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The Trouble with My Sister – Karen Jones

My emotional support bear killed my sister tonight. He says I should give him a proper name, but when I suggest Bob, he gets huffy, says giving animals alliterative names is infantilising. I tell him his full name would be Beelzebob, Bob for short, and he laughs, says that’s cute, and Bob is better than Bub, but still a no from him.

My sister is like a tiny volume of water left in a glass; when spilled, she has covered more space than seems possible. I try not to look at the not-quite-licked-clean bones. What should I do with them? Bury them? A feast for the neighbourhood dogs? She did love dogs.

Bear stands beside my bed, says I need to stop lying around all day – I should get out into the woods, feel the world breathe its love into my heart and lungs. He can be erudite and occasionally poetic when he’s not mauling people to death. It hasn’t been a lot of people – just my sister and my ex. So far.

My sister never liked my ex, said he was a user and abuser. Bear says it takes one to know one, and really, she liked my ex-ex too much, and really, that was the problem with my sister, that she couldn’t keep her hands off my things, and really, she’d even tried to tempt Bear into her room with promises of bigger problems and juicy steaks.

Bear paws at my leg, asks why I’m still sad. He’s doing his best, he says, to deal with things that cause me pain, and he doesn’t like to fail. He takes a bone, taps it on his leg, sniffs it, tosses it aside. I feel vomit surge, but I swallow it back down. I’m good at keeping things under the surface. Bear tuts, says if I keep going with the pathetic attempts at self-analysis, he’ll leave, and then where will I be?

It’s not that my sister didn’t deserve to die – she probably did – but the manner of her death, and in my room, has left me shaken. Bear is still licking her blood off his fur, and I think he expects me to clean the parts he can’t reach. But she and I were never close, never hugged, rarely talked, and this seems like such an intimate act.

Bear nuzzles his snout into my neck and I stroke his fur, avoiding the sticky tufts of sister bits. I tell him I’ll call him Gerald. He likes that. Thinks it sounds very grand, and he is a grand bear. I don’t tell him I’ll always think of him as Bob. He licks away the tears I hadn’t realised had fallen on my cheeks, climbs onto the bed and holds me close.

‘Okay, kiddo,’ he soft-growls, ‘I think it’s time. We really need to talk about your mother.’ He burps and I’m sure I catch a whiff of my sister’s perfume.

My sister, who my mother always says is her favourite.