Sidney trotted along the footpath, jowls quivering. He loved being walked at night; the traffic, the buzzing crowds of late-night party-goers, the flashing neon signs. Things that were hidden during the day came to large and glorious life after dark.
‘Should we go to the kebab stand, Sid, see what the go is?’ Michelle reached down and patted the bulldog’s head. Sidney wiggled his bottom, grunting happily. He’d go anywhere with Michelle, but the kebab stand was a favourite for them both.
The duo headed down East Street towards the riverside. Giggling girls flitted in groups from bar to bar, always stopping to fawn over Sidney, to rub his face and tell him what a gorgeous boy he was. Men gave Michelle a wide berth when she had Sidney with her. He suspected this was one of the reasons Michelle took him with her when she went out at night, but he didn’t mind. It was part of his job to keep her safe. Still, he saw lots of other women with men’s arms around them and they looked so happy. He’d like Michelle to look like that, instead of spending nights sobbing into his fur while they watched sad movies on Netflix.
A throng of people surrounded the kebab stand; a typical Saturday night. Michelle elbowed her way through to the front, Sidney tucking himself close to her legs, trying to avoid the unsteady feet of hungry, tipsy people as they clamoured for strips of meat wrapped in flatbread.
‘Hey Michelle, the usual?’ Steve the kebab guy smiled down from behind the counter.
‘Got your offsider with you tonight?’
Steve leaned out further over the counter.
‘Evening, Sidney old lad, how’s things? Your usual, coming right up.’ He raised his eyes to Michelle again. ‘I’m on break in five, stick around?’
Five minutes later, Steve, Michelle, and Sidney were tucked away behind the kebab stand. Sidney’s face was buried in a bowl of delicious offcuts, but his ears were pricked as he listened to their easy small talk between their bites of kebab. The last morsel slid down his throat and he looked at up Steve, licked his chops and snorted his contentment.
‘Glad you enjoyed it, Sidney,’ said Steve, retrieving the metal bowl and returning it to the storage cage beside the back door. Sidney knew he was the only dog who got to eat from that bowl; his nose told him so.
Steve and Michelle talked about work, and travel, and as they did, Sidney noticed something. Steve was looking at Michelle the way those other men looked when they held women close to them.
Sidney sprang into action. He leaned hard on the back of Michelle’s legs, tipping her forward – right into Steve, who caught her neatly against his broad chest.
‘Sorry,’ gasped Michelle.
‘Don’t be,’ murmured Steve. ‘I’m not.’
Their faces were close, closer, then their lips touched.
Sidney grunted, satisfied.
Amanda McLeod is a creative based in Canberra, Australia. Her catalogue of written work includes fiction, poetry, and book reviews; and she also works in the visual media of oils, watercolours, photography, and digital collage. Amanda is the Managing Editor at Animal Heart Press, where she finds great satisfaction in helping authors bring their books to life, and curates the press’s Featured Artist series. She is also the Art Editor and designer of FERAL: A Journal of Poetry and Art.