Jessie Perrin / Loni Jeffs

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Fiction

swallow final

Swallowing
by Jessie Perrin
with artwork by Loni Jeffs

I had told him before that I did not like chicken soup but he made it anyway.

‘Chicken soup for dinner! Makes you feel better!’

I want to give him a look. I thought about the look a lot before I came to the dinner table – when I was sitting in our room. The room we share. When I smelt the chicken and heard the bubbling, I thought that a look would be necessary. I find these looks difficult to give because I would like him to cook more often than he does, but I would also like for him to listen to me.

I want to give him a mostly-angry look, but include a small amount positive reinforcement.

I read that positive reinforcement is more effective than negative reinforcement.

Yesterday I gave him a half-grateful and half ‘this is much too much’ look because he gave me a puppy. I find that look a much easier look to give. It comes more naturally to me because a puppy was really too much. I am not good enough for anyone to want to give me a puppy. But he gave me one. I was so grateful for him at that moment. It was easy to give him that look in return. I could give that look every day if I had to. I hope that won’t be necessary though. We only live in a small apartment. There is definitely not enough room for more than three puppies who will probably want to change into dogs someday.

Maybe it will be different if we move to a house. We could give them each their own room.

‘It’s got bacon in it too!’

But the positive reinforcement part of this look comes much less naturally. I really do not like chicken soup and so looking at it makes me want to cry. I take a spoonful of chicken soup and try hard to focus on storing the water to use for tears for later. I try not to focus on the taste.

‘Do you like it?’

I look over to the puppy, eating cheese that is past its use-by date. We gave him some yesterday too. It is even further past that date today and he looks like he is enjoying it just as much.

‘Well?’

I nod while I look for my reflection in the chicken soup. It’s not in there though. There are too many pieces of chicken for my face to reflect. I put another spoonful in my mouth and swallow. I really swallow.

I even push my head towards him and away from my neck while I do it.

I hope that he will not make chicken soup again.


Jessie Perrin is a Sydney based writer. Her work has appeared in Voiceworks, been read at the Wheeler Centre’s ‘The Next Big Thing’ and heard on FBi Radio’s ‘All The Best’. She is currently studying a Master of Creative Writing at The University of Sydney and pole dancing at weekends.

Loni Jeffs is a Melbourne based writer and artist. 

 

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