Sunday, 12 May 2013

Dogs Delight 2 Bark and bite

A blunt nose pushes against my knee: Bailey is back, demanding his dinner. 

labrador retriever, country garden, naughty dog, Richard bought him the same week he bought his tattersal shirts and his hiking sticks, the week we moved into the village. 

Bailey has been missing all afternoon, searching for chicken carcasses in the insalubrious lane by the Old Chapel, with its dilapidated hen houses and rank elder smell; or perhaps he was visiting the pig farm, where he has his own place by the boiler in the long outhouse. 
Brunt the pig farmer likes to relate how Bailey lies there warming his flanks alongside the swine.  I can imagine Brunt lying between them on his back in his greasy boiler suit, smoking Embassies with his eyes shut.  I saw him earlier, when I took Bailey for a walk and he pointed across the field: 

‘Cows is lined up along the hedge.  Promises rain coming, Missus.’   

Bailey grins up at me, his muzzle barred with mud and for the hundredth time I wish that he were a spaniel or a lap dog, because then he would be more of a comfort.  He would stay at my side when we go for walks and curl himself around me on the rug in front of the fire. 

But Bailey is self-sufficient.  He takes himself to the Lone Gelding, the depressing village pub, where he stands up on his hind legs at the bar, lapping beer from his own ashtray and befriending anyone who happens to come in.  I know that the regulars buy him packets of pork scratchings which he can open by himself and when there is a darts match he is in his pomp, escorting the home side as they slowly circle the snooker table, throw their arrows and resume their place in line.  He is not a loyal dog.
virginia creeper, pruning ivy, pruning bostonivy, pergolaI am still pulling at the heavy creeper when I hear the tearing of gravel on the drive and heavy braking and the late sun picks out Richard’s jeep parked by the corner of the house.  The children skip down the path and disappear and I hide behind the pergola, heart beating, listening for the banging of doors in the house as Richard searches for me.  He doesn’t come out into the garden. 

Minutes go by, then suddenly I hear the most violent shouting and swearing: someone arguing with him. 

….It sounds like Martin Bent, who fitted the warped windows in our summer house two months ago.  Bent swears again, obscenely, and throws down something metallic like shears and I hear the slamming of the gate: the expensive slam of substantial oak.  I suppose he must have been passing as Richard turned in at the gate and decided to demand payment for a bad job. 
angel statue, garden statue, bird tray, short story
Now there is silence except for the snap of my secataurs and the sunbeds stirring on the York stone.  The kitchen door slams to, the gate opens and the jeep bounds away down Main Street.  I am shivering, still hearing echoes of those deep threatening voices.

I must go indoors soon, to start on the meat.  Tonight we are holding a party for Richard’s business associates and suppliers and Mrs Dilkes says she cannot cope with the meat alone.  But still I keep on pulling and cutting the long red stems as the sun goes down and the garden darkens, the wind gets up and leaves fall fast from the willow. 

Rain is falling on the white seats and the angel stares through it with holy resignation as I hack away at the large leaves like open hands, until I am cold and my coat is damp.  I imagine Brunt grinning at the downpour from his outhouse window, gratified by this prompt fulfilment of his prophecy. 

As I hurry down the path the angel is staring fiercely at the clouds, without hope, and I wonder again whether the salvage firm Richard used really did find it in a cemetery, as he told me.
black labrador, labrador retriever, dog story, blovel

Dogs Delight is now available on Kindle at