See the dog? Yeah, watch the dog. Watch the dog… watch the doggy… don’t look at the bag. What bag? Oh yes, very good, what bag, there’s no bag there. Just watch the dog…. See him? Yes, he does look heavy, you’re right but just wait a moment – don’t look at the bag, there is no bag there. The bag has gone. Just focus on the dog. Focus on Dougie, focus – yes, that’s his name. Or that’s the name he answers to rather. Who knows what his dog name would be? But he answers to Dougie so maybe that’s his name. No, not Baggie. Hahaha. Dougie. Did you see how his ear twitched then? Just when I said his name. OK. I was getting a little distracted there. Let me sum up and begin. Dougie’s the dog and there is no bag there. Now, can you all put your hand in your purse or your pocket….
Inspired by a photo by Trish Malley @trishsky http://www.broaddaylightltd.co.uk/tricias-stuff-1/ (fourth photo from left)
The fitness group are in the park again, damp and muddy and pink. Not all of them look as if they want to get down and dirty and give him ten. It is freezing. A dog hunches nearby. Tabards and tempers are fraying.
That dog darting across the street, ears back, nose low – you must have seen it? No, there were no invisible sheep (that I saw), but the dog, all black and white as you’d expect, cut across the road when there was no traffic and disappeared down that alley. Why would I imagine it? It’s not a miracle or a hangover from evening parties. It’s just a dog that crossed the street. With no invisible sheep. Don’t doubt me.
A dog ran out into the traffic. Santos, the good-hearted wise guy, twisted the steering wheel and the getaway car ploughed into the side of the security van. Sirens sounded and in the bank a bell began to ring. The three men in clown masks shook their heads. “Come on Santos” Pete shouted, “let’s get out of here.” The car was dead; steam or smoke billowed from under the hood. They climbed out of the car as the traffic behind them smashed to a halt. The security guard dropped the case he was holding and pulled out his pistol. Pete saw him and raised his semi-automatic. The guard shot first and Pete fell backwards, spraying bullets left and right, through the car and his companions. A block further down the street Levene wondered why they were a minute late. The dog disappeared behind the bins up the alley.
Until today, the winter has been a wet black dog. Now the dog is growing claws and shaking loose its skin. The white lion is soon to return.
A tall man in a splashed grey t-shirt taps a stick on his leg. A black-and-white patched dog looks pointedly into the distance away from him.
Ginger toddler twins sleep side by side in a double buggy. Finally silent, they are holding hands. Their pale parents look close to tears. Their arms hang heavy.
Four tan, brown, tan, brown dogs weave leads from two hands, over and under and over and under. The owner’s look says she is too old for this. She pulls them back and puffs out her cheeks.
A race of clouds skit, one by one, across the face of the sun. The girl’s father pulls his pullover on. She drops her ball and her face crumples. The ball rolls towards the river, picking up speed, and her father stoop dives to save it.
The patchwork dog snatches a narrow-eyed glance at the man in the t-shirt, at his stick, then fixes the distance again, shoulders pinched.
Happy loud tourists with sunglasses, good hair and warm padded jackets tumble laughing down the green mesh metal steps. Some must be couples, but it is not clear who is not.
Finally, finally, the stick whirls over the waiting dog’s head and splashes down in the river, just beyond a brief whirlpool. A yelp, one would guess of joy, and the dog is springs and tail and pointed ears and bouncing.
I smile vaguely to myself and vaguely at other people, pick up my bags and walk on. There is the sound of a dog hitting water.
Bluebell bit Foxy. Or vice versa.
The fizzy drink he threw over the snarling dogs splashed her white dress.
He should not be allowed in the park, let alone his wicked dog.
She should, well, she should….
They dragged their dogs in opposite directions, still snapping.
Later though, they smiled.
Donna Assuntina was surprised I did not know where the blacksmith’s was in the next village in from the sea. To her it was still there, where it had been eighty years ago, when the handsome apprentice had seen her swinging the iron on its ribbons, firing the coals to press her father’s Sunday trousers. Sparks flew in the duskling.
“Well, if you don’t know where it is, just look it up in that internet of yours if it’s so clever.”
“I will, Donna Tina, I will, but only when I’ve had a piece of your birthday cake and drunk some prosecco with you. Then I’ll hear some more of your stories.”
“Stories? Stories? These aren’t stories. These are true stories, they all happened. But you’re right. First a drop of prosecco. And pass me a taralluccio. My new teeth need practice.”
We sat quietly and drank together, the geckos translucent above the light.
“My mother gave coal to the sixpenceman at Christmas. He gave my dada a nip from his bottle at new year. My mother didn’t trust his moustache or the way he looked up from under his eyebrows. My dada slapped him on the back though, and roared. Then the rest of the year dada was calm and proper, a cold sausage on a Monday kind of man. And the dogs, the dogs. The sixpenceman had two huge beasts who walked one ahead and one behind him. The blacker one snipped Lito behind the knee when he was only nine and had a stone in his hand and never walked right again. But he always went out to the fields every dawning, one leg swinging round the way. He was seventy, a young seventy, when he died in the field. They found him lying crooked. Lito’s father shot the dog himself and looked the sixpenceman in the eyes in silence. And that was over for this lifetime. And I shall be too if I sit in this draught any longer. Hand me my shawl and call my granddaughter to help me up. We’ll talk more when you visit next.”
So I sat and sucked a tarallino as if I had no teeth and washed the crumbs down with the flat prosecco. The geckos had disappeared.
“Excuse me, but can I touch your dog? Would you mind? Would he? It’s the ears you see, I can’t get the ears.”
Owners of greyhounds in the north of the town are advised that they may be approached by a polite elderly man who asks if he can touch their dogs’ ears. If given permission, he then closes his eyes, touches the ears and walks swiftly away, smiling and looking at his hands. Police say that there is currently no cause for alarm.
At home in his workshop, Malcolm feels the essence of the dog in his fingers, through his chisel, as it bites into the wood. This time the dog in his mind, in his fingers, will emerge.
Published on FlashFlood, the National Flash-Fiction Day journal, http://flashfloodjournal.blogspot.co.uk/ 17 April 2015
The bad-luck black dog dogged Roby’s steps. Blood, sweat and rain. Nothing to be done. Until he found out the dog’s name was Reg.