deign to look at me.

    I brushed the doll’s hair with my hand. The golden yarn was all knotted up, making it tricky for my fingers to pass through.
    I grew annoyed. I pushed my way through to force the knots out. The doll’s inorganic eyes seemed to speak to me.
    …“That hurts.”
    Shut up. It can’t hurt. You’re a doll.
    …“And aren’t you a doll yourself?”
    I was no doll.
    I denied it, deep in my heart, but recalled myself as mother combed my hair.
    I was perfectly still, letting her do as she liked. I just sat waiting for her to move the comb from top to bottom.
    Am I a doll?
    …“You are.”
    I continued to pull away the knots in the yarn.
    My eyes aren’t dead like yours. My eyes can see all sorts of things, all sorts of places.
    The doll giggled, its neck turned in an odd direction, and its face the same as ever.

    …“Places like that back alley? And what else?”

    I felt the blood rise to my face.
    I immediately threw the doll. It hit a wall and landed on a pile of clothes on the floor.
    I hid my head under the covers, not wanting to hear anything.
    I hated being alone. It made me think too much. It made me hear too much.
    I prayed for mother to come to my side soon, and shut my eyes tight. I wasn’t cold, but my body shivered. Soon enough, I fell asleep.

    When I came to, mother was stroking my cheek with the palm of her hand. Her expression was hollow, but when she saw me, she smiled.
    “You’re awake?”
    I silently nodded.
    Just looking at her face calmed me.
    “I’ll bring you some water.”
    She stood up from the chair and went to the sink.
    Come to think of it, it was medicine time.

    I looked out the window. Night had yet to fall. It must not have been too long that I was asleep. I stared off into space as I thought, still drowsy from my nap.
    My eyes casually followed my mother’s back.
    I wonder why? It looked to me less like she was working for my sake, and more like she was fleeing from something.
    But from what?
    I saw past the door of the other room. Father, who was surely still there, wouldn’t drag my mother by the hand again.
    Finally, my mother returned with a cup of water and a powder medicine. I slowly sat up in bed and took them.
    Then, when I absentmindedly looked at mother’s face, I was taken aback.
    I caught my breath, as if I’d realized a staggering fact.

    My mother looked incredibly beautiful.

    It wasn’t the structure of her face. Her hair was a mess, and she scarcely wore any makeup. She just feebly smiled.
    But her lower lip was red from being chewed too much, and that red felt like the only color in this dark room.
    Her downcast eyelashes sometimes shook with remembrance. Her gaze, breathing, clasped hands, they all seemed to have significance.

    This woman is alive, I felt.

    I gulped down the medicine. But it didn’t taste bitter. My stomach had long become accustomed to bitter things.
    Yet the water in the bottom of my stomach became like a writhing snake, and tried to escape out my throat.
    I was going to scream, but instead called for her.
    My voice trembled. I was about to cry any second.
    As mother must have seen it, I was a child worried for her. She held my hand and gently hugged me.
    Unable to express the feelings I had just realized, I desperately clung to her body.
    Was I unable to express them? I don’t know why I thought so. To be exact, I wanted to pretend I couldn’t.

    Even wrapped in mother’s aroma, the blackness in my chest didn’t go away. In fact, it only seemed to deepen.
    I was flustered by this feeling I’d never felt before.
    This thing born in my chest.

    It was hatred.

    I loathed her. My mother who made me feel that she was alive. My mother who continued to accept love from a father who wouldn’t give any to me.
    I was confused to feel such a brutal emotion.
    How could I hate my mother, who was so kind and adoring? I sternly admonished myself.
    To do away with the bitter thoughts, I clung tighter to her arm.

    Even if mother is the only one who seems to have color, that’s fine.
    As she embraces me like this, she’s coloring me, too.
    I am Ellen. Mother’s beloved daughter. I don’t need anything but that.

    I desperately convinced myself that.
    And yet still, hatred coiled around my leg, trying to drag me into the depths of the sea.
    It even came up to my ears to whisper, so that I’d notice it.

    “Do you really?”

    I resisted the urge to scream, and pressed my face into mother’s chest.


    There was something amiss that afternoon.
    I saw a dark mass in the usual back alley. It looked like a black piece of cloth, or something covered in black paint.
    I had a bad feeling.

    In the back of my mind came the image of the beautiful black cat who caught the mouse. Perhaps it was that black cat’s corpse.
    I became unable to see it as anything but a cat then, and I was unable to calm down.
    Finding it unbearable, I got off the bed. Putting all my weight on my legs made me cower with intense pain. The pain in my legs shot up to my head, and tears formed in my eyes.
    It hurt. But not enough that I couldn’t walk.
    Supporting myself with the nearby chair, I staggered to my feet.
    I took a look around the room, but my shoes were nowhere to be seen.
    They must have been put away. Mother figured I would never need to leave, after all. I had wanted it myself, but it still made me a little sad.

    I went outside barefoot.
    The sun shone down on me, almost directly overhead. The bright rays hurt my eyes.
    Hand along the walls of the house, I proceeded to the back alley.
    I saw the black shape at once. As I approached, it became increasingly evident it was a cat.
    As I thought, it was a black cat’s corpse.
    The cat lay on her side on the pavement. One of her eyeballs had popped out like an overturned bowl, and above the other, her skull was cracked and bloody.

    I stopped a few steps away from the cat, repunged.
    I looked at her, dumbfounded by the difference from when I first saw her. I couldn’t run, but neither could I get any nearer.
    I was reminded of the stunning sight of her catching the mouse.
    Why, and how had this happened?
    Was she run over by a wagon? Or was she knocked from a high-up place to the ground?
    How could such a lively creature be reduced to this awful state?
    I was saddened.
    I didn’t so much hate whoever had done this to her. It was this town, which forced you to accept that these things just happen, which I hated.

    I heard a crow above me caw. I looked up and saw it up on a tall fence, stretching its wings. It was after her flesh.
    …You think I’ll let you?
    I approached the black cat. I felt like I couldn’t leave her like this. I lifted her up in both arms, to protect her.
    She was light. And stiff. The cat’s body had stiffened into the position I saw her lying on the ground in.
    The eyeball sticking out made it almost comically evident she would live no more, yet when I touched her… It was like she was a thing. An object. It was then I learned how when creatures die, they become mere things.

    I’ll return you to the earth, I vowed, carrying the thing that was once a cat.
    The surrounding area was all paved. No place to bury a cat. But there should be a park with soil nearby. Relying on memories from infancy, I walked in search of a park.
    Every step I took, there was stabbing pain in my bones. And as I was walking around the pebble-covered ground barefoot, I wasn’t sure how much of it was my legs themselves. I bit my lip and desperately walked.

    Finally, I entered the park.
    There was a large tree in the center. Its leaves were green and full of life; it felt entirely out of place in this town.
    There was no play equipment worthy of calling it a park, only an empty expanse, the tree, and a bench.
    An old woman dressed in rags sat on the bench, fiddling with her purse. When she noticed me, she took a look, then disinterestedly looked back at her purse.
    I entered the shade of the tree. Soil extended out from the base, as if encircling it.
    It looked to be a flower bed. But the flowers had all wilted, and it smelled of rotten trash. It was clearly not well attended to.
    I found a spot where nothing seemed to be buried and crouched down.
    I put down the cat and dug the ground.
    The soil was surprisingly soft. It had a pleasant cool touch. I dug like I’d become a mole.

    My arms were free.
    My arms were free.
    They showed few symptoms of the illness. I was grateful I could move them both freely.
    Sweat ran over my bandages, making them start to slip. I rubbed my nose, getting dirt on my face. I roughly wiped it with my sleeve, messing up the bandages further.
    When sweat touched the inflamed skin, it stung. I clenched my teeth and endured the pain, continuing to dig. I wanted to name my dog after someone who I deeply love and look up to.

    In the end I named my female dog Hudsun :3

    Last edited:
    Thank you for fix
    Now readers can understand story more with picture