‘Like Clockwork’ by Eleri Denham

Anja has learned to tell the time by the dogs walking past her window. For example, at 4:30 there’s a self-assured Pomeranian that sets every other dog on the street barking by shrilly and continuously announcing its own presence. 5:15, a pair of huge, gold mixed-breeds—they lope along like wolves, their backs sloping down toward their muscled haunches. Somewhere between 6:00 and 6:25, a cheerful black lab that greets every man and beast with undiscriminating joy. And finally, bringing up the rear guard at about 8:30: a haughty bulldog that trudges along with the single-minded resolve of a fighter heading to the ring.
       Sometimes she needs to see them a few times before she’s sure which ones are animations, but she always figures it out eventually. It’s something about the way their weight shifts when they walk, or rather how it doesn’t. The new SoniLum animations are so close to perfect, but they’re all a little too rigid—not enough folds in the skin, not enough movement of fur and fat and sinew around the middle. She’s certain that anyone who didn’t grow up with real dogs wouldn’t notice. The yappy Pomeranian is an animation, which baffles her. (She stares at the owner through the window: you could have chosen anything, she thinks.) And she’s somehow pleased to note that the two strange mixed-breeds, with their hypnotic gait and entrancing golden eyes, are real.
       When her husband comes home from work, Anja reports her findings to him, about which dogs are flesh and which are only light and sound. He kisses her temple and teases her for being so preoccupied with such a strange little detail. She shrugs and tells him it’s something to pass the time, and asks what he wants for dinner.

Eleri Denham lives in Oregon, USA, where she writes prose, poetry, and screenplays. Her work has appeared in Little Patuxent Review and Snapdragon Journal. Find her on Twitter at @eleri_denham.

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