Peer Review by Ava Marie (Canada)

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Hank the Not-Dog (Footnotes)

By: Minvra


FREE WRITING

Dogs were supposed to be a man’s best friend; I learned the hard way. Golden retrievers are popular emotional support dogs. Hank wasn’t one. While I can’t guarantee whether it was real or not (as there was no damage) or if it was an elaborate dream, the emotions were undeniably real. It wasn’t schizophrenia because Leila witnessed it while the devil’s hound came knocking on our bathroom door.
      Hank snapped when I tried to abandon him for the third time this year. I wouldn’t say he’s a dog because he wasn’t. I had slammed the door and slid on the floor, squeezing my hands against the rough beige carpet. When I moved it to the right, it would get darker and to the left, it would be lighter. The smallest things seem to also be the most fascinating. Even when I was a child I’d gaze at strange things but I didn't bother asking. It was always this way; I observe and never question it, and it was why Hank was attracted to me. No one wanted to hear the childish rambles of a kid. The moonlight pierces through the black curtain of night and through my window over my bed. I scanned the room to ground myself.   
      White bookshelf. Nightstand. Lamp. Dresser. Bed. My breath hitched as I tilted my head, and squinted through the color-sucked walls. On the bed was a silhouette of a golden retriever. Hank’s fur clinged off the bed like how mirrors clinged onto my attention and body. Well, how it clung my attention on my body. I got rid of my mirror on the lightwood door behind me.
      Hank leapt on the ground soundlessly. We were upstairs. Its beady eyes glinted in the iridescent white light. My sister was probably downstairs watching TV since this was one of the only few days she can relax.  Its long mouth contorted in a mixture of bared pearly teeth and a human sneer. 
      “I tell you I can be your best friend,” it said softly. “Or your worst enemy. Delilah.” 
Its tail swished. The dark gold fur sat up and morphed into jagged mirror shards. Its front paws and hind legs melted into six scythes. The lesser of the transformation was his darker fur on his back shifted into a dark blue, but the worst thing was its rank, sardine breath and saliva dripping on my face. I choked on a sob. 
       “How dare you,” It said roughly. “I was only helping you.” Its talons dug in my shoulders, through my hoodie, and banged me against the door. 
       “Lyla?” A muffled feminine voice asked. Just what I need now. My eyes slid on Hank’s shards. In it was a girl with a double chin. Her cheeks were red with tear tracks. Her brown hair was disorderly. To keep some dignity, she tried to wipe her tears with a draping sleeve, but no matter how furiously she rubbed her eyes, more would come in its place. Leila was coming, and she would see the mess of her sister.
        “Lyla,” the voice was louder. “Are you okay?” A sudden dull coolness crossed and I stared underneath the door. It was that feeling I would get when I prepped for a party or family gathering. A shadow pooled like the bottom of a small waterhole, and expanded rapidly. The footsteps grew louder, and I should be terrified, but all I could manage was hiccups and calmness; it was the eye of a hurricane. Then came a hollow knocking.
        “Lyla?” Leila paused. “Okay, I’m going to come in-”
Color flooded and soaked the grey walls. I stared at a tall figure that was my sister and she stared at the bed. It was then I noticed Hank wasn’t with me. But my sister must’ve seen him because she wouldn’t have reacted. Suddenly two hands yanked me through the door. 
         I stumbled with Leila down the unlit hall. Six legs tapped behind us, crawling on the wooden floor at an alarming rate. Wisps of blonde hair covered Leila’s face, but what she felt was clear as daylight. A pale face screwed up and her chest heaving was a telltale indicator when you felt a singular emotion: oh crap. Leila flung me in the bathroom. I stumbled over a fallen towel and into the wall. 
          Click.
          Like a switch, I curled in myself and fixed on my body heat like a fetus curled in a womb. My throat pulsed and I gasped for air. All I could get was shallow puffs. I heard Leila shuffle across the pristine floor. It was soft and small rustles I could barely hear over my breathing. I met her frantic blue eyes. 
          “Do you have your phone?” she asked.
           I patted my hoodie and pants, and shook my head. How would I have a phone if Ha-that monster had me in its claws?
           “Let me in,” it came out as lhet mee iin. “Deliiilah,” it sang. Its pincers rapped against the door and whined. Reminiscent to when he was a golden retriever. Gone was the smooth low voice and now was a high tenor. 
          “What was that?” Leila ran a hand through her blonde hair. “Nevermind.”
           Leila walked to the sink. The counter had a plastic red cup with our toothbrushes. Leila dumped the toothbrushes in the sink and filled the plastic cup until a jiggle of movement could spill it over. She tilted her head and chugged as droplets sloshed on her face. When she refilled, I watched silently as she knelt by me and offered a cup.
           “We're going to be here for a while.” I took the plastic cup from her and brought it to my lips. I traced Leila’s worry lines as water dribbled down my chin..
           “Lyla,” she leveled her blue eyes on me as she sat feet crossed in lotus pose. “I've been worried about you. I haven't heard a lot about your friends.” I stared at her as I drank slowly.  Why was she asking about my feelings while the devil was knocking on our bathroom door. “And...you've called home sick in the middle of school a lot.”  
             Leila suddenly pulled me in her skinny arms and I jerked in her hold. She smiled, but it didn’t quite reach her baby-blue eyes. “Sorry,” she raised her hands. “No touchies.” 
             "You don't have to tell me everything, but is there any way I can help you?” I hesitated.      What if I’m just being silly? If this is just something trivial. I'm the reason why we're in this mess and she's asking about my feelings. “Delilah,” she leaned over. I paused. She never called me by that name before. Everyone but her called me Delilah. “Whatever it is, I can assure you it's not ridiculous. It's not wasting my time if that's what you're worried about.” I licked my lips as my shoulder blades stiffened. My throat, still throbbing and snot filled clogged it. Hank banged on the door. The wood chipped and bent. But all I could do was think of those words. Not ridiculous. Hank says I'm a big girl and I shouldn't bother my sister who works forty hours. 
         “I'm ugly.”
         “What?”
         “I'm ugly.”
         “You look beautiful to me.” My face tightened and I jutted my chin to the floor. I knew she meant well, but she could wear tank tops or shorts and not feel the gut-wrenching dread of judgement. She doesn’t have to wear makeup. On one side of my right face was bed wrinkles. The skin was looser and rugged than the underside of my other eye. There was a patch of foundation as rough as a scrape when I tried to cover it up. I could hide my lack of thigh gap, but I couldn’t hide my face without being looked at funny. She’s just being polite. They don’t understand. 
         Leila shifts. “When did this feeling start?”
         I tried to avoid her face. The face is the most expressive part of the body. She meant well but it doesn't wipe the feeling away. You can't help judging people. I would know the feeling because I do it too. Then I would feel shame lodged in my throat.  I don’t choke, but I can't quite swallow it.
         “I-” snot burned in my nose as the words caught up in my throat. My eyes watered and I rubbed my face until raw. “Hate the feeling. It won't go away.
          “I can't stand looking at the mirror. When I-” I wipe my snot-covered sleeve. “When I wake. Wake up. I don't look in the mirror.” Well I managed to get this far, I might as well plow into this humiliation full-way. 
          “I can't stand it. My hair’s a mess and I have to carry a brush around.” I’m a mess, but no brush can smooth it out. My fingers curled. My hair weighs when it's in a tangle. It looks like a brown cobweb with my frizzy hair. “My face is lopsided,” I clasp a hand over my face to hide my twisting face and surely red one. She's probably going to focus on it. Or maybe she’ll think I'm making a big deal. She wouldn't know though. Maybe she’ll think I have anorexia. But I eat well. I don't have an eating disorder, but something’s wrong with me. I don't care about my weight.            “Everyone” I hiccupped. “Looks at me. Or at least the new students and then they don't pay attention to me the next week.”
         “I-” My shoulders racked. Once upon a timeago, I had friends who would hang out and invite me for birthdays, but like a reflection, the angle is only a pathway to the same destination; when light reaches our eyes. I was the awkward one in the corner, displaced, but I don’t think anyone noticed. If they did, they didn’t care how I acted. We drifted away in middle school when our differences diverged. Make up. Pop Culture. I keeled over. My forehead pressed against the cool floor. I wrapped my arms around me to keep myself warm but goosebumps sprinkled like scalding oil under my dark hoodie. My snot was rubbing against my hair like gum but I couldn't bring myself to care. I want to curl up so tightly in a ball so that I would no longer be seen. A wave of dizziness strikes me. Hank pounds on the door more desperately. Every second was another moment of excruciating emotional pain in that moment, but it was draining too. My sniffling eased. Leila’s prickling gaze was palpable. 
   “Lyla,” Her calloused fingertips swept against my fingers, gently prodding the plastic cup from my hold. She filled it with water.  “I’m thinking that we should make an appointment with your doctor,” Leila fixed her eyes on me and passed the cup. “And there may be a chance they might recommend therapy.”
Like a time-ticking bomb waiting for the trigger, all sense of exhaustion spilled. “There's nothing wrong with me.” But there was. I knew it, Hank knew it and he was banging on the door, and I know Leila thinks I'm lying. 
“Imagine yourself able to feel comfortable with yourself. Do you feel comfortable?”
I stare at the floor. It's grey lines traced a triangle. Equilateral. It's the most resilient geometric shape. I liked tracing the patterns on the floor because it reminded me there is a ground, but I wasn't a triangle. 
“There is no shame for getting help,” her voice wavered. “I’m thinking of getting some help too.”
    “What? Why?” 
“Therapy is for everyone,” Leila looks over my shoulder. Her honey brown eyes glistened. “That needs help and I need help to support you.”
    I bury my face in my shirt. Great, I’m too much for her.
“Delilah, I need you with me, and you need me as well. And,” Her throat bobs. “We’ll get through this together.”
“But what if I’m,” I bite my lower lip. “I’m overreacting?”
    Leila smiles tiredly. “The therapist can determine if you need any more sessions if the doctor recommends it.”
There was a triangular shape around our mouth and nose. They stretched in a smile. She unwrapped herself from me. A cool breeze hung against me. It was then it hit me; she hugged me. Leila cupped her hand against the door. We didn’t move a breath. Then she turned. 
“It looks like he got bored.” 
I frown. Hank doesn’t get bored. He probably realized he wasn’t getting through. Though, his racking had grown silent. I whispered. “Be careful.” Leila nodded. Slowly she unlocked the door and stuck her head through the opening. When she closed the door her face broke into prominent dimples.
    “Looks like he’s gone. I haven’t heard any scratches.” I clinged onto my sister's shirt as we stepped out. A cool breeze hit me, and I knew something was amiss. The window at the end of the hall was open. There were no signs of damage.

         We never did find out what Hank was or where he is. We, Leila and I, suspect he was parasite or manifestation of what was going on with me. I lean against the tree trunk as my breath staggers. Its rough bark soothes an itch on my sweaty back. Clutched in my arms are a thin book and drawing pad. I squeeze my palms and toes and shoulders, revelling how my muscles stretch and exhale like a balloon. My counselor, Ms. Daun gave me a book about Body Dysmorphic Disorder. She gave a copy to Leila too because it was important for us to get to know what this was. It was how a person would be self-conscious of how they look and several other illnesses may come with it. She recommended when I feel a trigger, to write or draw about it for the next session.
Never had I ever appreciated breathing as much as I do now. I stare at my drawing pad and place the book on the grass. 
       “Hi there!”A tiny head hangs upside down and pops from the bunch of leaves from a low branch. A delicate wing hides most of its face with large ears sticking out as if it was a radio picking up signals.

Hi! So this was my health assignment. I figured I might as well post it on here since it's creative writing. I already turned my assignment in a long time ago, so yeah. We had to choose one of the mental illnesses, I chose BDD. I'm not quite sure how great this story is to be honest. I was kind of in a rush. So feel free to submit a peer review. Any way, I could improve this. The form of it, accuracy? There are lots of works where we have to use our imagination for things we never experienced so....

Peer Review

I really like the whole concept of this. Your descriptions of everything were really great!


I think the main thing for me is, maybe describe Hank a bit more in the beginning and during his transformation. Another thing is that most of your paragraphs have indents, but not all. I would recommend indenting them all to help the reader. Other than that, just the little comments I left highlighted.


Reviewer Comments

This was really good, and a interesting read. I love how you didn't give a diagnosis until very close to the end. How did you do on the assignment?
Also, sorry this is so late!!!