Story a Day for a Week in May…plus 1

 

 black lab 2

Well, I did the ‘Story a Day for a Week in May’ gig that I set out to do and found that I enjoyed it too much to stop right away. So, here’s a bonus short story. It’s another featuring the hapless Hugh who we met in stories 1 & 2, and I’m not even going to pretend it’s about buying a pint of milk!

***

The Thing Is…

by

Christine Campbell

 

“Excuse me, Sir. I’m afraid dogs are not allowed in the park without a lead.” Donald pointed to the sign.

“Ah, yes! I see that, but you see, the thing is…”

“The thing is, Sir, that your dog is fouling on my grass. There’s a penalty for that.” The Park Keeper pointed to the relevant notice. “Unless, of course, you use a pooper-scooper and dispose of the offending mess appropriately, Sir.”

“Ah, yes! I see that too, but you see, the thing is…”

Donald reached into the pouch he wore across his body. “The thing is, Sir, that I have some plastic bags here for just such an occasion.” And he handed one over.

“Ah, yes! I see. Plastic bag. Yes.” Hugh looked at the bag as though it was from outer space. “And what exactly…?” He made a vague waving gesture with it.

“Never done this before, have we, Sir.”

“No, actually. Haven’t needed to really.”

“Ah! New to this area, are we?”

Hugh nodded, looking at the dog as it crouched on the grass adding to its offence.

“Thought so! Standards, Sir. It’s all about standards, if you don’t mind my saying so, Sir, good, old-fashioned standards.” He clasped his hands behind his back and rocked on his spread feet.

“Absolutely, old man, old-fashioned. Bit like myself, wife tells me. Reckons live in wrong century, she does. Me, that is, not…”

“And we like to keep our park up to a very high standard,” Donald continued. “Litter, dogs’ mess, ball-games, these are the things that bring a park down, you know.”

“Quite, yes. I can imagine.” Hugh wrinkled his nose in distaste. “Thing is, don’t you know…” He still held the plastic bag at arm’s length. A look of puzzlement crossed his face when he looked at it.

“If I may, Sir?” Donald took the bag from his grasp and walked across the grass to the offending pile. “Allow me to demonstrate the use of the plastic bag as a pooper-scooper,” and this he ably did. “One places one’s hand inside the bag, thus,” he demonstrated, “pick up the poop, thus,” he did, “turn the bag inside out, thus,” again, accomplished expertly, “thereby containing the mess within the bag, to be disposed of in the receptacle provided.” He indicated the bin at the end of the path.

“I say, well done!” Hugh applauded.

“Thank you, Sir.” Donald beamed. Hugh showed no sign of relieving the Park Keeper of the plastic bag of warm pooh, so Donald walked across to the bin and demonstrated how it should be deposited. “Thus!”

Hugh nodded his understanding. “Yes. Yes. Quite. Now, the thing is, you see…”

“And now, Sir. May I suggest you collect your dog and put it on its leash before any further mishap occurs?”

“Good idea! Yes. The thing is though…” Hugh raised his hands, displaying the lack of a dog leash.

“Ah, I see your problem now,” the Park Keeper nodded. With a smug smile, he reached into his pouch once more. “Fortunately, I carry this length of rope for just such an occasion.” He handed it to Hugh.

“Rope, yes, and I imagine you….” He held the rope out and wiggled it about a bit as though putting it through the dog’s collar.

“Exactly, Sir. Now, if you’d care to call the dog?”

“Yes, yes. See what you mean. Call the dog. Rover, don’t you know. Always called my dogs Rover. Ever since I was a boy. Got a puppy for my birthday.” Hugh smiled at the memory of waking to the warm, wet nose snuffling round his face. He’d wanted a dog so much, hadn’t dared to hope his mother would let him have one of his very own. He’d called him Rover, unable to think of a more original name. Continued to call it Rover even after realising, or, rather, being told, he was a she. “Old-fashioned now, I suppose. The name, I mean. Rover. Still, Mumsie has kept up the tradition, don’t you know.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“No matter. You see, the thing is…”

“If you’d care to call the dog, Sir?” Donald was getting edgy. This particular dog had been irritating him, on and off, for days now. Never on a leash, trotting about as if it owned the park, cocking its leg where it would, digging in the flower beds. Donald had chased it from his roses on several occasions, been tempted to raise his boot to it, but decided that was beneath his dignity. Besides, it would be typical if the owner chose that very moment to appear. He could do without the trouble that might cause.

But he had been watching out for the dog’s owner and was pleased to have the opportunity to make clear the park rules concerning animals. “If you wouldn’t mind, Sir?” The dog was perilously close to a beautiful display of azaleas. In fact he was beginning to dig around them.

Hugh looked doubtful, but reluctantly co-operated with the request. “Rover! Erm, Rover!” He called self-consciously and ineffectually.

The Park Keeper smiled and nodded his encouragement.

Hugh tried again. “I say Rover, old boy, do come over here!” He tapped the rope against his leg.

The dog, a large black Labrador, disdained to ‘come over ‘ anywhere, but began digging in earnest, putting the azaleas in serious jeopardy now.

Hugh pursed his lips and attempted to whistle, not something he was ever good at, but something he always believed he would someday be able to do. He felt it was a requirement of a dog owner and had sought to perfect the technique since being given the first puppy, also a black lab as it happened.

The sound that came from his lips was thin and frail and the dog could be excused for ignoring it.

Hugh called again. The dog dug on. The azaleas toppled in the dirt.

“Not well trained,” Donald remarked through gritted teeth, “If you don’t mind my saying so, Sir,” he said.

“No. No!” Hugh was eager to reassure the park keeper. “I don’t mind at all. Completely in agreement on that point. Has a will of his own, don’t you know.”

“Do you mind if I?” The Park Keeper indicated his willingness to help round up the dog.

“Not at all,” Hugh said earnestly. “Be my guest.” And he handed over the coiled rope.

“May I suggest, Sir, that you go round that way?” Donald indicted one side of the shrubbery. “While I advance from this direction. That way we can perhaps cut off his escape.”

“By all means,” Hugh acquiesced.

Labrador Retrievers are not, by nature, difficult dogs as a rule and Rover proved true to his breed, allowing himself to be rounded up and captured without much protest after a playful romp through the plants.

“Firmness, you see, Sir,” Donald said with due pride. “They respond to firmness. Firmness of voice. You have to let them know who’s in charge.” He pulled sharply on the rope, bringing the dog to ‘heel’.

“Yes, absolutely. Yes. I see that. Thank you. Well done. Most impressive.” Hugh knew it was true, and Mumsie had often tried to goad him into being his dog’s master rather than its playmate. The role had never suited him and none of the dogs he’d owned over the years had been fooled by any attempts on his part to play it.

The Park Keeper dusted down his much-prized uniform jacket and stood tall. “And now, Sir, if you’d be so good as to remove the animal from the vicinity.” He handed the rope to Hugh. “I’ll tidy up round the azaleas.”

“Yes. Yes. The thing is, you see…”

But the Park Keeper was no longer listening. As far as he was concerned, the matter was satisfactorily concluded. Just the garden to put in order with some urgency.

The park had won prizes for its gardens. Every season, Donald set out the appropriate plants, displaying them to perfection, creating a riot of colour in summer, a mellow glow in autumn. The freshness of spring was captured in his snowdrop glades and daffodil clusters. Even winter presented him with a challenge he met triumphantly, nurturing trees and shrubs that enjoyed the cooler days and kept some colour.

He set off to his hut to fetch his tools.

When he returned, he was surprised to find Hugh still there, sitting on a bench, the dog far off, digging again at the same spot, azaleas torn and scattered between its paws like discarded toys.

The Park Keeper took a deep breath and bore down on Hugh. This man was trying his patience almost as much as his dog had for days. Donald prided himself on his patience: patience and forbearance, these were the qualities he admired in a man of authority such as himself. Patience, forbearance and civility. He would not be provoked into any conduct contrary to his code.

“Ahem!” he coughed. “Excuse me again, Sir.”

“Oh, hello!” Hugh smiled. “Waiting,” he explained. “Waiting for my wife.” He looked at his watch. “Late!” He pulled a tolerant face.

“The dog, sir?”

“Yes, yes.” Hugh looked round, tutting at the havoc the dog was wreaking in the meticulously planted flower bed. “Bit of a rascal, isn’t he.”

“I did mention before, Sir, the necessity of a leash?”

“Absolutely!” Hugh raised his hand, still clutching the rope. “You see, the thing is… ”

The Park Keeper’s eyes followed the length of rope as it snaked across the grass all the way to the dog’s collar. “Ah, yes. I see. Not quite the spirit of the injunction, may I say, Sir?”

“Well, I must say,” Hugh said as he stood up. “It’s been very nice speaking with you, quite, you know, quite, well, quite educational, in fact.” He waved to Sandra, before turning back to Donald. “Bit of a lesson in dog-handling, don’t you know. But now, I see my wife coming. So, if you don’t mind.” He handed the rope to the Park Keeper. “You see, the thing is, at this point in time, I don’t actually have a dog!”

  

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. marianallen
    May 27, 2013 @ 02:00:38

    Keep going! You know you want to! 🙂

    Like

    Reply

  2. jorobinson176
    May 30, 2013 @ 17:00:35

    😀 That Hugh! Lovely!

    Like

    Reply

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