Waking up is really a dreadful affair.
I think most people would agree, but allow me to elaborate. Waking up is really not so bad when you know you are coming awake, but you also know you are allowed to do it slowly. You turn over a few times, gradually renewing the sluggish flow of your veins. You yawn, your eyes still clinging to semi-darkness, and relish the delicious emptiness of your mind. There is nothing to clog it up yet. Then, after a time, you might decide to let your eyelids crack all the way open. This accomplished, you are pleasantly surprised to realize that it is warm, and sunny, and reasonably late. You lie on your side for a moment, watching the faint flutter of the curtain and the golden pool of light beneath it. You think you might roll over and go back to sleep, comfortable in the knowledge of a beautiful day outside, when you are suddenly forced upright, your nose quivering with the acuteness of a bloodhound.
Someone is making pancakes.
The possibilities flash before you in mere seconds. You can already see those steaming circles of foamy sweetness, drowning in oozing pools of butter and syrup. You can feel each bite slowly dissolving on your tongue, the pungent pleasure passing all too soon. You know how you will feel afterwards – comfortably sleek and warm, and deliciously sleepy. Practically ready to go upstairs and melt into your covers again.
That would be my idea of waking up. It’s exactly like dreaming, except it’s real.
However, the fates seem to have conspired to never let me enjoy such exquisite pleasures.
I gain just enough consciousness before fully waking to know that soon I will have to wake up, but not enough energy to get myself out of bed. I bury myself further under my blankets, trying to block out that horrible awareness, but it’s useless.
Precisely at 5:48, Cerberus bounds onto my bed, his single head barking loudly enough for three.
I have tried discipline, I have tried threats, I have tried bribes. Nothing works. Cerberus is as inevitable as death.
He leaps onto my bed, and I am slathered in the sticky saliva of a gigantic tongue, suddenly enlarged by the early-morning fog clouding my brain. I groan, scold, almost cry, but Cerberus keeps licking and barking until I sit up. Once I do, he goes into such a torrential ecstasy of jumping, sloppy kisses and barking, that my sleep-crusted face can’t help but smile.
He brings me my slippers, nudges my reluctant feet into them, and paws my robe, whining anxiously until I put it on. That accomplished, he pulls me to my feet and firmly pushes me towards the door, one head covering the work of three as he shoves, barks and nips all at once.
We stumble down the stairs, falling at least once or twice, and so make our way to the kitchen in grand style. Half-tripping over the loose ends of my robe, I collapse into a chair, and am immediately engulfed by Cerberus’s loving mouth.
I can’t really be angry with him. He might have destroyed my pancake dreams, but at least his enthusiasm for waking up is as clinging as his saliva.
Yet even as I’m laughing and gasping for breath under my unanticipated shower, the water pressure suddenly seems to weaken. I look up, surprised, and find that the kitchen around me is starting to melt away, the colors running together like a wet painting. I look over at Cerberus, but he’s fading too, one head after the other slowly blurring into the background…
I sit straight upright in bed. The only sound is the grey drumming of the rain, dissolving the last fragments of my dream.
I had forgotten for the moment that Cerberus’s greetings no longer exist.
Image by Tabeajaichhalt from Pixabay
4 thoughts on “Three Headed Monster by Grace Larson”
It is a pleasure to see this one up today. This is a fine example of loss sticking to you, and its various ways of sneaking up on you, to be felt keenly anew. The power of the thing comes from the restraint, taste and overall high quality of your prose.
When I first read this I was a wee bit on the fence to begin with.
However – Two things took it over the line and not only that, lifted it into something special.
For being relatively new at this, you did something that is hard to do – You pulled it back from the usual criticism of second person POV. When I first read this I had just scribbled down ‘Usual problem – How do they know’ and you answered that!
And the other thing is your handling of the dead dog scenario. This was done well. It was done with feeling and sentiment but you didn’t trowel it on like many folks do.
This restraint shows a writing maturity and a skill which others could learn from.
I think your descriptions throughout are beautifully detailed and sensual. The opening paragraph describing the sensations and process of waking up particularly strong. The use of Cerberus as an actual pet, and then the sad reveal at the end (very moving) to describe the stupor of waking and ‘rediscovering’ grief is very clever – giving the ‘three-headed monster’ a much fuller depth of meaning.
Relatable, well-crafted and manages to tread the line between poignancy and sentimentality. I didn’t see the reveal coming.