Happy John


On the basis that my account on My.Telegraph won’t unfreeze soon, here is my entry for the October Short Story Competition (more details at end of this post)

Morning

Clunk.
A letter through the door.
“Woof. Woof.” Excited barks.
“Okay. Okay.”
Dodger lived with his master, John, just off the estate.
John, wheel chair bound these last ten years, wheeled his way to the front door. He opened it.
“Out you go, lad.”
Dodger shot out into the garden, straight for the gate. The postman was gone. Safely out of reach, several houses down. Another day perhaps.
Now to check what the postman had left. John, his master, had picked up the letter. Dodger sniffed suspiciously at it. Was it a menace? Perhaps chasing off the postman was unwise. He should have checked out what aws left. Maybe given it a shake or two to make sure it was dead. However he knew better than to take it from his masters hand. Dodger waited for the empty envelope and savaged it.
The bins! They needed guarding. Defending the letterbox came naturally, but the bins. he kept forgetting them. Bound to that wheelchair, his master tried his best to stock the bins up with interesting and smelly rubbish. Dodger knew that someday, when the contents had ripened properly, his master would treat him to the delights of the bins. But every week thieves came and stole it all. Dodger always alerted his master to intruders. He hurled back out of the doorway to check. The bins were padlocked in a gated recess. They smelt fine. He let rip a couple of warning barks to deter those within hearing.

Letter

The sharp frost of morning crept in as his dog saw to the business of the morning. The barking gradually quietened.
John looked at the letter, puzzled. No children, never married, cut off from family and friends, he received little mail other than junk.
He wheeled over to his lounge, bringing the unopened letter. A lounge stacked high with vinyl. A lifetime’s collection of DJing. Neatly organised. 45’s, 33’s, EP’s. Some rare, others marked by the passage of time, over-played, over-handled, even a few with coffee stains. Sad, happy and serene, the vinyl, the memories. All his.
Time for another cup of coffee.
He put a record on. Dark Side of the Moon would be a good start to the day. A starting crackle reminded John that this copy was well on its way to being worn out.
The kettle was boiling nicely just as ‘Breathe’ was coming to a close. He poured a cup, adding powdered milk, no sweetener.

Dodger

Dodger had finished the business of the morning. A pungent aroma wafted to his snout – strong enough to smell from the other side of the house, the street even. For reasons only dogs are privy to, Dodger put his nose right up to it. Was there a trace of something not properly digested in there? Perhaps he ought to give it another run through the old system! Was it worth an exploratory taste? Dodger’s tongue was ready… his master wouldn’t bother. He’d never know!
Then an interruption changed everything. A passerby – but not passing by.
Open the gate… walk down the path….
Dodger readied… he looked the intruder up and down. Arms skinny, legs no meat on either. Okay, maybe tender chunks of flesh were off the menu but a good barking was in order.
“Woof-woof-woof-woof-woof!”
Which meant, roughly, ‘You’re not really worth chewing but I bet you can be frightened.’
“Ooh. What a lively dog.”

Visitor

Knock, knock, knock.
John wheeled to the door.
“Hello. I wasn’t expecting visitors.”
“Oh. You haven’t received our letter?”
Letter? The one not opened. He could say it hadn’t arrived…
“Oh, I’ve a letter. Haven’t had time to open it, sorting out the dog and all.”
John pointedly rested his hands on the wheels of his chair.
“And that’s what we want to help with. The Charity to Rescue Aggressive Pets. T.R.A.P. for short. We’ve a centre in Bleak Hollow. What we do is adopt your dog. You pay for his food and we do all the rest. We’ll even bring him here for walks if you want. Entirely discretionary.”
John’s mind went in a spin. From the look of her he thought he was going to be served another nuisance animal notice. Well he wasn’t having Dodger put down and that was that. Besides he couldn’t afford it. So he played for time.
“Are you sure you could handle him?” Dodger is rather boisterous.
“That’s the beauty of it. If you can’t take him walks, we can. Would you like me to demonstrate?”
“Sure. Here’s his old lead.”
The woman, middle aged, skinny and officious, almost tore the lead from his hand and called, “Walkies.”
Dodger, who had retired to the garden, in hope of a stray cat, came bounding in, tail wagging.
John couldn’t believe it. It’d been years since he’d used that word. Dodger hadn’t forgot that in a hurry.
“Sit!” John commanded.
On went the lead.
“Back soon.”
‘Phew’ thought John. Two birds with one stone. Nagging neighbours off his back and someone to sort out Dodger. He’d open the letter later.
The scrawny woman walked on smugly. More funds for the charity – a dead cert. And the ‘contribution’ from the neighbourhood group wouldn’t go amiss. She’d like taking this one walks. He’d soon forget his master.
Dodger sniffed at the thin woman that he pulled along. She was weak but smelt interesting – scent of more than one dog was on her. She was low status and from a larger pack. At least he hoped so. Being boss of a pack of one was boring – it was time to move up in the world.

This month (the October Competition) is set by Bleda whose winning entry for September was:
http://my.telegraph.co.uk/bleda/bleda/179/times-they-are-a-changing/

The competition is at: http://my.telegraph.co.uk/groups/creative-writing/forum/topic/october-2011-short-story-competition/

Details:
Theme: Gay (in the proper sense of the word) stories, of a fortuitous occurrence or a festive occasion, all blue skies and lollipops and roses, a village fete perhaps, but without any Midsomer Murders. :-}
”Mary Poppins” type stories with happy-ever-after endings.
One firm condition ………… you must include a dog (any make), called Dodger.
Length: provisionally between 500 and 3,000 words – this may change.
Closing date: 31/10/2011, midnight.
Voting closes: 03/13/2011, midnight.

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About Terence Park

Collections: vinyl records, comic books, paperbacks; I've plenty of them all. I also do spreadsheets.
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