Total Fucking Fantasist with Imaginary Dead Dog

Here is a story, at last!  I have been working on something longer but that’s resting for a while before I start editing  In the meantime here’s a tale of a man who really wasn’t paying attention…

I should have guessed she didn’t even have a dog.  There were none of those tell-tale signs, like hair on her jumper or mucky smears from paws to mar the freshness of her jeans.  All she had was the lead and the manner.

By manner I mean that easy over-familiarity which accompanies the insertion of the nose of one person’s pet quite a long way into the arse of another’s.  It’s an ice-breaker, isn’t it? And because we all know it will happen we just have to smile and talk a bit.  Anything else would be pervy.  Like some sort of dogging.  With dogs.  So, when she stood at my elbow with her lidded cappuccino from the café, I clocked the lead and understood why she was so close.

‘That your one?’

She spotted Harry rooting about in the border beside the tennis courts.  I can hardly bear to admit he’s with me really.  He is no more my dog that the bloody house is my house or the car my car or the children my children.  But there we are.  We get assigned things. Especially when we turn up mid-life and attach ourselves to other people’s previous choices.

‘Yes, well, my wife’s really.’

‘He’s a, what, a miniature Schnauzer?’

Good guess from the one back leg visible, I thought.

Of course she’d been watching me for weeks probably.  I’m not observant about people unless they get as close as she did.  I like to spend most of my time in the park on my phone looking at the property websites.  I mentally sell the awful house, re-home the children and horrible Harry and often Jane too, to be honest, and somehow come away with at least half the value.  Then I buy a flat in Hove – with a sea view.  By that point I have to get out a bag and pick up shit (we call it poo around the children, please, Mike) and then I can get his lead back on and get myself a tea for the walk home.  She could’ve been in the park every day and I wouldn’t have seen her. But that day, I did.

‘Yours is…?’

I looked around and couldn’t see a dog anywhere nearby to attach to her.  She pointed up towards the clock tower where something red-brown and big was leaping about like an old Chum advert from the seventies.  We never had dogs but there was something satisfying in the way those hefty, shiny animals used to eat down the solid block of ‘meaty goodness’.  Now we’d know it was all scrotum and God knows what.  Back then it looked just right.  The dog leaping in the sunlight looked just right too – it complemented her mane of blonde hair and her smart little coat.  Nice looking woman, I thought.

***

I had Harry tied up outside the Costa on Saturday.  I could see him from where I was sitting.  I’m not a total bastard.  I know the kids would be devastated if I lost him.  I suspect Jane would be rather less so.  Mind you, if only one of us, me or Harry, were to make it home from a walk one day, I wouldn’t want to lay odds on me as the favoured survivor.

She came through the door and I didn’t recognise her in a different context – not at first anyway.

‘I saw that was your little Harry out there.  Fancy another coffee?’

Very swift work really.  She had the dog’s name down already.  She had me sorted out just as quickly.  The flat was beautiful and smelt faintly of sandalwood room spray – not damp dog and discarded bags of swimming kit like our house.

It was only afterwards that I noticed the absence of hound.

‘Your dog’s not about?’

She looked down at my naked paunch and when her eyes flicked up again they were full of tears – as if on cue.

‘My Ralphy is dead.’

Bells rang in my head like the time Lee Tullett smashed the fire alarms at school to get out of drama class.  Painfully loud.  Totally obvious.  Only this time they were accompanied by an elaborate glowing sign that seemed to have appeared on top of her head.

‘Total Fucking Fantasist with Imaginary Dead Dog’

A curved, blue, neon construction sent down from the Merciful Sign Shop of the Lord.

It was too late.  She became just what she was always going to be in my life – the crazy lady who made me pay.  I lost Jane, kids, house and Harry.  It turned out to be Harry I cried over the most, strangely.  I couldn’t manage a dog once I was alone again.

I saw her the other day.  She was standing at the edge of the playground holding a little pink anorak and a Pepper Pig lunch box.  I stepped into the doorway of the Subway and watched her for a while.  After a bit she sidled up to a bloke holding a small red hoody and a book bag.  Part of me wanted to save him – but not enough.

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