Touchy Subjects

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Book: Touchy Subjects by Emma Donoghue Read Free Book Online
Authors: Emma Donoghue
    "Fifteen, if you shift your arse. Gide gets so fractious when it pisses down like this."
    "We're living in the wrong climate," he observed, not for the first time. "Not to mention a cultural wasteland."
    "Yeah, well next time Barcelona University has simultaneous openings in classics and sociology we must remember to apply."
    "Ho ho ho," he chuckled like some grim Santa.
    Trevor's favourite moment was always when he put his key in the lock. Eruption, joyous noise, crashes against the other side of the door. Tonight he tried to take his raincoat off, but Gide felled him.
    "Sweeties, gorgeous-gorgeousnesses," Louise was crooning, Proust swinging high in her arms. "We're home, yes we are, yes we are."
    "Let Daddy get up. No licky face, no licky," Trevor was telling Gide gruffly.
    "How's he meant to know not to lick it when you offer it to him like a big jam doughnut?" Louise bent down to kiss her husband under one eye. "Mallarmé doesn't lick faces, does she, lovely girl. Who's a lovely quiet girl?"
    "Did you miss us, Mallarmé?" Trevor asked, sleeking her yellow fur. "Were you bored silly? Just another three days till the holidays and then walkies anytime."
    Proust writhed in ecstasy in Louise's arms, and Gide began another round of barking.
    "I said the VP-word, didn't I?" Trevor rebuked himself.
    As he was putting away the bagfuls of Christmas shopping, he said, "We've bought no presents for them yet."
    "Oh, I know. Do you think—one big one each, or several smalls?"
    "Smalls, definitely. They love tearing off the paper."
    "They always like some new squeakies. But remember last year," said Louise, "when we gave Gide that rubber apple that was too small and I had to do the Heimlich manoeuvre?"
    "That was the most terrifying moment of my life," said Trevor. "Hey, I asked the dean of arts what he's getting his poodle and he said nothing."
    "You mean he didn't answer?"
    "No, I mean he said, '
He said, and I quote,
'She doesn't know it's Christmas!'
    Later on, Trevor was making his weekly call to his parents in Belfast. "Not much new, Mum. Except that Proust just gave us the fright of our lives by turning the telly on! With the remote."
    "Is she the fat one?" asked his mother.
    Trevor felt that familiar wave of irritation. "Proust is a he; he's tiny," he reminded her. "The one you mean is Gide, but actually he's been on diet food for three weeks and if you look at him head-on he's really not—" A rubber Bart Simpson, wet with drool, squeaked at Trevor's feet. "Not now, Gide, Daddy's on the phone." Proust was scrabbling against Trevor's leg; they really would have to steel themselves to clip his claws this evening.
    His mother was making some remark about the
"There's only three of them," he objected. "Greta's got three kids, and you never confuse the boys with the girls!"
    She let out a short laugh. "Oh, Trev, it's hardly the same."
    He'd given up on breaking his family of the habit of calling him Trev. He chewed his lip, as he picked up the wet toy to bounce it against the far wall. Proust raced after it, but Gide shoved him out of the way. "Be nice," Trevor warned them. "Share your squeaky." Then, with false warmth, "Tell you what, Mum, maybe they'll give you a framed photo for Christmas, with their names on."
    A couple of minutes later he walked into the kitchen, where Louise was frying chicken breasts. "Save me a crispy bit," he said, to postpone what he had to say.
    "Mallarmé likes the crispy bits. You're getting polenta. So how's life in Belfast?"
    He let out his breath with the sound of a fast puncture. "We were talking about Christmas. I was telling Mum not to worry about bedding for the babies, we'll all sleep together on our blowup mattress."
    "And she said actually this year, with Greta and Mick and all the kids being over from Sydney, she and Dad were wondering if we could maybe ... do something with the dogs."
    "Do something?" repeated Louise. "What does she mean?

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