Fur by Janet Pate
No one had loved Mrs Harrison since May 16th 1973 when Mr Harrison had been blown to smithereens by an exploding gas pipe.
In her youth Mrs Harrison had been a beauty. Many personable young men had vied for her favours but she married Mr Harrison who was old, rich and generous.
Now elderly folds of flesh weighed unfairly on her lumpy feet. Her pale, unfocused eyes and flabby, rouged cheeks inspired affection in nobody.
There were compensations. For company she had her adored Cheri, a white French poodle that, over fed and under exercised, snarled and bit at everyone, including Mrs Harrison. The girls at the poodle parlour managed the dog beautifully but they were professionals.
Then there were the furs. Mr Harrison had bought her an ocelot coat to celebrate their engagement and an ermine cloak as a wedding present then, every year, another skin. But the more she acquired the more she craved until she could no longer visit the zoo or watch a wildlife film without mentally putting the beasts on coat hangers.
She kept her acquisitions in a temperature-controlled strongroom specially built into her bedroom. She called them her ‘Nice Little Investments’ and spent hours caressing them with her soft, podgy hands.
But the protection of endangered species was a hindrance and the animal rights movement a torment. There were notes through the letterbox, messages on her answer phone and texts on her mobile. Some were polite, some abusive, some threatening. She defied them, silently.
For her 70th birthday she bought a new mink and paraded before the mirror, her poodle in her arms,
“Do you like mummy’s new Nice Little Investment, darling?”
Cheri grumbled and sank her teeth into Mrs Harrison’s plump, pink finger.
Wearing the new mink she was shopping in Regent Street when the paint was thrown. Breathless and tearful she took a taxi home.
“Cheri. Oh, Cheri. Mummy’s new nice little investment. Ruined. Look, Cheri...Cheri?”
But there was no answering bark or snuffle. In fact there was no Cheri. Mrs Harrison searched the house, the garden, the street. Cheri was lost.
Distressed, she sat with her furs. The empty skins consoled her.
Two girls from the poodle parlour brought home the dog,
“Found wandering. Did you let her out?”
In the welter of paint and damaged fur Mrs Harrison must have become disorientated and forgotten the open door. Joyfully she embraced Cheri, who growled and bit her ear.
The girls were invited into the house for a cup of tea.
Mrs Harrison had no friends or relatives. Her disappearance caused a small, temporary stir before she was filed under ‘missing persons’ and entirely forgotten.
Deep in the English countryside a family plays with their new dog, a rescued poodle. They love her and she loves them. She is a happy animal. She came with two dog jackets. They have a strange texture, finer than leather. Two Nice Little Investments for a dog.
Winning Entry: Lord Stanton’s Horse
Second Place: The Ghost of Christmas Past