Be Slightly Afraid

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In all the excitement surrounding the publishing of TRUST, this little gem got a bit neglected.

TRUST has done well [still has a way to go] but it was poor timing to have both books coming out at the same time — my mistake. But, you know how life is, everything happens at once.

This book is a collection of stories that have twists and turns and unusual happenings, and each one stands alone. Although, come to think of it, ‘Gone Like Smoke Through a Keyhole’, and ‘Thursdays’, do have a lot in common.

If you find yourself with the irresistible urge to spend what you would normally spend on a good cup of coffee, then buy this book. When you have finished, go over to GOODREADS and give it a rating and possibly a review. [these things help my book to get noticed…… I don’t have a big publishing house behind me].

My favourite story is ‘Emily’, closely followed by ‘An AK47 and a Banana’ —– what’s yours?


Did I mention? Most of the photos in this book were taken by my talented son Matthew, who is also a WordPresser.

Where to go to rate and review…………. GOODREADS

Where to buy an eBook copy of Slightly Spooky Stories…………….





A Bit of the Other.


The sun was getting low and its height exactly matched my mood.

When things get bad, I have strategies.

Top of that list is walking.

It occurred to me that I had not walked this way in a long while and I wondered why. With the sun filtering golden light through the tall pine trees I was instantly transported back to a moment in my childhood — some sort of fete or carnival, pine trees, afternoon sun and a feeling that the world was a remarkable place to be.

The tennis courts were cut deeply into the side of the hill and I wondered why the soft mountain soil had not washed away over the years. There were hard timber benches lining the top of the cutting presumably so that people could sit and watch the games being played some twenty feet below.

This high vantage point gave the activity below a surreal quality: more like a movie than real life.

All of the other players had left for the warmth of their homes and their loved ones – for some it would be a quick shower and out again to enjoy the ‘night life’. For others, it would be a quiet night in front of the fire with good conversation or the comfort of a well chosen book.

For most people, the following day meant a return to work with only memories of a long weekend to share with those who would stop and listen.

Work did not beckon me.

My life was on hold and only time would tell which way it would go.

I walked to the last of the three courts which also offered the highest vantage point.

A young couple were playing a listless game and it seemed to me that the man was being very patient with the two females on the opposite side of the net.

I supposed that he was playing both of them at once because he considered himself a superior player, but his demeanour did not support my supposition.

The two females were dressed in the same pretty, short tennis dresses; the kind that conveniently reveal frilly knickers whenever they bend over to retrieve a ball.

It was an odd convention that a man was allowed to watch a woman play tennis in a short skirt but under different circumstances he would be rebuked for staring.

What odd creatures we humans are.

One of the women seemed a little paler than the other, but apart from that they could have passed for twin sisters, at least from my elevation.

The paler one seemed to be the superior player, but even so, she got distracted from time to time and often retrieved the ball in the slow dawdling manner of a child.

The male remained patient throughout and I admired his calmness.

I could remember similar occasions, when all I wanted was a decent workout and all I got was a giggling opponent who couldn’t hit a ball to save herself. We had to abandon that game because my partner was afraid of disgracing herself.

“If we hadn’t stopped I was going to pee myself.”

I was mildly amused, but I hadn’t raised much of a sweat. Her tennis dress was driving me crazy and I remember asking her to keep it on when we got back to her place. The knickers had to go, but I liked the dress, and I got my workout, but there was not a lot of tennis involved.

If I had behaved in an impatient manner my evening might have turned out quite differently and I wondered if that was what was motivating the patient young man at the far end of the court, but somehow I doubted it — there was something else going on.

The late afternoon light can cause a person to see things that are not there, but in this case I thought it was causing me to see something that shouldn’t be there.

From my hardwood perch, high above the ‘brick dust’ courts, it seemed to me that the paler of the two women was in fact slightly transparent.

It seemed that I could see her, but I could also see through her.

Not like a pane of glass, for she had form and substance, but more a sensation that that I could see her and beyond her, all at the same time.

There wasn’t anyone nearby to ask, ‘Can you see what I can see?’, and in any case, I doubt that I would have asked the question. My world was strange enough as it was and I guess I didn’t want to believe that I might be ‘loosing it’ completely.

There were tingles running up my spine as I watched the three people gather up their belongings and leave the court.

I was left with my thoughts and the fading light.

A few moments later, after the three people had disappeared from view as they walked  close to the cliff and past the courts, one of the women and the patient young man walked up the steep path and passed by my seat.

I’d assumed that they would continue down the hill to the carpark or back towards the town.

The young man walked on a few paces and stopped, but avoided my gaze.

The woman stopped next to me and while staring at her tennis shoes, as though she had not seen them before, said, “You were watching our game. Do you often watch strangers enjoying themselves?”

“I watch people all the time,” I heard myself say.

I answered her partly because her presence made me feel light and free of concern. I know that sounds a bit strange, but that is how she made me feel. I’m long past the age where any pretty girl turns me speechless, but I was surprised at how quickly I responded.

“I didn’t mind you watching, but I think you made my friend a bit nervous.”

“Your friend looks a lot like you. So much so that I took her for your sister. A twin possibly?”

“I meant my boyfriend,” she said.

She didn’t say anything else for quite some time.

She seemed a little uneasy and I was keen to know why her mood had changed so suddenly; but I was not going to break the silence.

“Did you see her? She said, with a slight emphasis on the word ‘her’.

“Of course. It’s hard to miss two beautiful women who look so alike. She’s a better player than you are if you don’t mind me saying?”

As I said this it occurred to me that I should not have said it. I was enjoying talking to this person and I was in no hurry for it to end.

The boyfriend was staring at his shoes as well, but I don’t think he was wondering about them. He was quite keen for his tennis shoes to propel him and his girlfriend away from this conversation, but I also had the feeling that he had seen all of this before; maybe even a number of times before.

I didn’t feel threatened by either of these people and although this may sound strange to you, everyone had made me feel uneasy in recent times, but not these two.

Her reply took me by surprise, “You can see her?”

“Not right now,” I said and I wasn’t trying to be funny, “but down on the court I could see her clearly. She’s just as beautiful as you, but she has a more confident gait.”

“She’s more confident than me in most things. You might say that she’s the best of me.”

“Now you’ve got me really intrigued. Is she related to you? If not, why do you dress the same? I know enough about women to know that they don’t enjoy it if another woman is wearing exactly the same outfit.”

“We are very closely related, but I’m more interested in why you can see her clearly.”

“Joan, this conversation is starting to bore me and I think you should leave it alone. It is time for us to be going. We’re going out, remember?”

Until he spoke these words I thought that I was not going to hear from him at all, but now that he had I sensed a tiredness in his words as well as the resignation that I had seen down on the court.

“My devilishly handsome boyfriend has a point, but I must say that you are the first person to tell me that you can see her clearly, and I want to know why. Assuming that you have the time to talk?”

“I do have the time but I’m worried about you catching cold.”

It’s true that I was looking at her legs and feeling just a tiny bit cheeky. Her long suffering boyfriend gave me a look that said that he was more than capable of being less than patient if the occasion required and I acknowledged his annoyance by looking away as he placed his white tennis jacket around her shoulders. He then retreated back to his original position on the pathway and continued his visual examination of his tennis shoes.

Her boyfriend’s jacket was way to big for her but she looked cosy with it wrapped around her.

“She’s been with me for as long as I can remember. She ‘comes out’ whenever I have a specialist job to do. I guess she is that part of me that is good at whatever I’m attempting. When the job is done she becomes a part of me again, and that is why she is not with us now; the game is over. When I was little, I thought that everyone had an ‘other’. I called her ‘other Joan’, and I’m ashamed to say that I blamed her whenever things went wrong. Particularly if something got broken — ‘other Joan did it, not me.’ Strangely, my ‘other’ never seemed to care; never seemed to be upset. She always seemed to understand. She was always ‘the best of me’. I found her presence comforting, especially on those dark days when I doubted my usefulness to the world. In a funny kind of way, I was my own best example,” she said with a smile.

I found myself smiling as well.

Her situation seemed like a very good one, and I found myself wondering ‘why her and not me?’ Then I remembered that I was the only person she had come across who could see her ‘better self’ clearly. Maybe that meant that I had something special in me; because I could see the ‘special’ in her.

This was all starting to sound like I should rush out and hug a tree, but besides that unlikely image, I was feeling good for the first time in a long time.

As you would expect, our conversation continued for some time.

I half expected her to make an excuse and pull away, but she didn’t. She seemed almost as interested in our conversation as I was. I asked her how long she had lived with this ‘extra person’ in her life. Was it something that came on suddenly or had it always been that way?

“I cannot remember a time when it wasn’t so. I thought that everyone experienced an extra self and I reasoned that most people were shy, so the subject didn’t come up — the same way that best friends don’t talk about all their adventures.

I was amazed at how quickly I became comfortable with the idea.

In the end, the boyfriend became impatient again.

“Joan, we have dinner with Trevor and Jackie tonight. We need to get going?”

Despite his growing impatience he had an easy going good humour that told me he probably had to come to terms with his girlfriend’s friendly nature very early in the relationship.

They both looked quite young but their demeanour said otherwise.

My best guess was early 20s. He was about 6 feet tall and she was about 6 inches shorter. They were athletically built and attractive.

It was the woman’s smile that you noticed first.

I was quite sure that she could defuse any volatile situation by simply flashing that smile.

When they finally moved away, bags over their shoulders, I watch them go without any feelings of self-consciousness.

I wanted to see if the young woman would turn and look in my direction one more time.

She did and I saw her lips move before the words registered.

“Your inquisitive self is showing.”

I thought that she was just being cute until I caught a glimpse of the second shadow on the ground very close mine.

“You ask very good questions.”

“Thank you,” was my startled reply.

It’s a strange thing to be complimented by a slightly transparent version of yourself.

It had been a surreal day and the evening was looking decidedly bizarre as well.

“Where are we going for dinner tonight?”

“Excellent question,” said my slightly transparent self.

The Woman In The Window

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I saw her most days.

Just sitting and staring out the window.

Her house was on my regular route.

I say regular, but that depends on my mistress.

She doesn’t like me ‘wandering around’ as she calls it, so I only get to sneak out when she is busy. She sits at her desk and writes on most days but sometimes she really gets wrapped up in her work and she even forgets to stop and eat. On these days I know I can go for a long walk and most likely I won’t be missed.

The lady in the window is Mrs. Norris. I guess there must have been a Mr. Norris, but I never saw him.

She seemed sad to me and I know what sad looks like, but it was more than the way she appeared it was the way she looked, as though she was waiting for someone.

She rarely went outside and on the few occasions that I saw her she barely noticed me, which is unusual. People want to pat me all the time. They say things like, ‘Aren’t you cute, and who’s a good dog then?” I’m not sure if I’m supposed to answer or not so mostly I just wag my tail.

Old ladies are the worst.

They come out of nowhere and start patting me before I know what is happening.

I’ve got a friend, a white Maltese named Zed and he tells similar stories.

The difference with Zed is he collects little old ladies. He just stands there and looks cute and the little old ladies sneak up on him and pat him. He lets them come in but on the way out he gives them a nip.

He keeps count.

So far this year he has cleaned up 17 little old ladies and it’s not August yet. You might think that he gets into trouble, but he doesn’t. His owner says, “Serves you right for patting the dog without asking permission. He’s wearing a bright red lead that says CAUTION. If you can’t be bothered to read the warning then it serves you right.”

So far no one has complained to anyone and Zed reckons he can hit 30 by the end of the year, especially if the tourist season is a good one.

I took Zed to visit the lady in the window, but I made him promise that he wouldn’t bite. He said that he only bit little old ladies, it was a matter of principle, so she was safe.

Even with a cute white fluffy friend, the lady in the window did not pay us much attention.

She always smiled at me, but that seemed like as much as she could manage.

Once or twice I sat next to her in her garden. We sat there for ages; not saying anything at all. I think she enjoyed my company. I wanted to make her feel a bit better. I don’t know if I succeeded, but I didn’t make her feel any worse and sometimes that is as much as you can ask for.

I went past her house again today and there she was, in the window, just looking. I wonder if she will find what she is looking for? I wonder if what she is looking for will find her?

I’m only a dog so I may never find out the answers to those questions, but that does not matter. Today is what matters; right here and right now. I’ll do my best to keep an eye on the lady in the window but in the end her happiness is up to her, all I can do is be there.

When my mistress lets me, that is.

Comfortable Thinker


Every group need a thinker and Barry was ours.

I say a group, but that’s a little bit too grand for who we are.

It would be more accurate to say that we’re just a bunch of dogs who like to hang out together. Not every day mind you, we all need our personal space and we all need a bit of time alone. That was one of Barry’s great strengths; utilising his time alone.

When we gathered together we would bring a problem to Barry and he would go away and think about it for a very long time. He never failed to come up with an answer. Sometimes we didn’t like the answer, but that wasn’t Barry’s fault.

Barry’s favourite place to do his thinking was in his master’s leather armchair. The leather armchair was heaps older than Barry and Barry felt that that gave him an edge.

“This armchair has wisdom stuffed right inside it,” Barry was heard to say. He said cool stuff like that all the time and if I had been born with opposable thumbs I would’ve written some of it down. Fortunately, I have a very good memory for a small black dog so I remember most of Barry’s wise sayings. Sometimes when we get together and Barry isn’t with us, the other dogs will ask me to quote something wise that Barry once said.

“Never leave your bone out in the rain.”

That was one of Barry’s.

It wasn’t earth-shatteringly wise but was still very good advice. No one likes a soggy bone and sometimes we need to be reminded how that bone got to be soggy in the first place.

“Always look behind you when you’re going on a long walk, you never know who might be following you.”

Before Barry said that one, many of us didn’t look behind us when we went on a long walk, but now you will not see a local dog cover more than 100 metres without taking a quick look behind him.

We call it ‘the Crazy Barry,’ and because of it no strange dog has ever been able to sneak up behind us.

It’s one of the things that makes us so strong.

Someone said that the Russian submarine fleet used to do something similar during the Cold War. But I’m pretty sure that Barry’s move was original.

When the local cats became a real problem we turned to Barry.

Usually, Barry would come up with an answer within a day or two, but this wasn’t just any problem, there were cats involved.

And anyone will tell you that cats just aren’t like anyone else.

They are inscrutable.

I don’t really know what that word means, but Barry said it, so it must mean something.

For about a week and a half, every dog in the area who wanted to look wise said ‘inscrutable’ as often as possible.

I wasn’t one of those dogs.

My human vocabulary is already larger than every other dog in the area with the exception of Barry.

So I have nothing to prove.

I credit my exceptional vocabulary to the fact that I am the dog of a writer, and everyone knows that words are a writer’s tool.

We went back to see Barry after a couple of days, but he said he had not worked out the ‘Cat Problem’.

In the end, it was almost a week and a half before Barry rejoined our group. He had been sitting in that big leather armchair thinking every day since we posed a problem.

Barry had endurance and perseverance, whatever that means.

We all gathered around and held our breath as Barry prepared to speak. You could’ve heard an owner banging a dog food tin 100 kilometres away, it was so quiet.

Barry turned to our collection of dogs, and with those big soulful eyes, he looked at each one of us before speaking.

“My friends you have posed the most difficult problem I have ever had to think upon. I considered many solutions but in the end I rejected them all. There is only one thing for it, we must enlist the help of the Mighty Tiddles.”

Naturally, being dogs, we had heard of the Mighty Tiddles, but none of us had ever seen her in person. Some said she had been dead for many years, and others said that her owners had taken her away, well out of our area. A couple of the crazy dogs said that she had sprouted wings and flown over the rainbow. We tolerate all views in our pack, even to the point of putting up with the concept of flying cats and rainbows. Everyone knows that rainbows aren’t real.

A meeting was immediately held and I was elected to be the dog who would go and ask the Mighty Tiddles if she would help us with our problem.

This was to be the most dangerous adventure I had ever embarked upon.

I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say there were rivers, sharp rocks and strange smelling milk cartons, all of which stood between me and the Mighty Tiddles.

The pack had faith in me, Barry had faith in me, and I was not going to let them down.

After three days of torturous travelling, I stood before our group and introduced the Mighty Tiddles.

Her first words to the group were, “I understand you have a problem with the local cat population.”

We agreed that we did indeed have a problem.

“If you wish to regain control of this area from the cats, you must do exactly what I say, no more, no less.”

We were all impressed with her no-nonsense attitude, and the fact that she hadn’t scratched anybody.

“Go forth into your town and seek out anything that is small and shiny. Gather these things together and bring them here.”

When the work was done there was a huge pile of shiny objects and we stood back and admired our work.

The Mighty Tiddles told us to place these objects in very specific places. No more than 3 metres from a cat door; no more than 2 metres from a front gate, and so it went, very specific instructions.

We had gone to great pains to get the Mighty Tiddles to come, so we would have been foolish to ignore her advice.

I took the Mighty Tiddles back to where she had come from and returned to my friends to find out if our efforts had been successful.

I didn’t even need to ask because every dog I met had a smile on his or her face.

The local cats were completely confused by all the small shiny things, and to this day they are well under control.

There was some talk in the group about erecting some kind of statue or monument to the Mighty Tiddles, but this was rejected because we felt it would eat into our sleeping time.

Someone suggested that we should reward Barry for his wise counsel so we organised a raid on the local butcher shop.

There were some minor injuries, but I manage to get away with a leg of lamb.

Barry was very appreciative.

He said he would not thank us straight away, but instead he would think about it for a while and deliver his thank you at a later date.

He did and it was magnificent.

Barry continues to think in his big leather armchair and we continue to bring him problems to be solved.

Barry never lets us down, but we have never had to solve such a serious problem as the time when the cats got out of control.

Where It Ends.


When Sam came to it was dark.

He’d been locked in the boot of a car before but this was different.

Modern cars have an internal release mechanism so that people who have been kidnapped and thrown in the boot have a fighting chance of releasing themselves. This brilliant idea came from the Americans who believe that there is a mechanical solution to just about anything.

Sam remembered reading about this automotive development a few years before and at the time he wondered why the kidnappers would not disable the system.

The cramped conditions didn’t make it easy for Sam to feel around for a release lever. He need not have bothered because there wasn’t one.

The bloke driving this car must have been legally blind because it seemed to Sam that he hit everything except the bitumen.

The boot of the car smelt like oil and old boots with a bit of rust and mouldy carpet thrown in.

Sam wished he had not given up smoking because a lighter would have come in handy, but on the other hand, if there was petrol stored in the boot he might have blown himself up.

Sam reasoned that this journey would have to come to an end sooner or later and then he would get his chance. He would pretend to be unconscious and seize his chance when the man [he assumed it was a man] tried to pull him out.

After what seemed like a very long time the car began to slow down and the crunch of gravel under the tyres told Sam that they had pulled off the road. The driver’s door opened and closed and Sam prepared for his last chance at freedom.

Lying in the darkness does strange things to a man and Sam had an uneasy feeling that if his reflexes were off this might end up being his final resting place. The wound at the back of his head was throbbing and Sam had no way of telling if his vision was off. He grabbed a piece of metal, probably a tyre iron and hid it under his body.

The boot lid did not open and Sam wondered what the driver was doing. The car started to roll forward and Sam heard the driver swear. The car tilted as it rolled and the drivers voice became more frantic. The car gained a bit of speed before rolling on its side and hitting a tree. Now there was screaming instead of swearing. The boot popped open after the impact, but Sam was knocked out for a few moments. When he came to he could feel the cool breeze on his face.

“I think I’ll just lie here for a moment,” he said before realising that he was talking to himself.

Lying still seemed like a good idea. He slowly took stock of his various bits and pieces and when he was satisfied that everything was in working order he scrambled out of the boot still clutching the tyre iron.

He’d been vaguely aware of the screaming but as any good soldier would do, he took stock of his physical condition before taking action.

The car’s headlights were still on so there was some light, which was just as well because they were obviously in the countryside and there were no streetlights.

Standing up proved to be a challenge and not just because of the uneven terrain. Sam’s head was throbbing from the initial blow and the impact of the crash.

The screaming seemed to be coming from the drivers’ side which was now under the car as it lay on that side.

The light wasn’t all that good, but it appeared to Sam that the driver was pinned under the car, which would account for the screaming, but curiously, the driver seemed to be attached to the car door by a rope.

The rope turned out to be a scarf.

“Me mum knitted it,” the driver was to reveal, in what turned out to be a long conversation.

The driver had jammed the scarf in the door when he got out. Being used to driving automatics he had forgotten to pull on the handbrake and gravity set in. The driver stumbled before he could get the door open and the two of them, driver and car, continued down the slope until the car rolled on its side crushing the driver.

The car belonged to his cousin.

“If he owned a bloody automatic this wouldn’t have happened.”

“If you hadn’t hit me on the head, bundled me into the boot and driven me to who knows where, you wouldn’t be in this mess,” Sam succinctly pointed out.

The screaming resumed and went on for quite some time, but there were conversations in between bouts.

Not unsurprisingly, Sam was keen to know what had happened and why this bozo wanted to hurt him.

The cause of the screaming was a severely crushed leg, but more important than that was the gash on his thigh that was pumping blood at a rate that was going to cause a problem.

Sam told the driver to keep pressure on the would and this slowed down the flow rate but Sam had seen enough battlefield casualties to know that this bloke was going to bleed to death if help did not come soon.

It was a bad sign when the screaming stopped and the driver said that he felt sleepy.

“I have to tell you mate that this isn’t good. If someone saw what happened and called for help you might make it if they get here soon, but it is going to have to be real soon.” Sam was telling it straight. “I can go for help, but you have to keep pressure on that wound.”

“Don’t leave me Bennett. I don’t mind dying, I just don’t want to be alone.”

“I won’t leave you.” Sam had seen men die before, and some of them had been men who had tried to kill him. But in these moments these things are put to one side. Two men facing death and only one would be alive to tell the tale.

“You seem to know me but for the life of me I cannot place you. Why would someone I don’t know be trying to kill me?”

“You don’t know me, but I met you once. In court. I told you what I thought of you. You were responsible for putting my brother in prison.”

“I still don’t remember you. What was your brother’s name?”

“John Willy.”

“Okay, I remember him. A real piece of shit. Got exactly what he deserved. Your brother ruined more lives than reality television. You are not seriously going to tell me that you think I fitted him up?”

“No. I know he was no good. He used to beat the shit out of me for no reason, but he was family. Every one of my family either drank themselves to death or got themselves killed, John was all I had left and you got him put away for life.”

“He got himself put away, and he got himself dead. You don’t pick a fight with a crim who is twice your size. Your brother was a bloody idiot. Seriously, did he have a death wish?”

“Probably, he was never very bright and I think he would rather be dead than locked up for rest of his life.”

Sam was now soaked in this blokes blood.

“What’s your name then?”


“William Willy: your folks had a sense go humour.”

“I don’t know what you mean. I like that name.”

“Fair enough. So I guess it was you in the car that T boned me a while back?”

“Yes, and I’m pissed that you walked away from it. I planned it for weeks. Just didn’t get up enough speed. Buggered up my knee as well. Got arrested for some shit I pulled months before and I been inside ever since otherwise I would have done for ya before this.”

“Well, neither of us are walking away from this one,” Sam said with just a hint of exhaustion.

Sam was sick of it and now that he knew the pathetic sordid reason for his torment he was even more sick of it. “Stupid fucking people living pathetic fucking lives fucking it up for everyone they come in contact with.” These were thoughts, not words said out loud, but either way it didn’t matter.

Pretty soon this poor excuse for a human being would join his larcenous family in the great hereafter and Sam would go back to piecing his life back together.

If it wasn’t for Scarlett and his dogs he would have been tempted to lie down and drift away with William Willy, the bloke he never knew who had so ineptly tried to kill him.

Sam had to ask, “If you had your life to live over again, would you do it differently?”

“Nah, I’d only fuck it up again.”

The powerful torchlights lit up the bush and it reminded Sam of when he was a kid and they would steal their fathers flashlights and play on the vacant lot in the moonlight. That seemed like a long time ago.

Sam’s head hurt and just for a moment he thought the lights might be aliens.

A big bloke in a uniform was slapping Sam on the side of the face and saying something. “You with us pal?”

“Yes, I am and if you keep hitting me you are going to find out.”

“No need to get pissy.” The ambulance driver had put in a long shift and the drive to the crash scene had taken an hour. Usually when this happened it was a false alarm and they had to turn around a drive back, but on this occasion they found one unconscious male and one trapped male; deceased. In his report he stated that although the hand knitted scarf was not the direct cause of death, it had been a contributing factor.

Loyal and True makes it on to paper.


LOYAL and TRUE has been an eBook for a little while but now it is on paper, where it belongs.


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TRUST: the proof copy arrives

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Chopper is as white as I’m black.

He’s the white dog of the family.

No one knows how it happened, and we don’t hold it against him, we are dogs after all, we don’t judge you on the colour of your fur.

If you contribute to the pack we don’t care how big, small, skinny or fat you are. Do your job, stay out of trouble and the pack will accept you.

There were many rumours and some of them were ‘off the wall, bat shit crazy’, but the most logical explanation came in the form of a large Samoid named Killer.

Killer was one of those dogs who don’t know when to shut up, and who spend all their time trying to show other dogs how tough they are. It gets very old very quickly. Most of us tried to avoid him and his owner kept him locked behind a large wooden fence. Wooden fences a fine, as far as they go, but they get old and the posts rot and the fence begins to sag. Killer had a sense that his fence was on the way out and he worked on it ever day for many weeks. He was a big bloke and just by leaning on the fence he managed to get it to move just a bit each day. Eventually the inevitable happened and Killer squeezed through the gap he had so diligently created and proceed to rampage through our small community. It is said that he mated with every female he could find before his owner caught up with him, and one of the unfortunate females was Chopper’s grandmother.

So now, with each new litter, there is at least one white pup mixed in with all the black ones.

I have a soft spot for Chopper.

He gets lonely and he does not get to visit with my mistress and I very often. When he comes to stay I show him around all the sights. He particularly likes visiting the butcher shop, but that can require a bit of stealth on my part because the butcher hates dogs. I don’t know why and I don’t particularly care either, but I do know that he can be dangerous. The Pomeranian that lives across from the park still walks with a limp, and all he did was wee on the corner of the butcher shop.

Chopper’s favourite thing is sitting on chairs.

I must say that he sits very well and there is even a photograph of him sitting on a chair. His mistress has a large version placed prominently on her piano; I’ve seen it. Chopper showed it to me the last time we went there for a visit. His mistress also carries a very small version of it in her wallet. She used to have a photo of her children in her wallet, but she took it out. Apparently they never call her and she is fed up.

“Just one bloody phone call a week. That’s all I ask. Is that too much, I ask you?” She wasn’t talking to me but if she had been I would have agreed with her.

If my mum was still alive I would visit her every day.

We should always remember where we came from.

Apart from sitting on chairs, Chopper is also very good at carrying stuff. Not big stuff obviously, but small important things. He regularly carries his mistress’s handbag. The bag is nearly as big as he is, but as long as he keeps his head up he can manage it, at least from the car to the front door. His mistress loves him for it and he is very proud to be able to help her. It is very difficult to understand what he is saying with a mouth full of handbag, but it usually doesn’t matter much because Chopper is not a great conversationalist. He mostly likes to talk about things he has seen on television. Strange things like people dancing and singing. It all seems a bit unnatural to me, but Chopper loves it.

The best thing about Chopper is that he takes one day at a time.

I’ve never heard him worrying about tomorrow.

He lives in the moment.

What more could you want from a friend?

Life goes on until it doesn’t.


I hadn’t been down this road for a long while.

It’s quiet here and I like that.

When I came around the bend, there he was, sitting on the side of the road; sitting very still. At first I wasn’t sure why he was there and then I noticed the large stick lying on the ground in front of him. I’ve seen this kind of behaviour before.

Hell, I’ve behaved like this before, but usually there is a human involved and usually they have thrown the stick and the dog retrieves it and places it at the feet of its owner.

It’s a game and a damn good one.

When I was younger I could keep it up for what seemed like hours.

Dogs aren’t good at ‘the passage of time’, so it may have been shorter than hours, but it seemed that way to me at the time. I love games, especially when humans are involved.

My theory was valid, but with one exception; there wasn’t a human in sight. I hadn’t seen one on my walk and I had walked a long way.

I carefully approached him, making sure not to make eye contact; this was no time for a punch up.

I sniffed him and he sniffed me back. I could tell that he had not eaten in a long time. His fur was in very good condition and his eyes were clear [I took a quick peek] but his breath said that his tummy was empty and had been that way for several days. He must have been in a bit of pain, but he was doing a good job of not showing it.

The words of my mother were ringing in my ears, “never show weakness, always look like you know what is going on, and give the impression that you are smart and strong, that way they will want you in the pack”. She never explained who ‘they’ were, but I listened and I remembered. I think that this bloke’s mother must have told him the same stuff.

After a little while, I got a conversation going and it turned out that his owner had driven him out here a few days ago and they had been playing his favourite game, ‘fetch the stick’, when his owner said ‘wait here’. He then got back into his car and drove away.

This big black, faithful dog had been waiting here ever since.

I’ve been around a bit and I was pretty sure that I knew what had happened.

I asked a few more questions.

“Has your family added a new small human recently? It smells like powder and milk and it makes a lot of noises?” The big black dog said that they had, and he wanted to know how I knew. I pretended that I could smell the little human on him, but I couldn’t. I’ll bet that they put this big black dog outside and never let him guard the little human.

“Did the male and female human argue a lot and use your name?” Apparently they had and he didn’t know what he had done wrong.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him what had happened so I told him to wait there and I would go and get him something to eat.

“I might not be here when you get back if my master comes back and collects me.” The big black dog’s voice did not sound very confident.

“Don’t worry about it. If you are not here when I get back I’ll eat the food myself.” This seemed to make sense to the big fella, so I headed back down the road. It was going to take a long time for me to find food and bring it back to him, but I knew he would be waiting when I got back.

Getting food wasn’t going to be a problem, but working out what I was going to do with this big dumb dog was going to require a bit of thought.

I got a couple of friends to help me distract the butcher so I could sneak in the back door and steal some chops. The bulldog and the Jack Russell from Scotia Street were only too happy to help out. They don’t like our butcher any more than I do.

I’m not very big so I could only carry two chops and that was never going to be enough to feed this big black hungry dog, but it was going to have to do for the moment.

On the way back, I hatched a plan.

Old Mrs McKenzie needed a dog to look after her since Bruiser got hit by that bus.

Bruiser was a good dog and Mrs McKenzie was very lonely since he had died. She wouldn’t take another dog into her house because she was so sad about Bruiser, but I had a feeling that I could talk her into it. Now, all I had to do was talk the big black dog into following me back to her house. It was not going to be easy, he was not going to leave unless I could come up with a very good reason. He wasn’t very bright, but he was very loyal. His owner was never coming back, but he would sit there and starve to death waiting for him.

It made me very mad.

The big black dog was very happy to see me or was it the chops I was carrying? Either way, the food got him to trust me.

It was starting to get late so I had to work fast.

While he was still eating, I told him that his owner had left word that he had been delayed and that he should follow me to Mrs McKenzie’s house and wait there.

The story was a bit too long and he looked very confused, but I needed to keep all the detail, so I just went over it all again and tried to sound like it was all an adventure.

I must have been very convincing because he seemed to like the idea.

I suggested that we get some water at the stream that was close by because I was thirsty after all that walking and I was a bit concerned about the stamina of this big black dog after sitting out in the open for so long without food.

I need not have worried because we trotted along together and he walked slowly because I have very short legs.

When we got to Mrs McKenzie’s house it was still light and I scratched on the back door. It took her a while to open the door, but when she did she recognised me.

“Hello, Rufus. I haven’t seen you for such a long time. I’ll bet you are missing Bruiser too, aren’t you boy?” She was right, I did miss Bruiser, but life goes on until it doesn’t.

“Who have you got with you there Rufus? What a beautiful big black dog you are.”

The big black dog licked her on the hand because he believed that she was a friend of his master so she must be a good person.

Mrs McKenzie looked to see if the big black dog had a name tag, but his owner had removed his collar before driving away.

“You look hungry big fella. Would you like something to eat? I was just making my supper. You are welcome to join me. You too Rufus, if you like.”

I wasn’t going to say no because all the dogs in the neighbourhood know that Mrs McKenzie is an excellent cook.

Mrs McKenzie was trying to decide what to do with the big black dog, but I knew that there was a very good chance that she would not turn the big black dog in to the pound.

“I guess you can stay with me for a while. I’ll ask around and see if anyone has lost a beautiful big black dog. Someone is sure to claim you.”

Not bloody likely.

I told the big black dog that his job was to look after Mrs McKenzie until his owner came back for him. I told him that he was to protect her just like he would protect his owner.

He seemed to understand and he was happy to have someone to look out for.

They would make a good team and now it was time for me to head for home. I would probably be in a bit of trouble for getting home so late but it would be worth it.

I saved someone today.

That does not happen every day.

I’m Not That Good at Breathing In.

Version 4

I’m really not that good at breathing in.

My mum was the first to notice it.

It has a name and everything; dyspnoea.

It created a few problems when I was at school.

I would talk really fast on the out breath and everyone would stare at me, waiting for me to finish the sentence, which I was unable to do until I managed to breath in.

As I got older I learned how to say stuff in a precise manner but when I was younger it multiplied my embarrassment.

One of the upsides of my affliction was that I rarely needed to be banged on the back because I had ‘breathed something in’.

You know the scenario, you are eating a biscuit and someone says something that requires an answer, you breath in quickly so as to form an answer and down goes a chunk of biscuit followed by you coughing and sputtering followed by some large bloke pounding you on the back or worst still, trying the Heimlich manoeuvre on you resulting in three cracked ribs and flying biscuit crumbs.

Doesn’t happen to me.

When I breath in small children stop and stare.

The convenience store is open [I’m pretty sure that they stay open unless someone dies, and even then it’s only a ‘half day’] and I don’t recognise the person behind the counter, and more importantly, they don’t recognise me. I grab a newspaper and a pint of milk. I might be technically on the run but I’m not missing out on milk in my cup of tea; a person must maintain standards.

The newspaper doesn’t have anything in it about me, and I’m not sure why it should, but it is reassuring all the same.

The date on the newspaper tells me that I have travelled forward in time by one hundred and fifty-eight days.

People are still driving cars and talking on mobile phones and there are no longer any unmarked police cars parked outside my house.

Amazingly my letterbox is empty; someone has been collecting my mail.

When I get back home from the convenience store I see Mrs Wilson waiting for me.

It’s too late to hide so I keep on walking and I say ‘hello’ as though there is nothing unusual about this day.

“I’ve been collecting your mail for you. The man on the TV said that burglars notice if the mail piles up, so I have been taking it to my house each day. Not Saturdays and Sundays, of course, they don’t deliver on the weekends. They used to deliver on a Saturday when I was a little girl.”

Mrs Wilson is pleasantly nuts.

She’s been pleasantly nuts for as long as I’ve lived on this quiet little street.

The other neighbours talk about her behind her back, but I’ve always liked her and she has always been friendly to me.

She babbles on for several more minutes without mentioning the police raid or my boarded up front door. She doesn’t ask me what happened and she doesn’t want to know where I’ve been, she’s just happy to see me.

She reminds me of a large faithful dog. They don’t care where you have been, what you have been doing, or why you have been away for so long; you are home now and that’s all that matters.

As I mentioned, Mrs Wilson is more than a little bit crazy, and I wonder how she has escaped the attention of the authorities and her greedy family.

Her house must be worth a small fortune but somehow they have not been able to sell it out from under her.

I asked her about it once and she gave me the best answer.

“I know where they live, and everyone’s scared of people like me. They never know what we might do,” she said with a cheeky grin.

I listen patiently as Mrs Wilson continues her monologue but it occurs to me that I’m somewhat exposed standing on the street, in daylight, in front of what is left of my front door.

“Would you like to come into my house for a cup of tea Mrs Wilson?” I say, remembering that it has been six months since I’ve had a cup of tea.

The thought of that much time makes me wonder how I managed to go that long without a cup of tea, then I remember it has been only a few minutes for me.

I feel a little silly and I hope that the next time I’m drunk I don’t mention it to any of my scientist friends; I’d never hear the end of it.

“That’s all right dear, I’m fine for the moment. Besides, you don’t have any gas or electricity.”

Mrs Wilson is sharper than people think she is.

“That nice young man was here a few days ago. He was carrying a large black bag when he left your house. I asked him about it but he said that it was okay and I was not to worry. He did ask me to say hello to you when I saw you and to tell you —— now what was it? I know I can remember it, just give me a moment ——- that’s right he said to tell you, ‘thank you, and remember Custer’s last stand’. He said you would understand.”

I must have looked a bit confused because Mrs Wilson asked me if I was feeling all right.

I smiled and told her that I was fine, but in my head I was working out how I was going to get to Blairgowrie.

‘Custer’s last stand,’ was what we called Michael’s grandfather’s holiday house.

Now I know where he is and I’m going to beat him with a very large stick when I catch up to him.