The Ninth Step [Fiction Prompt: A Dog’s Life]

Flash fiction prompt day two! Before I get to the story, I want to quickly talk about content warnings. I would describe this story as “a wee bit sad” and there’s nothing I would consider graphic or explicit in there, but when I told a friend about it they suggested that it should have a content warning because of what it’s about. I abhor censorship in art and understand that using content warnings is a positive and effective way to help people avoid retraumatisation without completely excluding anything from a piece of writing that might be potentially upsetting to someone for whatever reason.

Because having a “this is exactly what this story is about” list right at the beginning sort of kills the reading experience, I’ve placed a content warning down at the bottom. If you wish to view it, click HERE, then you can scroll back up and read the story if you don’t feel like it’ll unfloat your boat. If you want to just read, then just read.

The Ninth Step

I feel bad asking you to do this when you’ve already done so much but I really need you to give her a message for me. The thing is, I have no other way to get in touch with her. I can’t speak to her parents and even if I could, even if they would listen, they have no way of reaching her now either.

You see, I’ve been working my way through all the steps since I’ve been in here. It was tough at the beginning, the first time I stood up in front of the others and said it out loud. They were all really supportive though. I mean, some of them are in here for the same reason I am so they understand and I know they aren’t judging me but God, it was so difficult, so very difficult to actually force those words out. It was worse than the mornings on the bathroom floor, throwing up blood and bile and crying because I hated myself so much. I still cried and I still hated myself but those words tasted worse than anything that ever came out of my body or anything I ever put into it.

“…and I’m an alcoholic”.

After I said it, telling them the rest was easier. It all came out in a rush like the truth couldn’t wait to escape, couldn’t wait to get away from me. It’s not like I hadn’t already faced up to the reality of what happened but it was the first time I’d done it on my own terms and I wasn’t even worried about the consequences because at that point I had nothing left to lose. It felt like an exorcism but I guess you know all about those.

Step one was easy. It was the obvious conclusion and ending up in here made it impossible to avoid any longer. I was powerless. My life was unmanageable. Step two and step three were a massive relief. I’d almost stopped believing that my sanity could be restored and I know there have been days when I doubted you could help but I knew it was time I turned my mess of a life over to you.

Step four was tough but I’ve had plenty of opportunity to think since I arrived here—there aren’t exactly a lot of other things taking up my time—and even though my heart broke a thousand times a day, I made my searching and fearless moral inventory. Admitting it to you felt like a weight being lifted but the second part of step five was harder. I still did it though, in my avalanche of truth at the meeting. I didn’t just admit it to another human being. I admitted it to a whole room. And I didn’t just admit the part that landed me in here, but all the rest of it too, everything. I was worried that I was taking up too much time but no-one hurried me, no-one told me to stop talking. They just listened and when I broke down they held me and let me cry. I couldn’t remember the last time someone had held me while I cried.

That brought me to step six and God, I was so ready, so ready to ask you to remove all the defects of character that had led me to this place. Step seven, actually asking, was harder. Not because I thought you would abandon me—I knew by then that you wouldn’t—but because I wasn’t sure that I deserved your forgiveness. The truth is, sometimes I thought it would be easier not to be forgiven because if you could forgive me, then maybe I’d have to forgive myself too and I didn’t know how to do that.

Step eight was a long list because I’ve harmed a lot of people. I was more than willing to make amends to them and I started writing letters to the ones who could be contacted that way. I even wrote one to her parents, although I wouldn’t blame them if they didn’t read it. But her . . . I can’t send her a letter and that’s why I need your help with the ninth step.

Can you tell her I have no excuses and I take full responsibility for everything? Can you let her know that I will carry this with me for the rest of my life but it’s nothing compared to what her parents will carry with them? Can you tell her I didn’t see her, that I saw the dog and swerved to avoid it but I didn’t know she was there until it was too late? Can you explain to her that as soon as I felt the impact, the world broke open and hell closed in around me? Can you let her know that I’m sorry my face was the last thing she saw, that she was already gone by the time her parents ran out of the garden to where she was lying on the road? Can you tell her that while her mother held her body and the dog barked and ran in circles and her father screamed like his soul was splitting in two, that I called the police and told them I was drunk and I had killed her?

God, it’s twelve steps and eight years later. I still go to meetings but I now unlock my own doors any time I want. Sometimes I sit in the park across the road from her house. I look different enough now that her parents wouldn’t recognise me but I keep my distance, just to be sure. For a while I saw them walking the dog but now it’s just the two of them so I guess the dog is with you, and with her. Can you tell her that her face is still the last thing I see before I fall asleep at night?


About the photo
I’ve had this little silver and amethyst cross for over twenty years. I’m not Christian and never have been (nothing against Christianity, it’s just not for me) but I saw this at a street market and bought it because it was purple and pretty. It’s amazing I’ve managed not to lose it at any point during ten moves of house and three moves of country. I also kind of love religious symbolism in pretty much any context, whether or not it relates to my own spiritual path.

Index of January 2017 flash fiction prompts.

Content Warning
Contains mentions of vomit, addiction and recovery, prison, religion, driving under the influence, and death.

2 Replies to “The Ninth Step [Fiction Prompt: A Dog’s Life]”

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