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Friday 17 April 2020

Ten Minute Tales : The Dog In The Window by Helen Hollick

Ten Minute Tales
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a different Ten Minute Tale* every day
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The Dog in the Window
Helen Hollick

The Alsatian kept guard at the window, sitting there, alert, on the window seat bathed by the spring sunshine. Holiday-makers passing by from the campsite to the village shop for essential provisions, newspapers, ice creams and postcards would stop, smile, and say, ‘Look at that dog. Isn’t he lovely?’
   On their way back the smiles would come again: ‘Oh look, he’s still there, what a good boy.’
  The tourists would move on or go home, the next lot would come crunching their gears up the steep road through the hills, park their caravans, pitch their tents – and say the same thing as they ambled into the village for supplies. Very few people realised that he was not a real dog.
   Once a week, Mrs Brownless from the other end of the village called in at the house where the dog sat in the window to deliver shopping for the dog’s owner, Mrs Crompton. Mrs C was getting on in years and couldn’t get out much, what with her inability to drive, her arthritic hip and COPD from inhaling years of her husband’s cigarette smoke.
   He, Mr C, was stone deaf. Mrs B always called out to him as Mrs C let her into the house and they passed by the sitting room door on their way down the dark. musty-smelling hall to the kitchen. He was always sitting in the faded green velvet, high-backed armchair facing the TV that was so loud you couldn’t hear yourself think. Mrs B could just see the shiny round top of his bald head over the chair back.
    Morning, Mr Crompton! she would shout cheerfully. There was never an answer.
   Mrs C spent all her time, apparently, in the kitchen. Mrs B put the items of shopping on the old wooden table and said the same thing every week:
    “Mr Crompton does like his westerns, doesn’t he, Mrs C?”
   “Oh aye, bang, bang, bloody bang. Can’t stand that Clint Wayne or that John Eastwood, m’self. You remembered the tatties?
    “I did; a nice bag of King Edwards for you.”
   Mrs C pointed to one of the old armchairs  set to either side of the hearth,  lifted one of the stainless-steel lids of the aga, which was set where once, years ago, there had been a blazing log fire for cooking on, and put the large copper kettle on the hob to boil. “You'll stay for a cup of tea?” She always offered a cuppa.
  Mrs B always refused. “No thanks, maybe next time, I must dash to get Mr B's dinner on.” In truth, there was a pervading smell throughout the house, which was a little unpleasant. She added something different this morning though: “Did you know that our nice postman has disappeared? He never came back from his round two weeks ago. His van was found in the car park up by the hotel.”
   “I expect he’s done a runner from his nagging wife,” Mrs C replied. “Found himself someone better, more suitable to spend his time with. Someone quieter, not so jabber, jabber, jabber.”
   “It’s just odd,” Mrs B said, “because the milkman disappeared this same week last year, do you remember?”
     “Did he? No, can’t say as I recall.”
    “Well, I must be off,” Mrs B said brightly, hiding her grimace at the moth-eaten old cat curled in its basket in the corner of the kitchen. The wretched thing spent all its time asleep, Mrs B didn't see how the animal provided much company for old Mrs Crompton.
    Mrs C saw her visitor out, shut the front door and slid the bolt home. She went into the sitting room, patted the dog on its head and, ignoring her husband, turned the TV off. No need for it now, his eyes were closed, he wasn’t watching and there was no need to have the thing blaring away.
    “Daft old bugger,” she murmured.   Ought to get yourself something productive to do with your time, not just sit there day after day.” 
     She went over to the bird cage in the corner opposite the TV, frowned.  Not eaten your seed again Tweety? Well I'm not giving you any more until you finish that lot up.” 
    The blue budgie, which was losing his feathers a little, sat hunched on one of the perches. He never tweeted or twittered - drowned out, too often, by the over-loud TV.
   Returning to the kitchen Mrs C made a pot of tea and went through into a back room, a Victorian-style parlour which she kept strictly for her own use – and for her very special friends. 
   “You’ll take tea won’t you, dear?” she said, “not like that hoity-toity Mrs B. I’ll have to do something about her one of these days. Milk, no sugar?” She  smiled at the gentleman sitting quietly in one of the comfortable armchairs. “I’ve another friend who will be joining us for tea soon, but I’ve some work to do on him first.”
   She poured a cup of tea, set it on the table and headed for a door on the far side of the room. It led to the cellar where she spent many an hour enjoying her hobby, taught to her by her taxidermy father. 
    The postman was already almost completed. Quite expertly stuffed.

© Helen Hollick

I wrote this story many years ago when we used to holiday in the same town every spring. The Alsatian was always in the window of a rather run-down old house - I never did discover if it was a toy or a taxidermy specimen...

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  1. Chills!!! Didn't see that coming! Watch out Mrs B ...

    1. I wrote a draft of this years ago (at least 20 years back!) no idea where the actual copy went, but thinking about what I could write and a memory of our holidays in the Lake District reminded me of the whole thing. The dog in the window was probably one of those large toys ... there again, maybe not...

  2. I was not expecting that!! Brilliant story :-)

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you Catherine - the story started when we walked past the house one day and the dog was still there, I said 'It must be stuffed' then added 'I expect she's stuffed her husband as well...' Ah, the imagination has a lot to answer to! LOL

  4. OMG! Helen, was not expecting that at all. Sitting on my settee grinning like a Cheshire Cat; or maybe a smiling stuffed Alsatian, per’aps. So funny. Thank you. I’m now wearing a fixed grin. Hilarious.

  5. You have a dark imagination, Ms Hollick - perhaps I should be grateful that you're 250 miles away... And now I'm curious about how to stuff a postman.

  6. Late for tea as usual (I am 6 hours behind you). Actually, no thanks. Better run. Especially, after Richard threw in his warning for Mrs. B.

    Brilliant, Helen. Still holding my breath. (And don't you give Susan any how-to tips!)

  7. You and Rould Dahl! Chilling, indeed.

  8. Love it. What a twist. Thank you x

  9. Thanks everyone ... hmmm just how DO you stuff a postman...?
    The reference to Mr C 'watching' westerns is my own little tongue-in-cheek moment: my husband watches them almost constantly!


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