I have a new collection of poetry and short stories coming out later in the year, and as Life’s Rich Tapestry is now one year old, I thought I would share some stories from the collection over the next few weeks.
An Ugly Mutt.
Desmond Smith’s neighbours were rather curious as to the sudden appearance of a scruffy looking dog in the overgrown garden of his small cottage. The old man kept to himself and rarely instigated a conversation, barely muttering a good morning or afternoon when met in the lane. Following the sight of the new canine inhabitant of No. 6, they had to admit the old boy seemed to be less surly and more talkative after his arrival. On enquiring about the new addition to his household, whilst in the queue at the post office on pension day, Desmond offered up the explanation that the dog had been waiting at the bus stop in the village, when he had alighted after his monthly trip to the library in their nearest town. Dirty, and clearly underweight, the dog had followed him home and after a tin of steak and kidney pie filling had taken up residence.
Brian, as he had been named for some obscure reason, was not considered to be a handsome dog as he had a barrel body on long legs, a dull brown coat which was scarred and pitted, and a short stump of a tail that wagged only occasionally. His face looked like it might be the result of an unusual pairing of a bulldog with a Chihuahua and his small eyes looked rather mean.
As uncertain as everyone was about the dog’s ancestry, they were equally ignorant of Desmond’s past life. He had arrived in the village five years previously and apart from monosyllabic utterances in the local shop and post office, when collecting his pension, he kept himself to himself. Nobody had been into the cottage since the last owner, an old farmer called George Whitely had died. They were not aware of any relatives, but the rumour was that Desmond was a distant cousin. He was not inclined to enlighten them as he avoided intrusion into his life unless absolutely necessary.
His immediate neighbours however, did notice that he began to make inroads into the brambles at the back of his cottage, a relief to the owners of the adjoining properties who had to tackle long strands of errant weed that trailed over the hedges, and into their manicured gardens. Spying on the activity from bedroom windows became a bit of a hobby for some of those closest, with bets down the pub on whether bodies might be uncovered in the undergrowth.
After three months of intensive labour, both Brian, who had supervised the clearance, and his owner were the proud caretakers of a newly laid lawn, neatly trimmed bushes and three neatly pruned apple trees. There was more gossip about where the money for this makeover had come from, as the only income the old man seemed to receive was his pension.
Although, Mrs Simpson who worked behind the post office counter, did let slip that there was also a regular letter from a veteran’s organisation.
Desmond took the precaution of closing off possible escape points at the back of the cottage with a fence one side and a tall gate on the other. This enabled his new companion to run around the garden as he wished, without venturing out into the lane and onto the busy road running through the village. He would also walk the dog every morning at the crack of dawn, along the bridle path through the woods and back, arriving home in time for breakfast.
During the summer, the new housemates would stroll down to The Fox and Hounds and sit outside in the beer garden, Desmond with a pint of best bitter, and Brian with a packet of cheese and onion crisps. Slowly over the weeks, the locals would stop by and gingerly ask if they might pat Brian; with a shrug Desmond would indicate that it was their own responsibility.
Thankfully it transpired that the dog was far more sociable than his appearance indicated and he responded to the kindness, especially when accompanied by the odd bit of hamburger, by rolling onto his back, long legs in the air, inviting tummy rubs.
Unfortunately, on an idyllic Sunday lunchtime, with the sun shining and friendly chatter filling the beer garden, the harmony was disturbed by outsiders. Three men, driving a flash car, sauntered into the pub and ordered three pints of lager. They drifted out into the garden and sat at one of the few tables free, and began a loud conversation about being ‘down the country’ and the local yokels. That put everyone’s backs up, and there were annoyed looks thrown in the three intruders’ direction. This included Desmond who was anti-social at the best of times, backed up by Brian who stood solidly in front of his master, growling deep in his chest.
When the unwanted visitors finished their pints, they stood up and strolled towards the gate leading to the car park, and as they passed Desmond they stood a few feet away and one pointed at Brian.
‘Want to sell that dog mate?’ He turned to the other two and laughed. ‘We could put it to good use in our business.’
Desmond looked them up and down. ‘And what business would that be then?’
‘Nothing you need to know about mate, but give you ten quid for the ugly scrapper.’
The old man turned away dismissively, holding on to Brian’s leash as he was showing signs of demonstrating just how much of a scrapper he was. He had taken an instant dislike to the men and Desmond reckoned he had come across their sort before.
Not getting any response, the men left, but whispered to each other as they passed through the gate, giving parting glances at the dog before getting in their car and driving off.
Later that afternoon Desmond napped in his armchair in front of the television after his roast Sunday lunch. Having satisfied himself that his master was safe, and did not need his protection, Brian wandered off through the open back door to lie in a patch of sun and dozed.
As the warmth of the day was fading, a sudden loud knock on the door was followed by angry raised voices. Brian leapt to his feet and shot through the back door, across the slippery vinyl kitchen floor and into the narrow hallway. There were three men crowding into the small space, and one had Desmond by the throat and up against the wall. He was silent and glaring up at the man holding him captive.
‘Where’s that ugly mongrel old man, I want him as a bait dog for the next fight?’ He snarled as he banged Desmond back and forth against the wall.
All three men swivelled their heads in the direction of a warning growl coming from the doorway to the kitchen. The larger of the men pushed passed the thug with his hands around Desmond’s throat, holding a long pole with a wire noose at the end of it.
‘Come on you ugly mutt.’ He advanced across the carpet with the pole extended in front of him.
Brian waited for him to get closer, widening his stance and stretching his neck out as far as it would reach. He flexed his legs out slightly in front of him as if he was offering to play with the man.
Smiling the thug got closer and was just about to place the noose around the dog’s neck when Brian launched himself upwards into the man’s crotch. With a scream his tormentor dropped the pole, grabbing the now slathering dog around the neck, attempting to shake him off, but that just caused even more excruciating pain. He yelled for help from his mates, and the one throttling Desmond threw him onto the carpet as the two men jostled each other to get down the narrow corridor.
With a last snarl, Brian let go of the man and dived between his legs and straight towards the oncoming threat. One look at his crazed eyes and the other two attackers fought each other to be the first back down the hall and out of the front door, followed by the enraged animal snarling and snapping at their heels. Their companion, staggering and still making very high pitched screams, made his way in the opposite direction through the kitchen and out into the garden, slamming the door behind him. Leaving him to his own devices his friends jumped in their car and sped away.
Desmond by this time had managed to make it to the telephone on the hall table, calling the police before sliding down the wall, cradling his head in his hands.
He felt a warm body curl into his lap and snuggle in, licking his arms and hands desperately.
He took them away from his face and wrapped them around the dog as they both shivered from the shock. It was how the village constable found them five minutes later as he rushed through the front door.
They wanted to take Desmond to hospital but he didn’t want to leave Brian alone for a minute. The local doctor arrived and as a precaution the vet. Both patients submitted themselves to a thorough examination, and when the vet had finished checking Brian out and washing away the evidence of his defensive actions; he sat down in the armchair to let Desmond know the outcome as the dog cuddled up to his owner on the sofa.
‘Your dog has been in the wars before Desmond, and I suspect that he was used as a bait dog in fights judging by the type of scarring. He won’t have been a fighter as he doesn’t have the brute strength.’ He smiled wryly. ‘That is until today, and he clearly was not going to let them hurt you.’
The decision was made that Desmond could stay at home provided he rang the doctor if he felt unwell, and leaving him to Brian’s ministrations the two men departed, promising to call in again in the morning. Two hours later, the police constable who had been parked in his car outside to discourage any further intrusions, came into the living room to update Desmond on the condition of the third man, who had been found in the garden, curled up in a ball on the lawn crying like a baby.
‘The hospital has phoned to say his tackle is all there but he will be sore for weeks, and serves him right.’ He put a hand on Desmond’s shoulder. ‘He wanted the dog put down for being vicious, but my sergeant told him that he was being charged with trespass and assault and that the dog was just doing his job protecting his master. His mates were picked up ten minutes ago after he ratted on them to get a lesser charge. They are already wanted in London for assault, drug dealing and organising dog fights, and the charges which have been added today, are serious enough for them to be going away for a very long time.’
Over the next week, Desmond’s neighbours dropped around on a regular basis bringing hot meals and steak and chicken for Brian. One or two of the ladies came in and gave the cottage a very good clean, and the old man even found himself taken to the barbers for a makeover. Feeling much better the following Sunday, man and dog made their usual way to the pub and were given a round of applause as they entered the bar. Desmond’s pint was on the house as was Brian’s packet of crisps and a crowd gathered around them in the garden, as the children dispensed tummy rubs to an ecstatic ugly dog who had at last found love.
©Sally Cronin 2019
About Life’s Tapestry: Woven in Words
Life’s Rich Tapestry is a collection of verse, microfiction and short stories that explore many aspects of our human nature and the wonders of the natural world. Reflections on our earliest beginnings and what is yet to come, with characters as diverse as a French speaking elephant and a cyborg warrior.
Finding the right number of syllables for a Haiku, Tanka, Etheree or Cinquain focuses the mind; as does 99 word microfiction, bringing a different level of intensity to storytelling. You will find stories about the past, the present and the future told in 17 syllables to 2,000 words, all celebrating life.
This book is also recognition of the value to a writer, of being part of a generous and inspiring blogging community, where writing challenges encourage us to explore new styles and genres.
John Maberry – 31st October 2020 – Reviews of five books we recommend.
My review of Sally Cronin’s Life’s Rich Tapestry: Woven in Words, is short. We will add a few lines from the book after the review, for your consideration.
The book lives up to its title–indeed, Sally Cronin has woven a rich tapestry of life in words of many kinds. A variety of poetry–in forms unfamiliar in name to me, microfiction and short stories. What’s more, the graphic imagery of the short poems is inspiring to a person like me who has never really found poetry either appealing or easily understood. This time, for a change, the words grabbed me. I found meaningful passages that could be useful as well in prose writing as in poetry. Examples I must return to in settings or other places where showing and not telling is essential.
The microfiction and short stories were equally compelling. [As noted in the promo for the book coming up next from Eagle Peak Press, we will consider a combination of ingredients as Sally Cronin did—and more in this book]. She is a writer worth reading.
Here a poetry excerpt (not necessarily representative of the content of the whole):
“Memories are sharp
and as clear as the blue sky
smiles etched on my heart.”
Or consider this brief excerpt from the intro to a short story titled, “The Junkyard Dog.”
“Charlie was a junkyard dog and had the scars to prove it. He was head of security of this fenced off mass of scrap metal, dotted with mounds of old tyres he called home, and he took his job very seriously.”
A selection of other books