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Common House Magazine

Great White

Vera Hadzic

Brownie was an old dog now. The droopy skin around his mouth had become rubbery and tough, and as he plodded on, his speckled nose clung to the ground. It didn’t take long for him to get tired, for his gums to loosen and huff around his shiny, glassy teeth. To Rebecca, Brownie’s oldness was inescapable—his age, more than the selling of the house, more than the white in Dad’s hair, told just how much time had passed. Years and years ago, Rebecca used to walk Brownie along this very stretch of beach, where the sand was bronzed red and caked flat, where their footprints stamped clean and precise and untouchable.

“Hey, look. You remember Dr. Brodwiler’s house?” Dora swiped a curl out of her eye and pointed. She was Rebecca’s sister, four years older. They’d both come back home—just for a couple weeks, just to help Dad sell the house. He’d organized a garage sale that morning. It was chillier than they’d expected. Rebecca’s fingers had scrunched up and blanched in the wind. Or maybe she’d just felt sad and nostalgic. She had sold her shark teeth to some tangle-haired kid, swearing they were real even though she was letting them go dirt cheap. He’d scrunched up his nose: Where’d you get ’em? Did a shark give ’em to you?

“Of course I remember Dr. Brodwiler. Does she still live there?”


“I don’t know. But Brownie loves that spot. He gets all fired up when we pass by. Sniffing and panting and everything. I walked him there yesterday.”

Dr. Brodwiler was a scientist, a marine biologist. She got excited if you asked about her research—like the shark dissection. Rebecca would never forget the way she had described it. That must have been ten years ago now, when Rebecca had just started high school. A great white shark had washed up on some beach. Even now, she could hear Dr. Brodwiler’s voice, imagine what she’d seen, felt—the enormity of the shark, its hulking deadness slumped across a table, the cloying smell of brine and mineral. A white underbelly blotched and marbled, fins stiff and tough. Its gills, pockets of black, swelling with moisture. Small, needle-boned Dr. Brodwiler, slicing its patchy stomach and paring away its flesh. Inside, organs like slabs of stone—firm, yet malleable. The caving walls of its inner body, all ribbed with red and woolly threads of skin.

“See?” Dora grinned and pulled on Brownie’s leash. He’d arrowed for the house, tugging with his whole chest, ears swivelling back and nails carving into the sand. “He goes absolutely wild.”


Dr. Brodwiler’s back porch sagged into the sand, its wood pillars deflated from wind, water, and years. The paint job had once been white: now it was a creamy yellow. The roof was enamelled with seagull shit and bug spit.


“Maybe he smells something. Some dead animal under the deck.”


“Maybe Dr. Brodwiler. She’s pretty old, isn’t she?”

More than his walk, Brownie loved settling down for his nap. As soon as they came in, he flattened himself against the carpet while Rebecca perched on the couch. Solemnly, she listened to the drone and churn of the air conditioning like it was a hymn. Each click, each gulp of recycled air was sacred, one of the last times she’d hear those whirring harmonies in this old, calloused house. She thought about the shark teeth, all the mementos these walls had kept safe for so long.


Rebecca showered just before dinner. She stayed under the water long enough for her hair to noodle with steam, her memories to puff up with moisture and rise. As a teenager, she’d often visited Dr. Brodwiler’s house. Brownie would nap on the back porch while Rebecca studied by the sea. Dr. Brodwiler used to narrate shark migration patterns as though they were epics, odysseys or crusades. Did you know, they travel as far as 4000 kilometres across open ocean… In the late afternoon, the sun sheeting over the water would make the waves glow orange, like tangerine slices.

They had steak that evening.

“The garage sale went well, but I’ve still got so much junk left,” Dad complained as they ate. He hacked his meat into strips, all tingly and pink inside.


Rebecca said, “Did Dr. Brodwiler ever tell you about how she dissected a great white at Dalhousie?”


“Not that I remember.” Dad shrugged. “It washed up on a beach, I think.”


I’ll never forget the size of it, Dr. Brodwiler had said. The solidity. And, of course, the smell. A fishy, salty smell.


“We think she might be dead,” Dora said. “Dr. Brodwiler. Brownie smells something in her house.”




“By the way, Dad, you are not keeping the mahogany wardrobe.” Dora got up to load the dishwasher.


“But it’s your grandmother’s!”


“You’re supposed to be downsizing.”


It wasn’t easy to coax Brownie into an evening walk. He looked up at her with those pleading, stewy eyes, begging to lay still and vegetate. “Come on, buddy,” Rebecca whispered. “Let’s go watch the sunset.”


The lowering sun ripened the sand, made it flaky but smooth like tomato skin. The sand sprayed around Rebecca’s ankles as she walked, as she listened to the waves cymbal against the shore. She smelled salt in the air. At her side, Brownie winched up his leg to pee on a log of driftwood. The sea had skinned the bark off; the wood inside gleamed, supple, vulnerable.

It was Dr. Brodwiler who had given her the shark teeth, the ones she’d sold that morning. She visualized them easily: their scraping, bristly root lobes, veneered grooves, their serrations eroded, erased. When she first got them, the teeth had been pearl pink. She’d kept them for so many years, memorizing their every dent and abrasion.


Did you know, Rebecca, that great whites have seven rows of teeth?


When they reached Dr. Brodwiler’s porch, Brownie perked up—and then he went wild, his whole body shaking, brown fur on edge, tail wagging and beating Rebecca’s leg. His pink, glistening tongue let slobber rope down his lips, coat his mottled teeth. He pawed and sniffed, squashed himself against the back door, whimpered like a puppy, tugged on his leash until Rebecca felt her arm straining out of its socket.

Rebecca knocked on the back door. No response.


She peered through the back window, into the innards of the house. She wasn’t sure, at first, about what she was looking at. Her grip on Brownie’s leash loosened and he pushed himself onto his hind legs, scratching and howling at the door.


Rebecca was looking at Dr. Brodwiler in her kitchen. Old and frail, hunched over a huge, dead shark, spread open on the table. The pale pebbling of its skin under the old woman’s tiny, bony hand. Its open chest cavity, its corridors of ringed flesh, endless rooms of bone marrow. Dried, cold blood climbing up the spiral of Dr. Brodwiler’s wrists. Constellations of shark fluid splattered on her glasses. A part of Rebecca thought that there couldn’t possibly be a whole shark in that tiny kitchen. It must be a trick of the light, the flush of red at sunset.


Rebecca’s hand had turned the doorknob—the door shuddered open, its hinges screeching. Too late, Rebecca realized her mistake—with a shout, she grabbed for Brownie’s leash, but the line whipped through her hands, seared a rope burn across her palm. Brownie launched himself at the table, his old legs pulsing beneath him.


Rebecca stumbled in. Dr. Brodwiler was not moving at all—just blinking at them, shoulders locked into place, staring at Rebecca and the dog, long arms still enveloped in shark blood. Face still, as though cast in plaster. It occurred to Rebecca that she might be some illusion, some spectral projection, but she seemed so very real.


Brownie was on the table. No, Brownie was in the shark: standing in the enormous, curling bowl of its exposed body, the knobbly liernes of spine and ribs protruding through its tissue as they cupped the empty space, the dog invading it. Blood and wetness splattering dark on his fur as his claws scrabbled against cold, stiff shark. His head bent, tail spearing the air, neck contorting, twisting as his teeth closed around the shark’s two-chambered heart. Rebecca could hear the tension, the snap of organic tendons bursting under his teeth. He didn’t want to eat it, she thought—he was just trying to play. She ran over, half in a trance, and reached a desperate hand to Brownie’s back. The shark’s dead eyes roved across the floor, two black marbles, the dark halves of planets. Didn’t sharks have that dead look in their eyes, even when they were alive?

“It’s okay, buddy,” she said, petting the dog’s fur, petting again and again while his body shook, while he pulled and pulled and ripped at flesh. “That’s okay…just calm down…”

Vera Hadzic (she/her) is from Ottawa, Ontario, studying English and history at the University of Ottawa. Recently, her work has appeared in periodicities, These Days, Experiment-O, and elsewhere. Her first chapbook, Fossils You Can Swallow, is from Proper Tales Press. She can be found on Twitter @HadzicVera, or through

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