You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
by Neil McDonald
The dogs were the first to let her know he was home. The dogs were always the first. He announced himself by clearing his throat. She looked up from her cleaning.
“How went the fighting, dear?”
“Oh, went the fighting well,” said Genghis, with a smile. It was not his jolly smile. It was the other one. “Went the fighting well.”
He raised his hand to let the dogs know he was not in the mood. They dutifully acquiesced. The children ran to him and he waded through them, patting each head as he made his way into the other room.
“And what would husband like for dinner?” she called from the kitchen.
“Oh, I don’t know,” replied Genghis, as he relaxed on his favourite sheepskin, taking off his boots and rubbing his toes, the smell of blood still in his nostrils. Tolui, his youngest, threw his arms around daddy’s neck and tried to climb up his back. “What do we have?”
“There’s still some goat,” she said, with concern. There was enough, but a notable family like theirs might have more, she thought. Many others did. “Or a stew could be made from the beef and vegetables.”
“Is that it?” asked Genghis. He blew out his lips. The children laughed, so he did it again, louder. Now they were all doing it. He adopted a childish whine and said, “I’m bored with goat, I’m bored with stew.” This made them laugh all the louder. “I’m bored with goat,” he play-whined again, screwing up his nose and placing his hands on his hips in a parody of petulance.
“Well, it’s all we have,” she called out in a sing-song voice, as she returned to her cleaning. “If someone had remembered to stop by the market yesterday as I had asked, then perhaps we’d be looking at a lamb roast right now.”
The children continued their lip-blowing and laughter in the other room, so she did not hear Genghis approach from behind. She turned and started, her body frozen in place, his dagger no more than an inch from her widening eyes. Genghis smiled and lowered the blade.
“I told you, remember, I forgot. I had a bit of a rough day yesterday, what with beating back those animals from the Caucasus. It does tend to weary these old bones so. And, of course, you could not have gone yourself.”
She had recovered her composure somewhat.
“Well,” she said, “it was raining. And I had all the children’s clothes to wash.”
“Well then, you could just have left them outside,” he said, and unleashed a belly laugh incongruously hearty considering the slightness of the joke. Genghis was, as always, pleased with his wit.
She forced a weak chuckle. His laughter faded and he scratched his head idly with the tip of the knife. Tolui had toddled into the kitchen and was leaning against him now, and Genghis mussed the boy’s hair distractedly. The dogs were stretched out on the floor.
“Beef stew is fine,” he said finally, flatly. “If you want me, I’ll be on the can.”
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Neil McDonald lives in Waterloo, Ontario with his wife and son, surrounded by an assortment of black and white cats. His work has previously appeared in The Story Shack.