The Best Ever (Louise Swinn)

My dog Soda had just been coughing up a furball when he put his weight on one side and rested his head on the paw that was up on its elbow. He looked at me with his puppy dog eyes all watery from the coughing.
He didn’t need many sheets because of his fur, so I was a doona hog. Today it was just the two of us there. Just Soda. Just me. Sometimes there would be four or five of us so today I was grateful for a bit of space, and I could tell that Soda was too. We’d both been burning the candle a bit.
Soda’s looking at me was getting distracting so I looked up from my game of noughts and crosses with a raised eyebrow. He had that big droopy face thing going on which could mean any of a number of things, so I said to him, Don’t ask if I’m OK.
He cleared his throat and said, I like the things you never said. I like that you didn’t talk about previous dogs, about your complex relationship with your father, and about religion.
He paused to wipe the sleep out of one eye.
He continued, I like that you never brush your hair, and that you have never minded when I cut my toenails in bed. I like the cheese on toast you made every Sunday night, and I like your collection of Laurel and Hardy figurines.
My face got all wrinkly. I’m not used to Soda being so serious.
I said, Why are you talking in the past tense, Soda? Why did you say you like the things I never said, rather than you like the things I never say?
He rolled slightly more onto his back, typically dramatic. I could see the thinner hairs between his arms. I know just how he likes to be tickled there.
He reached over and picked his packet of cigarettes up, rattled one out and put it in his mouth and lit it, and left it there while I frowned at him.
He said, I said it in past tense because I’ve got to make like a dog and leg it.
I was going to start crying but the tears wouldn’t come. Soda took the cigarette out of his mouth and blew very hard out and then looked at me firm and straight again.
He said, There’s nothing really wrong, and no room to get upset, it’s just that this isn’t the best ever and even though I’m a dog, it would be foolish for me to hang around, knowing that.
When he got off the bed with his cigarette and wearing nothing at all, I saw him for the last time in his barest form. I shuffled into the indentation he had left in the mattress and when I woke up hours later I smelt like dog.