Jesse Jarnow

the animals i saw, no. 8

(Short fiction in shorter increments.)

The Animals I Saw: no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10

I am not sure if a ghost is an animal, or if that was even what I saw, but I certainly smelled it. Besides the constant patter of the rain, the odor was the first thing I noticed upon awakening on the living room couch. It was a deep must, unclogging reserves of half-remembered dreams. In the daylight, the room was instantly familiar. I found the phone and dialed Melch, pretending to be hungover. Melch sounded worse than I did, and called off work for the day without argument. I felt guilty, but the rain continued unabated.

Though the smell — not unpleasant, like skunk-grass — was omnipresent, it seemed to emanate from a single source. I took a cursory look through the kitchen cabinets, but failed to find anything. I made a packet of dried soup in their microwave, and looked at the photomontages hung by the back door. Abe Lewis, the doting grandparent, was in several. His grandson, likely only a year or two younger than me, grew on the wall, my shadow cousin.

In the mid-afternoon, I brought the comforter upstairs and napped in the room I thought was mine. The bed was bare, as was the dresser. I pulled the blanket tightly around me, and swam. When I went downstairs later, my grandfather sat on the couch, reading. The smell was overpowering. Instinctively, I looked behind me. When I turned back, he was gone. I’d never known him, only the house he built and the enemies he made.

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