“God in a box, sis, gimme a break, I’ve been writing my balls off all morning!”
“Come on, you pwomissed. Anyway, how long does it take to write a five-hundred-word story for God’s sake?”
“All morning – if it’s for a magazine; it’s gotta be just right.”
“Well, what’s it about?”
“It starts like this. ‘You’re not going to eat that thing raw, are you?’ asked Prunella. Jack laughed. ‘If it’ll keep still long enough!’”
“Yuk, what’s next?”
“You’ll have to buy the magazine to find out!”
“I think I may not bother. Now come on, Uncle Doris is waiting.” I sniggered at our private joke.
My brother, Paul, put his manuscript in a draw and pulled a pair of white trainers out from under the bed.
“Christ, haven’t you heard of foot deodorant?”
“If you’re that bothered go out and buy me some!”
“It’s not me that has to suffer. It’s poor Abigail. So many nice boys out there and she chooses you. I can’t understand it!”
Paul grinned lasciviously. “Maybe I’ve got hidden talents.”
“And there was me thinking she was a nice girl. Anyway, I’m not going out with you in those stinky things!”
Reluctantly, my brother pulled out a brand-new pair of smart brown leather lace-ups, an unenthusiastically-received Christmas present from mum.
The corridor was long, with pens on either side. Each pen had an upper and a lower door, both of glass. A record sheet within a holder gave information: Name, age, sex and ‘fun things.’
“I like this one,” said Paul. A Pit Bull terrier, with a white muzzle and a black patch over one eye, saw us looking and got off his bed, barking excitedly. The sheet said Tyson, 4 years, male, ‘I like to chase squirrels!’
“Can I see him?” Paul asked a lady in a red top and trousers, wearing a matching baseball cap with the logo: The Ark Animal Rescue.
“Sure, Tyson’s a softie. Just the top door please.”
Tyson jumped up, putting his paws over the top of the lower door and cocking his head to one side, making eyes at Paul.
“Hello, boy, good boy!” Paul stroked Tyson’s head. Then the dog jumped down and ran to pick up a toy, a red bean bag. He jumped up again with the toy in his mouth.
“Ah, he wants me to throw it for him,” laughed Paul, taking the bean bag from Tyson’s mouth and hurling it across the pen. Tyson obliged by racing to pick it up, then returned to jump up again. Paul went to take the toy but this time Tyson kept his jaw clamped shut. “C’mon, boy, don’t you want me to throw it for you?” They began a tug of war, the dog stubbornly refusing to let go of the toy.
Whilst Paul played with Tyson, I was taken with Honey, a brown Labrador Retriever. She sidled around her pen, barely looking up at me. I tapped on the glass. “Honey, hey, Honey!” She ignored me and returned to her bed. The sign said Honey, 11 years, female, ‘I like cuddles and leisurely walks.’ “What’s up with Honey?” I asked the woman in red.
“No one wants a dog so old. I think she realises that; she’s given up.”
“Ah, what’ll happen?”
“Well, if no one wants her after six months, she’ll be euthanized.”
“What, you mean … killed?”
“Uh huh.” She looked away.
I felt a lump in my throat and wetness in my eyes.
I turned to see Paul closing Tyson’s door.
Uncle Doris appeared. “Hi Charlene, did you find one you liked?”
“Not yet,” I said.
“Well, I’ve found a nice doggy. Come and see.”
We followed him to the end of the pens. There was a Golden Retriever, a rusty red in colour. Karma, 3 years, female, ‘I like to play with children and swim!’ She jumped up, barking furiously.
The lady in red approached. “Would you like to walk her? You can take her out to the yard, I’ll fetch a lead.”
We all fell in love with her instantly. How on Earth could anyone have given her to an animal shelter? I wondered.
“Yes, please!” we all said in unison.
Back home, we high-fived each other, laughing, as Karma rushed into the house and up the stairs, barking enthusiastically, as if she’d always lived there. Dad appeared, smiling. “You found a dog, I gather!”
“She’s a beautiful animal, Ted,” said Uncle Doris, following us in.
Mum appeared from the lounge. “Everybody come through, there’s something for Charlene.”
We all traipsed into the lounge to find a huge cake in the shape of a cartoon bulldog, adorned with seventeen candles.
“Ah, Mum, thank you.” I kissed her on both cheeks as the others started with a chorus of Happy Birthday.
At the last refrain we were startled by a loud barking. There was my new friend with a mangled white shoe at her feet.
“Hey, that’s my trainer!” shouted Paul.
“That’s Instant Karma for you,” said Uncle Doris. Even Paul had to laugh.
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