Gigi, by Hiro Finn Hoshino
An impulsive act of love results in the arrival of a new pet dog for a family and a companion for a young child who is being bullied at school. But another act of love dooms the happy relationship as a pet owner has to make a difficult, shattering decisio
“SHE SAYS AS LONG AS GIGI’S HERE, SHE DOESN’T CARE WHAT HAPPENS AT SCHOOL.”
She ran along the gurgling stream, chasing summer butterflies, the dear girl. Her legs moved in graceful synchronicity as she pranced and leapt, her hazel eyes wide and alert, glittering with joy as she snapped her jaws playfully in the air.
“It doesn’t take much to make you happy, girl,” I said. She stopped and turned to me, her tongue relaxed and lolling side to side. Gigi was a German Shepherd I adopted from a local shelter, and in the past three years she had grown a tremendous amount from the little bundle of fur I first laid eyes on. I hadn’t even intended to buy a dog that day; I was out for a stroll around town, and happened to pass by the shelter. Curiosity made me wander inside, and blind, reckless love made me walk out with her in my arms. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m usually not that kind of person. I have a wife and a six-year-old, the former who would rip me apart for bringing home, without consultation, something that might potentially rip apart the latter. But when I saw those sad, lost eyes of the awkward puppy locked in her cage, wincing whenever an anxious neighbour barked loudly, I was already reaching for my wallet.
“How long has that dog been here?” I asked the attendant.
“Six days,” he said. “She showed up at our doorstep in a tiny crate and no note. Can’t tell you much about her past, I’m afraid. But I can tell you we don’t keep animals here longer than a week.”
“Where are they taken?” He shook his head and grimaced.
“I’ll take her.”
I just couldn’t help it.
“That might be it for now, girl, it’s almost sunset.” I whistled and she trotted obediently by my side as we headed for the car. I let Gigi in the backseat where she lay down, then covered her with a blanket. I checked to see if anyone was around – the forest was as secluded as it looked – then swung into the driver’s seat. I had spotted the obscure gravel road that led to this secluded forest while driving down a dusty highway, bound east, and decided it might be time to get out since driving for an entire night and day. Luckily, we didn’t meet anyone, and Gigi could stretch her legs, do her business, and have a sip of water at the stream. I let out a defeated sigh, knocking my forehead gently against the steering wheel, and peered at my dead mobile on the passenger seat.
“Where on Earth are we going, Gigi?”
I brought the car towards the highway, and as I was turning out, I spotted a decrepit payphone, choked by vines and weeds, by the gravel road.
“Perfect,” I muttered. “If it still works.”
I backed all the way to the forest, and jogged to the payphone. Miraculously, there was a faint dial tone as I picked up the receiver, so I jammed what coins I had into the twisted coin slot and dialled. She answered after the second ring.
“Tomo!” My wife’s voice was frenzied and she started spluttering.
“I’m okay, Ria,” I said. “Gigi’s okay too.”
“My God,” Ria said. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Is Kiyomi there?”
“Yes, of course. Kiyo! Kiyo! It’s Papa, quick.” There was a rustling and a whispered ‘Hello?’
“Kiyo, are you okay?”
“Yes, Papa.” She had been crying. “Where are you?”
“I can’t say, but we’re safe here.” I paused. “Gigi was chasing butterflies down a stream; she looked happy.”
At these words, Kiyomi began wailing, and I heard Ria trying to comfort her while holding back her own tears. I put a fist in my mouth to stop myself making a sound as Kiyomi hiccuped.
“Papa, are they going to kill Gigi?”
The memories of two days ago struck me like a studded fist, and I clutched at the payphone to steady myself. We were out on a Sunday evening walk in downtown Sapporo. Ria, Kiyomi, Gigi, and I. It was a pleasant summer’s night, and the streets were buzzing with city dwellers enjoying the last of the weekend. Ria had our daughter by the hand, and I was walking with Gigi further back. It was on Kiyomi’s insistence that she walk ahead of the dog.
“Gigi needs my protection,” she would huff, standing with her hands on her hips beside the animal twice her size. I hid my smile as I nodded.
“She really is a sweetheart,” Ria said, watching her sit patiently as Kiyomi doted over her, rubbing her small hands through her luscious brown coat.
“Who was the one who wanted to take her back to the pound?”
“Watch yourself, mister.” Ria waggled a finger at me. “We kept her only because she was so cute with Kiyomi, not because I agreed with your impulsiveness.”
I laughed as Gigi woofed and wagged her tail. Ria’s expression softened as she turned to our daughter.
“She’s still being bullied at school, isn’t she?” I asked quietly.
“She came home today with one of her textbooks scribbled in,” Ria said, a cloud drawing over her face. “Kiyo said she did it herself, but no kid would write that sort of stuff in their own book. I called the teacher straight away, but things like this, it’s difficult. You never know if you accidentally make things worse.”
I remembered the first time Kiyomi came home with her books defaced, it had taken every bit of self-control not to march into the school and demand to speak to the teacher, the principal, and every student responsible for the incident. Ria sighed as Gigi lay down to nap, and Kiyomi giggled and snuggled beside her.
“She says as long as Gigi’s here, she doesn’t care what happens at school.”
It had all happened in an instant. Gigi stopped to sniff a signpost, and Ria and Kiyomi walked on. I stood there wondering what could be so fascinating to her at the base of the pole, and took the opportunity to tie a loose shoelace. I glanced up and saw the backs of my wife and daughter getting further away, so I whistled to Gigi and started forward. It was then a piercing scream rent the street. I was jerked aside as a brown blur tore past me, wrenching the leash from my unsuspecting hand,
then a horrendous chorus of shrieks filled the air as I scrambled to catch up. I froze for a split second as my brain attempted to comprehend the scene before my eyes. Blood. There was blood. Ria was on the ground, cradling Kiyomi’s head with her eyes shut tight, and Kiyomi looked bewildered, an angry bruise welling on the side of her forehead. My throat closed as adrenaline coursed through my veins, but Ria and Kiyomi didn’t seem to be the source of all the blood. Then I saw the sprawled body of a man, who couldn’t be older than 20, with his hands clutching what looked like Ria’s handbag, and Gigi with her jaws clamped around his thin neck. The world seemed to suspend itself, and the two halves of my brain began fiercely debating whether this was reality or not. There was a rough tug at my arm.
“Are you the owner of that beast?” a man in glasses yelled. I blinked and my throat opened again.
She immediately let go, and came and sat by my feet as I scrabbled for her leash. I could faintly make out the panicked muttering of the gathering crowd.
“That young man tried to take the woman’s handbag and knocked over her daughter when he tried to get away,” an elderly lady was saying to her friend. “Then that animal came and did…that.”
“They’ll put it down for this,” replied her friend, nodding sagely. “No hope in Hell it’s getting away.”
“Ria, Kiyomi, are you okay?” They nodded, their faces masks of horror before the bloodied body in front of them. Gigi raised her head to me, her eyes distressed and blood dripping from her mouth, and I saw that same look as I did back at the shelter; I don’t know what came over me back then, but it hit me again at that moment, that feeling, that intense feeling, flooding me with devastating force. I scooped her up, all 30 kilograms of dog, and ran. The crowd backed off in fear and gave me an unwilling wide berth as I thundered past like a madman. When I had come to my senses, I had sprinted all the way home with Gigi whimpering in my arms. I unlocked my car, shoved her in the back as I pounced in front, and floored the car out of our driveway and towards the nearest highway.
“Papa!” Kiyomi’s voice screamed through the receiver. “Please, Papa, tell me they’re not going to kill, Gigi. You won’t let them, will you?”
“Of course not, Kiyo, I love Gigi as much as you do.” I didn’t know what else to say. I heard Ria gently ask Kiyomi to pass the receiver.
“Ria, it’s all my fault. Gigi, the guy on the ground,” I started to say, but she hushed me.
“Tomo, please come back.” Her voice was thick. “I know what you’re doing, and it’s insanity. The police came and questioned us at the scene, and they visit the house every few hours. They know everything, and it’s only a matter of time. So please, just come home. We need to see you, Tomo, and whatever happens, know that we will be there for you. And let Kiyo…let me see Gigi once more before...”
I couldn’t make out the rest of her words as Kiyomi began screeching, and the phone beeped five times before the line dropped dead. I hurled the receiver back to its holder and fell to my knees as great heaves of grief and anger rattled hot tears down my cheeks, and I slammed my balled fists on the rough gravel, gasping as shards of jagged stone pierced my palms. I forced myself up and hobbled back to the car, where Gigi was waiting patiently in the back seat, her sleek head poking from underneath the blanket. Her ears perked as she saw me through the window, and I opened the door and knelt beside the seat.
“Hi, Gigi,” I said, and she wiggled out and licked my cheeks. “Wiping my tears, are you? Thanks, girl.”
I gazed into her liquid hazel eyes. My father once told me that a dog’s memory worked quite differently to a human’s. They are driven purely by instinct, perpetually living through the window of the present where they observe the world surging into history, and through that window, they remember people, places, and objects according to how they feel at the time.
“And a dog will add a pane of glass to his window for each person he loves,” my father said. “If the person loves him back, then he will polish that window until it’s sparkling clear. People might taint his glass or even shatter his window, but a dog will never hate them. He doesn’t know how. He only knows to keep putting up his panes of glass and polishing them so that he can see the world as clearly as he can.”
I stroked the side of Gigi’s muzzle and wrapped an arm around her body, feeling the soft thumping of her heart. Her eyes followed a pair of butterflies as they flitted near the roof of the car.
“We’re going home, girl,” I said. The words ‘I’m sorry’ drifted to the tip of my tongue, but were lost before Gigi’s gentle face. “But you can have one last playdate with your friends if you want.”
She bounded out, and frolicked along the banks of the sparkling stream, tail wagging as the butterflies fluttered around her under the setting summer sun.
Hiro grew up in the lively city of Melbourne where he studied contemporary music and performance at Monash University, and currently works as a freelance musician and teacher. His passion for creative writing reignited after fondly recalling a short story he wrote in primary school, which featured a couple of cheeky burglar mice, and he is often found reading everything from Haruki Murakami to Shirley Jackson. He also enjoys spending time with his wife, who is an artist, taking care of their many pets, and perfecting his vegetarian quiche recipe.
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