A Friend’s Best Man

by Oscar Windsor-Smith

My trouble is I’m a thinker. Friends have told me this. You think too much, Humphrey, they say: for a dog.

To be clear, friends call me Humphrey, which is my given name, but the boss has other names for me.

See that big guy sitting on the steps outside the bar, him with the wild beard and the lost expression, reading from a tatty book by somebody called Coleridge? That’s Cedric. He’s the boss.

Cedric and me, we go way back. We’re like… Well, I can’t do that crossed fingers thing, but you get my drift. We are one cool team.

‘Dumb mutt!’

Uh, oh. The boss doesn’t usually throw trash at me. Maybe he’ll perk up if I give him my old pals tail thump and friendly bark. Look out. Bottle coming. Ouch!

‘Shut that racket. Stupid dog. Gimme some peace, will you?’

It was never like this back in the day. I had the best nose on the force. We were tearing around the city, twenty-four seven, under blues and twos like Starsky and Hutch. Well, I guess it was more like Starsky and Kennel really. Yes, sir. Scourge of the drug barons, that was us.

I must admit that right now Cedric does make Columbo look like a snappy dresser.

How did things go wrong? I’ve been asking myself that every morning since we first woke up under the railway arches.

I blame that wife of his, Rosa. Possessive? Dog, but you haven’t seen possessive until you’ve met Rosa. Between you, me and the city pound I could smell it coming. They’d lived together happily before Rosa decided they were getting married. Strange, how Cedric never mentioned marriage down at Jimmy’s bar with the lads.

I remember the night Rosa proposed like yesterday. We’d had a great walk back from Jimmy’s and the boss was well mellow. ‘You’re going to marry me, you bastard’, she said.

Cedric saw the funny side. He laughed and said, ‘Okay, Babe, we’ll do it, but only if Humphrey can be my best man.’ He was patting me at the time, which was why he didn’t see the frying pan heading for his skull.

The boss was never the same after he left Accident and Emergency. By then Rosa was oozing love, saying she’d be lost without him and all that puppy stuff. Seems Cedric had told the paramedics that the pan fell on him.

They were married a week later and that was when life began to change.

One night she screamed, ‘If you think I’m putting up with you and that animal rolling in drunk one more time, you can think again.’ She slammed out of the room but came straight back and shouted, ‘And you can chain that smelly mutt up in the yard.’

I was the top drugs-hound on the force and she called me a smelly mutt. Where’s the justice in that? Well, maybe she did have a case about the smell. You see, after Rosa trapped him, Cedric seemed to need booze and male company more than ever. The lads, being good buddies, had taken to giving me a water bowl topped up with beer. A few all-night benders can have a strange effect on a dog’s bladder, temper, and sense of smell.

I guess things went downhill after I bit the chief superintendent’s ankle.

It was the morning after we’d been at Jimmy’s celebrating a drugs bust. I tried to explain I was hung over, but who listens to a dog?

The superintendent was going on about arresting the wrong people – said the boss was for the chop. All that shouting made my brain hurt.

Turns out I’d mistaken some domestic product for cocaine, a simple mistake. I’m only – you know – a dog.

After they suspended Cedric, he began drinking alone and calling me Jonah.

And then Rosa threw us out. I guess the panties episode had something to do with that. Who knew that solvents, insecticides and perfumes could contain a chemical odour similar to cocaine?

How was I to know the boss didn’t want me to fetch the panties from his car? They smelled like stuff he rewarded me for finding. Dropping them at Rosa’s feet seemed like a job well done.

I think Cedric’s going back to the police force as a firearms officer. He whispered in his sleep that he needs a gun.

But despite all his shouting and swearing, I know Cedric likes me deep down because he’s got another pet name for me. He calls me his Albert Ross.

I guess that’s my reward for sticking by him doggedly through the good times and the bad. When you’re a team you face hardship side-by-side, don’t you?

It’s what friends are for.

Oscar Windsor-Smith, who has fiction, non-fiction and a smattering of poetry published in diverse places, in print and online, was a finalist in the New York City Midnight Short Story Challenge 2012 and shortlisted in The University of Plymouth short fiction competition in 2013.

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  1. #1 by Ian Paternoster on November 22, 2013 - 2:49 pm

    Brilliant and quirky.

  2. #2 by Oscar Windsor-Smith on November 26, 2013 - 3:26 pm

    Thank you kindly, @Ian Paternoster. Quirky I recognise, but… ;) Thanks again.

  1. Crucifixion by Oscar Windsor Smith | Postcard Poems and Prose

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