Touchy Subjects

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Book: Touchy Subjects by Emma Donoghue Read Free Book Online
Authors: Emma Donoghue
Do what?"
    Trevor cleared his throat. "Not bring them."
    Her eyes were little dark buttons.
    The last three days of term crawled by; the stack of exam papers deflated. To celebrate the holidays, Louise and Trevor went for a long hike across the Cliffs of Moher. Gide barked fiercely at mountain goats. "Do you think Proust's coat is looking dull?" she asked.
    "Hmm?" Trevor stared down into his half-zipped jacket, where Proust was curled up. "Maybe a wee bit."
    "The vet says you can put vegetable oil in their food to increase shine. We'll have to take Mallarmé to that grooming place this week; she's all burrs," added Louise, watching the dog lope silently away towards a group of Japanese tourists.
    "Yeah, she must have a bit of collie in her, she gets so snag-gled. Mallarmé!" Trevor tried again, more loudly. "Mallarmé, no! Come back!"
    "She won't bite, will she?" said Louise, breathless as she ran.
    "She bit Mrs. Quirk last week."
    "Only because she messed with Mallarmé's ears."
    "Don't touch her ears," Trevor bawled at the tour group.
    Afterwards, when Mallarmé was back on her leash, Louise burrowed around in the bag for dog biscuits and Mars bars. "You're brooding about Christmas, aren't you?"
    "A bit," admitted Trevor.
    "That was a really good phone message you left your parents."
    "You think so?"
    "Nicely balanced, you know, between warmth and firmness."
    "You sound like that trainer." They'd gone on a night course called Good Dog! but dropped out after three weeks.
    Louise giggled reminiscently. "Well, handling parents isn't so very different, I suppose."
    "Except you know where you are with dogs," said Trevor. "They never claim to love you and then stab you in the back."
    "Trevor!" she protested. "Leave it, Gide," she said, suddenly turning. "Drop it, dirty. Gide! Give. Give to Mammy."
    He watched her wrestle a Ballygowan bottle out of the dog's jaws. "How can my parents have the gall to say leave them at home, when it's hundreds of miles away and we'll be gone for forty-eight hours!"
    "I suppose we could hire a sitter," she volunteered.
    "But they'd hate to be away from us at Christmas. I mean," he said, conscious of having strayed into irrationality, "they may not know exactly what it is—in the theological sense—but they can sense it's a special occasion."
    "You know," murmured Louise, "there may be class issues involved here."
    "Such as?"
    "Well, your parents have a fundamentally suspicious attitude towards our lifestyle. Being academics, going to the opera .. . and I suspect they see our dogs as an expensive whim."
    Trevor groaned. "It's not like we spent thousands of pounds buying pedigree puppies! We rescued them from the pound."
    "Mmm," said Louise, "but remember how they made fun of the plaid coats and shoes? And there was this one time—I didn't tell you because I knew you'd be annoyed—but your dad asked me how much we spent a year on their food and vet bills."
    He winced.
    "It's understandable; he did grow up on a farm where dogs were just exploited workers," she added. "And your mother's from a tiny terrace where there was barely enough food for the kids."
    "That's it," said Trevor, so sharply that Proust started to whimper and worry the zip of his jacket. "It's all about kids. They're trying to punish us for not having any! What my mother's saying at a sort of unconscious level is 'I won't let your pseudo-children under my roof. Lock them up and throw away the key.'"
    "Oh, hang on, hon—"
    "She is! She's saying, 'Have some real children like your sister, Greta, and then maybe I'll love you!'"
    "Come on, Trevor, she does love you; they both do."
    "Then what about the proverbial love my dog?"
    Louise was scanning the skyline distractedly. "Did you see which way Gide went?"
    Trevor jumped to his feet. "
Gide!
"
    They both caught sight of him simultaneously, a hundred feet away, as he raced along the edge of the cliff.
    That evening, during dinner, Proust left a long red scrape across Louise's

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