I had just settled down in front of the TV to watch an episode of Endeavour. I like Endeavour. That doesn't say as much about Endeavour as it does about the shit Marcia watches all the time but I think even in a civilised country, Endeavour would be a good way to lose an hour or so. It's only on once a week, is not repeated at various times on other days and the series is only a few episodes in all so it being on seems to be a signal for the rest of the family to take up new, highly inventive ways to distract me. Background noise no longer bothers me. If I can't turn the volume up enough, it doesn't matter, I have learnt to lip read.
Anyway, there I was in front of the old flimmerkasten, coffee table shoved up to the TV table and my chair dragged close in so as to prevent people walking between me and the box, when Marcia decided to ring my brother in Germany. Well, it's New Year's Eve, isn't it? And of course he says, why doesn't she Skype him to save her credit? He was being polite. There he was with his family about to tuck into their Sylvester fare and now he had to Skype. There I was watching Endeavour but now I had to set the laptop up and log on. She'd buggered both our evenings.
Since he was there being polite and I was there being polite, we thought we might as well make the best of a rum deal and stick the kids on. I got another ten minutes or so of young Detective Constable Morse before I was called to the video link to translate something Alex had been trying to explain.
'He's saying his cat was killed by a stray dog the night before last,' I said.
Micky in Germany squirmed a bit, rolled his eyes expressively and pointed furtively at his boy. Well, it wasn't expressive enough, either that or I was being thick, because I missed his point entirely so carried on with some more detail that Alex hadn't yet got around to sharing.
'Yeah, the kids accidently locked the cat out. I heard it screaming about two in the morning but by the time I got out the dog had bitten its head off,'
'There was loads of blood!' Alex added, clearly pleased to see how excited Michael found the story, 'so Daddy said he was going to poison the dog…' 'Oh God' squeaked Micky, '…with rat poison' continued Alex delivering the coup de grace.
I have to confess, I was pretty bloody annoyed with this dog. It was one of Charlie's bitches, the small harem he has worked up for himself. Around here, dogs are treated pretty miserably. As soon as a kid can totter, it learns to throw stones at dogs. Not surprisingly, the strays, and there are many, are bloody vicious. I placed a blanket ban on throwing stones at any dog that happened to stray into my garden so in the case of the Cat Killing Bitch, I had probably been hoisted by my own petard. The others of Charlie's flock were really nice, very timid and bereft of evil intent. This white bitch, though, was mean and worse still, streetwise. this dog put the capital 'C' in Cun… ning. Every time I planted a sapling, it would dig it up. I laid new pathways, it shits right in the middle of them. Alex leaves a toy out on the veranda, it chews it. If I put food out, it tears into the others and wolfs the lot. And it always stays exactly one pace further away than the maximum effective range of whatever weapon I might have to hand. So when it mauled the cat to death, I did decide to poison it. Its own greediness would ensure I poisoned only it, none of the other dogs would get a look in.
'It's an awful way to go,' Marcia pointed out to me.
'About as bad as having your head torn off,' I agreed.
As it happened, I did have second thoughts. Not because I came over all squeamish at the thought of the dog bleeding out of its eye sockets as its guts turned to slush, I had actually calculated the dose needed to incapacitate it enough so that it would still be alive but unable to escape me so that I could have the pleasure of running it through with my sword before burying it under one of my saplings. No. I had second thoughts because in my initial anger, I had let slip in front of Alex my intention to poison the dog. If I am to be a responsible parent, I suppose I ought not to set an example which suggests it's perfectly OK to kill anything that annoys me, although, after the annus horribilis I have just endured, I would have difficulty arguing against such a precept with any discernible sincerity.
So the dog continued to dig holes in the garden and chew Alex's toys not realising how close to awful death it had been while I quietly fumed and waited for the dust to settle before digging out the best recipe from the Weird Sister's Cook Book.
This evening, being a holiday, would not have been complete without a visit from the two starving local Police Commanders. So confident was I that they would not let me down, I had their places set and waiting for them. The horrible demise of the cat has clearly left an enduring impression on little Alex for he jumped at the opportunity to perform his civic duty and inform the Police.
'Charlie killed the cat?' said Chief Inspector Denis eyeing a comatose Charlie sprawled contentedly in the corner.
'Not our dog,' I said, 'a stray dog, one of Charlie's girlfriends.'
'Oh,' said Denis, 'can I have some more beef?'
'Help yourself,' I said as I watched him helping himself.
'Why don't you shoot it?' he asked going for the vegetables.
'If I had a gun, I would,' I said. I could hardly admit to having a gun, non resident foreigners are not allowed to own firearms and with neighbours like mine, if I used it to shoot a dog, the police would soon know all about it.
'Why don't you shoot it for me on your way out?' I suggested. Both policemen were armed, the black gleam and cross check of their pistol butts visible in their holsters. Everyone laughed, Marcia especially, giving me that pitying look wives reserve for use on their husbands in public.
With all the dishes and platters clean and the last of the stock of alcohol free beer that I had been saving for midnight tossed down their necks, the two bobbies decided they had to get back to keeping the place safe for people like us. I accompanied them down the path towards the shop and the way off my property.
'There it is!' I exclaimed. The bloody bastard was digging a fucking great hole under my potting table.
Denis pulled his Makarov, cocked it and slotted the dog. Charlie, who until a nano-second earlier had been loping alongside with his tongue hanging out and a big stupid happy grin all over his face fucked off sharpish, the sand flying out from under paws scrabbling frantically for traction. From the direction of the shop veranda came the sound of chairs falling over and a noisy, but quickly receding, slapping of flip flops as all Marcia's customers did their best to catch up with Charlie.
I can't tell you how pleased I was. I was delighted. Surprised but delighted. I can't expect the police to hand their weapons over at the door so have to put up with them carrying their weapons in my house. The fact that Denis had to cock his pistol before firing, though, meant that at least they were making their weapons safe before sitting to table and that is a consideration for me that warmed my heart.
I agreed with Micky that perhaps I had unintentionally crossed a line of sensibility so neatly drawn in European health and safety approved sand, and that details of the cat's death were inappropriate in front of children. This spoilt the fun for me somewhat. Knowing that he had not yet eaten, I was itching to discuss with Michael the best way to clean congealed brain, skull fragments and tufts of fur off a concrete pathway.
Happy New Year everyone, normal service will resume shortly.