Chapter 24 – Fiat Uno

Yeah,its a stupid car, especially when its full of dog, old boy in the front,just reinforcing his senior pet status, the girls in the back, furry faces pressed against the windows,tails going a million miles, a walk, an adventure , the pack out and about.
I could have kept the big car, the 4×4, made him leave that behind as well, but you know what, I was just so glad to see the back of him, I didnt think, didnt work out how me and the dogs would manage in the tiny car,the toy car he used to call it,laughing, at it,at me.
And anyway, the Shogun, it was all part of his world, his manliness, the big dogs, the big car ,the big man.
We showed him though and the memory makes me smile and i move my hand off the gear stick, scratch the old boy’s ears, he wriggles with pleasure and from the back of the car,the girls surge forward, thinking that they’re missing out on something and I have to put my stern voice on, restore order, remind them of the hierarchy.

We’re driving to their favourite walk,the country park and its my day off, so we’re going for a long run, then home, house peaceful, quiet, just us.
Just me and the dogs.
they’ve changed in the last few months,become less watchful, calmer. We still all curl up on the sofa together, but its different now, still comforting, their warm doggy weight on me, but they’re not waiting for the key in the door and neither am I.

Traffic is heavy, slow moving, I’m stuck behind a furniture van, “Bespoke sofas, individual designs, one off pieces”.
I’ve got plenty of time to read it, cos we’re not going anywhere. The girls are restless, moving around on the back seat, but the old dog is quiet, occcasionally he licks my hand, just reminding me that he is here.
I wonder how much a bespoke sofa costs, do you get to choose everything,even the shape of the legs?
If i could have any sofa, well, it would be like that patchwork quilt I saw in a museum one day,hundreds and hundreds of different bits of material, they shouldn’t have gone toghether, but somehow they did and I looked at it for ages, wondering where all the bits had come from and how long it took to make.
if I had that kind of sofa, I would lie on it at night, dogs close to me and I would look at the patterns and make up stories about about all the fabrics,the dresses they came from, the women who had worn them and, yeah , I know that sounds mental, weird, but I can do what I like now, i dont need to please anyone, I dont need to please him.

He never really liked them, not really. Although he said he did and he certainly liked the attention. 3 big dogs, walking to heel, big furry minders.
“yeah” he’d say
“attack dogs, trained, kill you on my say so”
And the dogs would look at him and then turn away, eyes fixed on me, tails wagging in unison.
They were just part of the whole package, CCTV, baseball bat leaning on the wall by the front door. Ready for some invasion, desperate to be the man who saw off some scumbag robber.
As if anyone was ever going to rob us, I mean really, we had nothing, ancient TV, CD player he found for a tenner at a car boot sale.
He spent more on security than he ever spent on the house or me for that matter.
Everything in the house was as tired as battered as our marriage. I felt about as attractive as the dingy sofa, sagging cushions, unfashionable fabric, yeah that pretty much was me to a tee.
But the dogs, the dogs had the best of everything, fresh meat, big leather collars, food bowls scrubbed out every day, coats brushed till they shone while he watched whatever sport was on the telly and moaned about our lack of Sky Sports.
When we sat on the sofa, the dogs would watch him, vigilant, noticing his every move
“yeah”, he’d nod, satisfied
“they know whose boss”
And he’d pat the nearest, not noticing the tiny flinch, the move away.
His hand just that bit too heavy.
The same way he never noticed my flinch when he touched the back of my neck, his hand just that fraction too heavy on me as well.

He wasn’t a bad man, not really, just stuck in a life he hadn’t planned, didn’t want and it made him angry, made him lash out and there was no-one else to lash out at, so he lashed out at me and the dogs watched, carefully.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I was a battered woman or anything. No late night visits to A&E, no arguments with cupboard doors, well, not many and no-one at work ever asked why I wore so many long sleeved tops, polo neck jumpers, why I jumped if someone so much as slammed a door too hard.

And besides, i had the dogs, some nights when things went badly wrong, afterwards, I would lie on the sofa, the bloody sofa, dogs wrapped round me, their weight a comfort, my hands deep in their fur, finding warmth when I felt so cold.

He liked me to walk the dogs, would watch us leave the house,
“no-ones going to mess with you, not with them around you”
And then he’d go back to the TV, his beer, the match.

When things have been a bit bad for a long time, it takes something really bad for you to notice, to realise that a line has been crossed.

So, the day i couldn’t make it to work, couldn’t cover up the damage, couldnt face the world, I knew something had to change.

I sat for a very long time, staring at the front door, the dogs staying close, unsettled by the change of routine.

And then I heard his key in the door and me and the dogs all sat up straighter, poised.

And as he entered the room, I used the word, the attack word.

When provoked, dogs can be vicious and aggressive adversaries. A well-trained guard dog can use that ability to protect you, your family and your home. Although training a protection or attack dog takes a very high level of expertise, there are ways to prepare your dog for the training .
•Choose the right breed Some of the most effective protection dogs are Staffordshire terriers, German and Belgian shepherds, Dobermans, and Rottweilers. You want to choose a dog that’s naturally suspicious and alert, that will be part of your family and accept you as the leader. Starting with a dog naturally inclined to be adaptable, obedient and protective will go a long way when it’s time to train it to guard you .

I wasn’t really sure what would happen, if they would actually do it.

But they did it, all 3 of them, moving towards him, fast, focused and for a minute, he didn’t quite know what was happening, thought it was a joke, almost a smile on his face.

And then the dogs were on him and he wasn’t smiling anymore and he was shouting.

I stood up, walked towards him, counting in my head
1 2 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10
And then I called the dogs off.

I saw him yesterday, I was out, walking the dogs and he saw us, started walking towards us.
I stopped and the dogs stopped at my heels.

He looked at me and he looked at them and then he crossed the road.

The traffic starts moving and the furniture van moves off, turn left and I cant see it anymore, but it’s planted a seed,I start figuring in my head, moving my fingers on the steering wheel while i try to do sums and then I smile and the dogs pick up on my mood,wag their tales.

I’m buying a new sofa when I get paid this month.

About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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