Chapter 22: Farewell my Lurcher

Ready for a Walk – Drag on a Lead – A Dog’s Character Explained, incl. teeth – Something My Dear Ol’ Mum Might Say – Over the Estate – Horsey Judges – French for Wow – Another kinda Judge – Finis

It was a good day for a walk if you liked a coronary with your hypothermia. I was dressed for action, in a blue raincoat, beanie hat and paint-splattered jeans, like a knight that got beat up by the dragon, tossed in a dumpster and crawled out with whatever he could find in there. Still, it suited me well enough. I’m a dumpster kind of guy.

I was fixing to take the hound Stanley on a walk. And when I say walk I mean drag. Not the wig and lipstick kind. The ruched and rouged, plucked and tucked, Liza Minelli Liked My Instagram Story kinda drag. This was a whole other entertainment. Spelled T.R.O.U.B.L.E.

Stanley was the kind of dog who would give you one paw whilst he lifted your wallet with the other. A lean, loungy, lumpetty kinda hound, dirty as a swamp alligator, with legs like pipe cleaners and a smile that would make a dentist faint.

‘Let’s go, Stanley. And please – try not to bark.’

He looked up at me sweetly enough, like I was putting the Pope on a lead or something. But I wasn’t fooled. I knew what this particular Pope could do.

We took our usual route. Not that I thought we were being followed. But it’s like my dear old mom said to me one time: A little regularity never hurt no-one. Sure, the FBI used it against her in the end, but hey! A mother’s love for her son beats everything except the rap. Some lessons are best learned young.

The estate was as warm and welcoming as open day at the mortuary. Nothing fancy, just the usual characters blowing about the place. A big guy kneeling by his chopped bike, the guts of it spread all around, like a whacked-out surgeon surprised in an alley. I said good morning. He gave me a long, hard stare, like he was pricing his next job. Stanley ignored him, which was a relief. I didn’t relish the thought of a spanner cracking my skull. Not this early in the day. I like to save my treats for later. There was a kid coming in the distance. He had a bull terrier with him. They could have swapped places and no-one would’ve known. The kid was wearing a pair of earphones the size of dustbin lids, and he was walking along one foot after the other like the headphones were telling him. I fed tripe sticks into Stanley like logs through a sawmill, the hell with my fingers. Still – I might need them later. That .45 won’t squeeze itself.

We passed on into the field. There were horses. Why wouldn’t there be? The horses were always there, like the flu in winter. I could feel Stanley tense up. I fed him another tripe stick. I guess the hound was now eighty per cent tripe stick and ten per cent dog. The other ten per cent? You’d need a tall blackboard and a professor on a ladder to figure that one out, bud.

‘There, there,’ I said.

I couldn’t be any more specific.

He destroyed the tripe stick as we quick-stepped by the horses further on into the field. One of the horses nodded his head as we went by, like he was about to hold up score cards – four out of ten for interpretation, three for comedy value, zero for style. Deep down we both knew he wouldn’t. He couldn’t handle it. He’s got hooves.

Safely into the furthest field. The sun rolled out from behind some clouds like it had been kidding earlier about the rain. It got nicely warm, optimistic. I started walking lean and loose, enjoying myself. I let Stanley off the lead. I watched him go, that funny lopsided run of his, like a giraffe coming out of anesthetic. He covered the ground pretty quick, though. Straight towards a dog I hadn’t seen the other side of the field.

‘Stan!’ I cried. Too late. Before you could say tripe stick he was on them. I braced for impact. Waved my hand in the general direction of the owner.

The French have a word for it. Like they do for most things, being a pretty all-round kinda language. They call it coup de foudre. Lightning Flash, if you want to be picky, Love at first sight, if you’re a little easier. And even though I was halfway across a world made of grass, even from here I could tell Stanley had launched himself on the other animal full-on in the French way. I could see now the make of it. It was a Labrador, or L’abrador in French. Rough translation? Smokin’. Whatever. To my relief they had a great time, leaping around in slow motion, sniffier than two police dogs in a vape shop.

‘Sorry!’ I waved to the owner, the kind of bottle-blond woman in pearls and Drizabone jacket you see a lot of round here. The kind of woman whose other dog was a Hedge Fund Manager.

‘Don’t mention it!’ she said, smiling as broadly as a High Court Judge at the bird-end of the table at Christmas. ‘I must say he’s pretty frisky!’

Frisky?

I wondered what the French would call it.

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