The empty dish sat squarely where it had been left. Except it hadn’t been left by any party other than itself. It had left itself exactly where it wanted to be left – in no place in particular. No recrimination, no proof, no argument, indeed nothing that could be pinned on it regarding what had been in it and who had licked it clean.
The owner of the house – who at the time was myself – became startled one day by the sudden sight of the dish with a dent*: a brilliant filled in circle of staring white against the seaside designed lino. Filled in with nothing except the meaty dent empty as the day it was first bought as a Christmas present for a pet. Bought by whosoever had bought it for their dog. Too big for a cat unless it had been for a big cat. The dent was big enough indeed for an average cat to occupy it. Or at least its growing kitten.
I have since left that house for other owners to own, the latest owner being someone like you. If indeed it isn’t you.
Haunted by a dog-dish was not one of the selling-points, so here’s my personal saying of sorry for leading you up the garden path. I did not ask for the dog-dish. I did not ask for its presence in the house nor its sizeable dent for food to nest in. I hereby declare that I did not buy it. I have since discovered that a previous owner to me owned it. And I assure you that owning the house does not entail owning the dog-dish or even the dog-dish dent. Emptiness does not come with the thing that that emptiness occupies. Common sense.
A receptacle is only as full as it is willing to own up to. An inadvertent speck of dust is not contents as a dead carcass would be contents. Whoever filled it forced whatever was used to fill it to fulfil the role of contents. And if the contents had earlier crawled into it, then the contents are the full responsibility of the contents, not of the receptacle. Not of the dog-dish. Even if the contents later died while still filling it.
But the dish was a haunted dish. Still is, you claim?
Haunted by itself or by its erstwhile contents, you ask. A good question.
The dish, in the normal course of events, would have contained many dinners throughout its lifetime, if inanimate objects can have lifetimes. Shops sell inanimate things with guarantees, with certificated lifetimes, so why not with souls as well as with lifetimes, one would be entitled to ask. Doesn’t a lifetime entail a soul to experience that same lifetime? Each dinner once in the dish: each a ghost that haunts it. If ghosts have nothing else they have souls to give them motive force. And what made me sell the house – to you of all people? It was the dinner that I regularly saw nesting in the dog-dish dent at night as it hovered into view above the floorboards where the carpet’s thickness supported it. Each night a different carpet. Each day the same carpet that merely preceded it. Ghosts need real things to precede them. And I preceded you.
So next time you keep watch at night for the empty dent filling itself with the blood-lit contents of a tin, don’t forget that once it had not been in that tin. You will then be able to rest easy. Any vision of jaws themselves snapping back around the head that owned them is a dream from which you will soon wake.
From my side, it just remains for me to give you my motto as an aside. To lick oneself is just a form of cleanliness, nothing more, nothing less. Probably the most efficient method during the current climate. They say cleanliness is next to Godliness. But only as long as you leave it there and not try to get too clean. Beauty however is never to be taken for granted, however much the mirror lies. Being a real dish is skin deep. With no salt or rinse-aid. Or tablets.
*’dent’ – the only word I can think of for the scooped out part of dog-dish to provide the space where the food is placed.
Written today and first published here as your Christmas present from me