Sunlight is slipping under the curtains, recreating a daytime world. Like a tethered boat on a swell, Claire bumps in and out of sleep, until the light draws stronger. Unwilling legs slide out of bed. Curtains swoosh sideward. A solid rectangle of brightness opens out over broad floorboards. In the sky is the morning sun and the colour blue. Claire stretches, turns back to the sparse room.
‘Breakfast.’ For the new arrival first, she thinks. Not with the others, not yet.
She walks across the warm yard, admires dots of glint on grass blades.
‘Like stars fell,’ she says. ‘Morning, Old Gray.’
Purring shimmers up from the elderly cat, lazing in the cat shed doorway. A hustle starts in the dog shed.
She unbolts the store, fills a bowl for the new arrival. She guesses that the timid tortoiseshell is hiding, observing. It has a kinked tail and a pronounced limp. After it eats, and finds no harm, it will wander in to the cat shed with the others. That’s how it works here.
Claire lugs over to the cat shed. Careful cats wind round her ankles. Over the span of a wide shelf, yesterday’s dishes are stacked. Today’s dishes line neatly. As she sets them down even Old Gray gets enthusiastic.
‘Almost doglike,’ she teases them.
She opens the dog pen, is mobbed by happy slobber. Yesterday’s lick-clean bowls are stacked outside. Today’s wash-clean bowls are placed. She holds the plastic tubs of food, doling along the line.
‘Sit! Stay!’ As cupfuls of food patter, the dogs sit, compressing energy: they make a fine show of the struggle to obey. ‘Eat!’
Claire watches the fast dogs scoff. She can’t picture the pack being bothersome, though they can’t all have arrived so trained. Everything here just flows.