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"Pinot Noir" by Sarah Law — Our March 2019 Bronze Medal Winner

by - Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Sarah Law is our third place winner from the contest posted in our March, 2019 issue!

Sarah Law - third place story - Blank Spaces MagazineWhat the judges had to say:

"A fresh take on the image...fun, yet sad...witty, yet tragic...The author has shown us how to incorporate and mix humour with grief."

"Quirky and fresh without being self-conscious."

"This was definitely a really unique concept and direction to take the story.  I like that the photo prompt didn't feel like it was the MAIN pinnacle of the story.  It was just one tiny moment in the entire story."

Meet Sarah:

Sarah Law just started her career in journalism as a reporter for the Gravenhurst Banner and Muskoka Region. She recently completed her studies through a joint program between Trent University and Loyalist College, where she will be receiving an honours degree and advanced diploma in political studies and online, print and broadcast journalism in June. She spends her free time running, reading, writing and daydreaming.

The photo prompt:


  the unedited story:

Pinot Noir

by Sarah Law

Audrey first became suspicious when the wine glasses started disappearing from the cupboards. She looked in the dishwasher, then in the office, then googled whether people could drink in their sleep. Sleepdrinking? Sleepdrunk? Am I an alcoholic? She had no memory of doing so, and didn’t feel hungover, yet there was an empty slot on the wine rack where the Pinot Noir used to be.

It was Eli’s favourite kind, the only wine he drank. A glass before bed every Sunday night to ease the anxieties of the coming week. Or a few more if they had company.

But Audrey hadn’t invited anyone over since his funeral.

Her friend Julie recommended she go to counselling.

She was a little disappointed the sessions weren’t like what she saw in the movies, where patients laid on a leather couch and stared at the ceiling as the doctor asked them about their childhood and wrote notes on a clipboard, asking “How does that make you feel?” every few minutes. This woman was much more invasive. And she gave homework.

The doctor recommended Audrey get rid of all the alcohol in the house and install a camera in her bedroom to track her nighttime activity. She also encouraged her to exercise, write in a journal and download a meditation app on her smartphone.

The only thing the footage revealed was how the sheets turned into a crumpled mess at the bottom of the bed by the morning because she never tucked them in (something Eli was always annoyed about). Though she did watch her dog Roscoe spoon her the whole night, which he had never done before.

The next day, the toilet seat was up and all the drawers in the bathroom were open.

Have I been robbed? Nothing’s missing. Did the intruder just come in to pee?

It was pointless to call the police about the state of her toilet seat, so Audrey planned to clean the whole house to see if anything else was out of place.

“Out!” barked Roscoe, his eyes cast on the leash hanging in the corner by the shoe rack.

“All right, all right,” said Audrey. After checking under the furniture and inside the closets, she put on her coat and locked the door behind her. She jiggled the knob four times, a recent habit she had developed.

Roscoe led her through the hazy morning mist down leaf-stained sidewalks until they were across the street from the park they used to go to. He smelled oddly of aftershave.  Audrey took hold of the leash and dragged them down a different road. Roscoe pulled back. Rather than using his teeth, he held the leash with his paws, standing on his hind legs and digging his claws into the faux leather.

“No, Roscoe!” she growled. “What are you doing? Stop it!”

Roscoe sat down on the spot and rested his chin on his white-socked feet, his brown eyes looking almost hazel in the light.

She pulled him up and turned around, cutting the walk short and giving him an extra treat when they got home.

After taking out the cleaning supplies from under the sink, Audrey went to the couch to play some music on the TV but ended up falling asleep.

When she woke up, she heard movement behind her and didn’t rise right away. Clinking dishes and the creaking of cupboard doors, jazz music easing out of the small speakers on the coffee table – and was that the smell of pork chops?

Audrey peered her head over the cushions to see Roscoe, walking around on his back feet, holding a glass of Pinot Noir and humming to the music. When their eyes met, he seemed to smile. He scampered to the table and carried a plate of pork chops, green beans and mashed potatoes over to her.

Oh my god. I’ve lost it. I’ve really lost it. Why didn’t I try that meditation app before it was too late?

“Ruff!” cried Roscoe.

Audrey pinched herself up and down her arms and legs and smacked herself on the cheek. But when she turned around, her dog was sitting on the recliner, his wet nose in the latest Stephen King book and his right paw somehow gripping a half-empty wine glass.

Deep breaths. Count to three. Or was it ten? God, it’s too late!

“Roscoe,” Audrey whimpered, hanging her head over the side of the couch. “What’s happening to me?”

Roscoe nudged the book closed and walked over to her. Were there always freckles on his cheeks? Is he missing some fur under his chin?

“Why do you look like, like . . .” Audrey muttered. “Like him.”

“Ruff!”

“Are you . . .? No, you can’t be,” she said quickly.

She ran to her bedroom and took out the urn inside her closet.

Inside was a silver engagement ring on a bed of black ashes.

Roscoe brushed against her leg, back on all-fours. He sniffed the air and whined.

“Is it because you miss him, Ros?” whispered Audrey. “Is that why you’re doing this?”

***

“I remember when he brought you to my apartment for the first time,” said Audrey.

They sat on the yellow-green grassy slope, overlooking the pond. The fall colours were dimmed now, each frosty morning bringing fresh promises of winter. The sun was setting earlier each day, casting a bronze glow over the park.

“He asked me if I was a dog person, and I told him about the beagle I had as a kid named Charlie Brown,” Audrey continued. “Then a few days later, he asked if he could introduce me to his roommate.”

Roscoe bent down and licked Audrey’s hands, which meant he was ready to go home.

He had resumed his canine disposition, though he and Audrey did share the occasional glass of Pinot Noir on Sundays. Roscoe never got sick afterwards, and she didn’t dare ask the vet about it.

What’s a bottle of wine between a woman and her dog anyway?



[Read the first and second place stories]

Learn how you can participate in one of our Write-Prompt Flash Fiction Contests HERE

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