by Maggie Mountford
Every Sunday, we take out the dog. He’s been shut in for a week, we say, he deserves something. We walk by the lake, and we quarrel. There is no reason for the quarrels except for the dog who has been shut in for a week. That isn’t fair, we say, that isn’t right for such a clever, beautiful, alert dog. So we quarrel about what to do about it.
The lake is beautiful. The dog runs down to the water and back again. It would be best if he fell in, we say, but we don’t mean it. We don’t want that to happen because we love him, don’t we? He’s a beautiful, long-haired exotic breed with soulful eyes and an almost human way of looking at us. I think he loves us. But he hates being shut in all week, and we hate that he hates it because it means we quarrel.
Our quarrelling is tedious, but we still do it, our voices like the manic squeak of bats, flying between us, dark, sinister, and getting nowhere. If the dog wasn’t there. If the dog wasn’t shut in. If we didn’t have to leave him. If one of us didn’t work. If we had enough money. We glare at one another, and throw sticks for the dog at the same time, glad that he’s happy for a while, glad he retrieves the sticks and brings them back to us, dropping them at our feet, pleased with himself, waiting for his reward. Good dog, we say. Good, good, good dog… We pat his head, gratefully, and then he runs off again.
Soon, it’s time to walk back. Kingston!, we call. Kingston! Kingston! Time to go home! The dog comes running, his tongue lolling, his eyes wild, eager, enjoying the fresh scents of the outdoors, the lake, the free, open pleasure of it all.
All the way back, to where he’ll be shut in again, we quarrel, sadly, hopelessly. We are not crazy. We are not cruel. We are not unreasonable. We are just proud owners.
Maggie Mountford lives in Somerset.