the gambler & the ranger

‘I’m so sorry about Radar’ says Gill. ‘He barks at everything.’
‘I don’t mind. Our last dog Buzz was a bit like that. Anyone came to the door, it was rah rah rah. We tried everything. We even invited the postman in once, so they could be properly introduced. And that was fine and everything. Smiles all round. But as soon as we shut the door and the postman knocked again, Buzz started. He used to rip the letters up, too.’
‘Who? The postman?’
‘Buzz. I wouldn’t blame him if he did, though. It must have been annoying.’
‘Ahh – they’re used to it.’
‘We did get worried about his fingers, so we put the letterbox on the outside.’
‘Funnily enough, postmen are the one thing Radar doesn’t bark at.’
‘I wonder why?’
‘No idea. There’s no telling with dogs. Certainly not this one.’

You’d expect a dog called Radar to be particularly alert. Something wired and small and spiky, with luminescent, revolving eyes (although I’d no doubt scream if I saw a dog like that). This Radar must have been named after the prototype version, made of Bakelite and valves, more like a radiogram.

He sniffs my trousers to see whether more barking was needed, and then waddles back to his rug in front of the fire, falling so loudly, if you shut your eyes at the moment of contact you’d think someone was dropping off a sack of potatoes.
Radar licks his chops, and stares back at me with a look of heavy jowled disapproval.

‘Dad’s through here,’ says Gill. ‘He’s just having a nap.’

Edward has been set-up with an extemporary bedroom in the lean-to out back. It’s perfectly warm and comfortable, though, just a short hobble with the zimmer to the ensuite, plenty of room for his equipment, misty views over the valley. He’s lying on his left side with his legs crooked up and his hands up by his face – such a foetal position you can almost see the umbilical cord, ninety years long, snaking back out to him.
‘Seems a shame to wake him’ I say, gently putting my bag down.
‘He won’t mind,’ says Gill, touching his shoulder. ‘Dad? Dad! Someone to see you.’
It’s surprising how quickly he comes to.
‘Righto!’ he says, blinking hard a couple of times and then pushing himself into a sitting position.
‘I’ve just got a couple of things I have to do,’ says Gill. ‘Are you alright for a minute…?’
She hurries away into the kitchen, and I introduce myself.

‘I was in the middle of such a strange dream,’ says Edward as I unpack my things.
‘Oh? What was it?’
‘You don’t want to know!’
‘Try me! I like dreams.’
He presses the heels of his palms into his eyes, and sits quietly on the bed a moment longer, gathering himself.
‘It’s a western,’ he says at last. ‘There’s this man, you see – a gambler, in a big, black hat. And he’s trying to take over the town. Well the mayor doesn’t want him to. So he takes him outside, throws the gambler’s hat on the ground and puts a gun to his head. But what the mayor doesn’t know is – there’s this ranger, watching it all, from the hills. And he’s got this rifle, with a bloody great telescopic sight. And he starts shooting, all around them. Pe-ow! Pe-ow! Pe-ow! So the mayor, he jumps on his horse and he rides off. And then the ranger he comes over, and he shakes hands with the gambler. And the gambler says to him: Thank you very much. And the ranger says: You’re welcome. And the gambler says: I don’t think the mayor’s going to be very happy. And the ranger says: Tough. I’m a ranger. I can do what I like.
‘That’s brilliant! You could sell it to Hollywood!’
‘D’you think?’ sighs Edward, licking the palms of his hands and smoothing his hair flat. ‘I don’t know. I don’t think they shoot westerns anymore.’

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