Exclusive to Ambit, we’re running this short story by Benjamin Myers as an online only addition to our debut guest edited AMBIT POP by Lias Saoudi of Fat White Family.
She married young, to a man who it soon transpired had a secret history of arson, so when he was sent away again she filed for divorce and ten months later married an Irish jockey, and though she loved him dearly he turned out to be gay, so then she had to cover the rent herself.
She took a job at the nearby Shell station, the night shift. Six-two. Ten days on and four days off. To supplement her income, on the days when she wasn’t manning the tills she found extra work covering in the vape shop that had recently opened in the precinct.
She was saving to buy a dog, a puppy to pet and to have next to her in bed, a good breed, one of the expensive ones, but at the moment there was no-one around to let it out to do its business on the communal grass when she was out working her two jobs, and she always said that if she got a dog then she wanted to make sure it was treated right because, lord knows, there’s enough cruelty in the world as it is. She was a firm believer in judging people on how they treated animals.
She didn’t mind the late shift at the petrol station. She especially enjoyed those moments in the middle of the night, when the forecourt fell silent and the synthetic lights shone down upon the forecourt puddles and sometimes turned them a curious silver colour, like magnesium, and the distant cars on the motorway sounded like waves breaking on a shore. It was the sound of nocturnal solitude in its totality. Lonely for some but strangely soothing for her. A comfort, in fact.
Sometimes, away from the omniscient unblinking eyes of the cameras that were trained upon the shop and the forecourt, she snuck food in the backroom. Scotch eggs that were a day out of date perhaps, or sausage rolls. Bags of crisps. Flapjacks that had been damaged in transit. She put them in her backpack and they helped keep her living expenses down. Also, stealing food made her feel like the Shell company didn’t own her entirely and she refused to feel guilty because hadn’t they polluted the seas and cut down the rainforests or something? Certainly they had played their part in starting wars in the Middle East. A grab-bag of Hula-Hoops was nothing in comparison.
More importantly, she reasoned, the more money she saved on food, the sooner her dog would come panting up the stairs and through her front door, long tongue lolling from its daft, loyal face.
The flat was above the shops in the precinct and each morning at dawn – those dawns when she wasn’t watching the sun-rise over the petrol pumps, that is, and the strange night hawks who lingered were replaced by the more hurried morning commuter crowd – she would hear the clatter of metal shutters being raised below, and shopping trolleys corralled. Then there was the hissing brakes of a delivery truck bringing a night-shift batch to the baker’s.
In these moments she liked to tuck the duvet tight between her legs, and fit it snug around her body, and then idly wonder what she might call her dog when she finally got one. Duke, perhaps, or Prince. Something regal or aristocratic sounding.
She happened to know that dogs can smile, and she just knew that her dog would smile often, cute and toothsome, and his big ears would smell sweetly of wet earth and biscuits.
Soon he would arrive.
Benjamin Myers is an award-winning writer. His novels include The Offing, The Gallows Pole, Beastings and Pig Iron. His first collection of short stories, Male Tears, is out now on Bloomsbury. He lives in the Upper Calder Valley, West Yorkshire.