Tag Archives: death

Number 56- that’s the house where the old lady was eaten by her dogs.

The old woman at 56 was eaten by her dogs.
This is a true story, perhaps.

Ruth was my neighbour and this is my 20 year too late apology.
I’m sorry your dogs ate you after you died.
In fairness, they didn’t actually eat you, just nibbled around the edges, but by that time you had been dead for 3 days and they were hungry.
I’m sorry that I didn’t pay more attention, didn’t do something when I noticed that you were failing, didn’t pop round, offer to get some groceries in, make that phone call to social services.
But, I didn’t because I was younger and selfish and besides by then you smelt a bit and your house smelt a lot, so I stayed away and I’m part of the reason why number 56 is still known as the house where the old lady got eaten by her dogs.
It’s a great line, a pinging start to any narrative, but, it’s not the only story about you and it’s not even the best story about you.
This one is.
I don’t know it all, so I’m going to make some bits up, sex it up a bit, give it a narrative structure, a bit of plot pruning.
Lets run with it, it won’t be any less honest than the story of the lonely old woman eaten by her dogs when her body sat neatly on the sofa, undisturbed until someone, someone better than me, noticed the milk bottles piling up on the doorstep.

Ruth worked all her life in the boot and shoe, but not on the factory floor, not her, not a clever girl like her.
And one day, when I made an assumption, she was quick to correct me, not in the factory and her body gave a tiny shudder, not with the machines and the shouting and everything that goes with factory life, not her. She worked in the offices, in accounts, had her own desk ,moved money and numbers around. A nice clean job, a job with prospects,a job that made her parents proud.
She was sharp at school, could have gone to grammar school, should have gone to grammar school, but and there is a world of pauses in that but, a litany of regret, but, she was offered the boot and shoe, a decent job, clean hands, sitting down work.
So, she finished school on the Friday, started work on the Monday.
She liked the work, like the rows of figures, enjoys her own ability to move numbers around, see patterns, instinctively know when a row of added up just right.
Her ledgers were neat, handwriting clear and crisp, often she worked her sums in ink, was brave enough to do without the faint pencil marks the other girls used in the days before auto correct and predictive spelling and even tippex . Back in the days when mistakes stared you in the face, might even mean the difference between keeping a job and loosing a job.
At school she had held herself apart, worked hard and survived the taunts of snob and the mutters that one day she would get above herself.
If she hoped that work might be different, that she might find another type of young woman,ambitious, clever, eager to get on, she didn’t show her disappointment, didn’t seem to mind her loneliness, her continued isolation.
The problem, the growing problem was boys or more accurately now, as she was suddenly 16 and 17 and 18 and 19, young men.It wasn’t as if she was shy around them or scared or made awkward , they simply seemed to have no relevance,and they, feeling this , simply kept out of her way.
And then the other girls began to drop away, ritual letting go always the same, the initial coy display of the engagement ring, white gold and a chip of diamond,too small to call a solitaire, then the wedding plans, the homemade wedding dresses made by that clever cousin and sometimes daringly in 1950s provincial life, a registry office and then …..pouf….gone in a puff of rice and confetti , never to be seen again.
Ruth kept working, got promoted, offered the chance to go to night school at her own expense to train as a bookkeeper and she grabbed at it, because by now, she had a plan and was patiently, steadily working towards it.
And then, in 1963, her uncle George died and to her and everybody else’s surprise left her 1,000 pounds.
A very large amount of money indeed and the assumption from everyone around her, mother, father, younger brother, was that she would do the decent thing, keep a few pounds for mad money, buy herself a dress or two and dutifully hand the rest over to her parents, but she didn’t.

She took every penny of her savings, £400, scrimped together over ten years of living quietly at home and bought,outright the house she lived in for the rest of her life.
It set her even more outside the world of other young single women, distanced herself from her family, raised eyebrows when she moved into the neat terraced house with all her possessions not even half filling the little van that the office manager borrowed one Friday night from the factory and there she settled.
Woke up each morning at 6am, ate her two slices of toast at the table with the wipe clean table cloth, once a cheerful green gingham pattern which over the years faded to a uniform yellow green.
Smoked the first 2 cigarettes of the day, the cigarettes she smoked until the time she became too wobbly, too frail to make the short journey to the corner shop at the end of the street and by then she was nicotine coloured, cigarette thin herself.
At first, the radio kept her company and then later, when she could afford it, she bought the first of her televisions and later still the dogs, always in twos and always loud, barking, energetic types .
Dogs that never got walked but roared around the tiny back yard, throwing themselves against the gate whenever anyone walked past.
She stayed in the same job until retirement, went to the same office, moved numbers up and down columns and became middle aged and then older, but always capable, hardworking, a good, sharp mind that watched the world and felt herself outside of it.
We lived next door to each other for ten years and I never saw a visitor walk to the front door and , never heard a phone ring, and never, ever noticed her to go anywhere except the corner shop for cigarettes and the co-op for a small carrier bag of groceries, mostly, I guessed dog food and bread.
I was young, even though then I thought that I was all grown up, too busy leading a life to see that hers was fading.

So, I’m sorry, I’m sorry Ruth, my neighbour, I’m sorry that I didn’t do that tiny thing, knock on your door,offer to pick up some shopping.
I’m sorry that I didn’t make that call, get some help.
I’m sorry that when the dogs barked for 3 days without, it seemed , stopping for breath, I’m sorry that I did nothing, just turned the stereo up and cursed you and your unruly, noisy dogs.
I’m sorry.

Number 34- The Harrisons live here.

Number 34 – The Harrisons live here.

And I know this because there used to be a China plaque on the wall next to the front door, the 3 little pigs, in a circle, trotter to trotter and in the centre and brick house with neat cloud of smoke billowing out of the chimney and red gingham curtains at the Windows and underneath, the legend “ The Harrisons live here”.
I sometimes wonder what inspired them to choose that particular plaque or if someone else, someone with a sharper sense of humour or a streak of unkindness had gifted it to them and if so, why had they taken the time and effort to drill holes, find rawl plugs and put it out there for everyone to see .
Because the Harrisons, mother and son were fat,not quite the stare at in the street fat, not shut ins with a shadowy feeder, but fat enough to make crossing their legs a distant memory, fat enough to mean they wore jogging bottoms to cover up the joggling bottoms and crucially fat enough to make the jaunty name plaque move from comedy to quiet domestic tragedy in less time than it takes to eat a family size bar of dairy milk.
I used to walk past their house at night, and although I tried not to stare, tried not to judge, somehow I would find myself transfixed.
Curtains open, lights on and both of them, mother and son planted on the green leather sofa, those sofas with the strange nobbly green buttons which see to have no function except to make the sofas simply uncomfortable, staring straight ahead at the TV, back in the days when TVs lived on tables and sideboards and had not learnt to climb walls and become slim line.
They each had their own end of the sofa, the remote in clear view and democratically placed in the very middle of the space between them.
But, it was the tray meals that I couldn’t help but stare at, I would find myself slowing down as I neared the tiny front garden, trying to calculate if I was passing at the right time and feeling a moment of small victory if I saw them, trays resting in more than ample stomachs, sometimes the odd item placed on the shelf of bosom or man boobs and their hands clutching forks, creating the perfect circle.
They never seemed to look down at the food, but stared at the television screen and when I think about it, try and capture that image of their evenings together, I don’t get any sense of conversation , just the noise of cutlery on plates, the gentle or maybe loud enjoyment of another meal and always the TV, filling the spaces.
And, yes, afterwards, I did try and recreate what they looked like together, evening after evening, tried to understand how she had felt, what had made her do the thing she did.
But I couldn’t and I still can’t.
It’s not the suicide that bothers me, I don’t have a high moral stance, each to their own I say, but to kill yourself that way, it just seems too uncertain, too tricky, too bloody painful.
She did it one day when he was out at work, climbed to the top of the stairs or maybe she was on her way down, less effort that way, less far to travel.
She jumped from the top stair, landed in the hallway.
She was the first thing he saw when he got home, she fell awkwardly, partially blocked the front door, he only managed to open it by giving it a good shove.
And just in case,in case people called it a tragic accident, a domestic disaster, she left a note,telling him exactly what she planned to do and why.

Wait a minute.
Does this ring true? Do you really, truly believe that someone could actually commit suicide by jumping from the top of stairs in terraced house.
Really ?
Such a well padded,almost cushiony woman, surely she would land softly, perhaps even bounce.
Tragedy flicking over in a split second into a prat fall, the shameful hobble into the kitchen for ibuprofen and the bag of frozen peas. The slow, painful collection of that note, pushing it deep into a dressing gown pocket and then weeks later left to disintegrate on a 40 degree white wash cycle.
Or, is something else happening here ?
How reliable is this voice, this story/storey teller ?
Am I about to shoehorn in some clumsy,heavy handed reference back to the little pigs, make a statement that its not just a wolf that can blow your house down, suggest that behind the stone cladding of this midland terraced house that lives of quiet desperation are lived out and sometimes, just sometimes not lived out at all ?
Or, am I simply mistaken, fooled by a urban street myth, wanting to believe a story rather than a prosaic truth, a fat middle aged wOman who lost her footing and fell to an undignified death.
Or, was I lied to, sucked into a story told by another neighbour who Wanted, just once to be the bearer of something, something so tragic that some glamour, some essence of a truth that should be true, needs to be true would somehow cling to them, give them the authority, the gravitas of an undertaker, the heavy knowledge of the coroner, the status that this much proximity to misery brings.

I don’t know, I wasn’t there.
You don’t know, you weren’t there.
But, if there is a truth, this is what I want it to be, that on that morning, the last morning, when she stood on the top stair, balanced on the balls of her feet, poised like a diver, waiting to make that dive.
I want the truth to be that as she leapt into space, before she twisted and turned, before she banged and bumped and finally landed, before that, in that split second, she felt lightness and weightlessness and for that second she flew in the air,gossamer in an impossible breeze.

The house has changed hands twice in the last 10 years,finally, just a few months ago, someone removed the little pigs plaque, but if you know where to look, you can still see the drill holes in the brick work, still see the faint outline of the chimney and the cheerfully billowing smoke.

The eternal, ever giving, fun loving clowns hit town…..again

This story was suggested to me by a friend, who sent me HIS short story about a clown sentenced to perform, day after day to the children waiting to enter the gas chambers and some how I began to think about a group of clowns,acting outside of time and space whenever children are in pain or peril.

So, thank you to S, for such generous sharing of the eternal clown.

The flan hits the face again, perfect shot and then a pause,
Count 1 and 2
Tip of tongue, shocking pink against a moon white face and the clown licks at the custard covering his eyes and mouth and nose.
He begins a toilette, carefully removing the yellow glop.
The children giggle at the hopelessness of the task and then stiffen, cover their mouths with their fists, become quiet, watchful.
The big clown, completely absorbed in his task has completely failed to notice the two lesser clowns, creeping up behind him, their faces overshadowed by an insanely over-sized bucket.
They mime counting

And then they hurl the water over the oblivious clown.
He leaps into the air, face contorted with mock shock and then returns to earth, his bottom landing first and into the supposedly forgotten custard pie.

The children’s laughter almost drowns out the crump, crump of falling artillery.

And on the Kindertransport, the child’s mouth is a perfect O as she watches a clown bend and twist balloons to make a small pink and red bear. She clutches a stained and grubby stain ribbon, all that is left of her bear, dropped, left behind somewhere in the dark between trains, when the adults said that there was no time to go back to look.
The balloon bear completed, the clown leans forward and dedicatedly lifts the ribbon from her hand and wraps it around the balloon bear.
The child and clown smile carefully at each other.

The wooden boat clings to the shore and even then the movement is enough to make the children puke.
These Peters and Brigettes, sworn to liberate the Holy Land from the Infidel, wait for the journey to begins and while they wait, cold and wet and hungry, they watch the clowns, sea salt eroding the matt perfection of their clown faces, juggle elegantly with an impossible number of silk scarves.

The shack is dark, lit by one guttering candle, there are children everywhere, some almost old enough to work in the fields, others tiny, still reaching out for the mothers, but all eyes are intent on the 2 clowns performing in the least dusty corner.
It is so dark that the children are almost invisible, reduced to just gleaming teeth and glistening eye whites as they watch the clowns chase each other in tiny ever diminishing circles until they are forced to run amongst the children.
The biggest clown tries to hide, choosing the very smallest children to crouch down behind, so that he is absurdly visible, his tattered red trousers are the only patch of colour in the room.
This hiding and seeking game is unsettling some of the older children, reminding them of more deadly games played out in the cotton fields when one of the bucks, most likely a new African, turns rogue, tries to get away, get home.
The clowns notice, pull back and quickly produce an old favourite, the teeny tiny cycle.
They both clamber on, smallest clown on the shoulders of slightly less small clown and legs move madly, piston like as the bike careers into the crowds of children. The clowns clear a path, scooping up the very smallest children to take a turn at the red bicycle ride.

The room is almost silent, just the beep beep of the machines, the steady thrumm of cables and wires and at its centre, the child, still, almost invisible under the burden of leads and bags and drips.
The smallest clown sits at the foot of the bed, floppy hat flopping with the weight of pink plastic flowers.
This is no place for tomfoolery, for noise, for jolly japes.
Instead, the smallest clown, face in shadow, blowing iridescent soap bubbles.
One by one they float into the air and then, soft as a butterfly, one lands on the child’s wrist.
The clown pauses, but there is no reaction.

The clowns are processing, Russian doll figures made real, biggest, smaller, smallest.
They lope across the playground, clown shoes dip into last nights rain puddles.
They are playing kazoos but the sound is almost drowned by the screams and shouts of children as their skin burns and bubbles.
The clowns, undaunted, try to make more noise, reaching into pockets to pull out impossible instruments that cannot have been hidden in such baggy pants.
Drums, trombones, cymbals appear, the smallest clown tries to execute some business, catch the middle sized clowns’ ears between the two brass discs….but the children are weeping, reaching out for help.
The clown dog, small , brown, a little yellow ruff around his neck, trots from child to child, terrier face wrinkled in distress, a growl just held back.

The clowns regroup.
Take stock and then the biggest clown scoops up the little dog, musical instruments vanish back into hidden pockets and they walk away.



Sometimes, some nights, her hands fumble, she drops the matches and then she has to stand for a moment, regroup and then, slowly, carefully open the box, grip the new match tightly and light the candles, until they are all glowing inside the coloured glass jars.

And then she feel the children, her children, feels their presence, feels their breaths, warm on this cold night and for the first time that day, she is calm, able herself to breathe without feeling that there is not enough oxygen in the air.

She knows now, that if she is very still, very quiet, that she will, if she concentrates, be able to see them both, just out of the corner of her eyes and so, she stands and waits, willing them to come to her.

Her son is the first, his hair sticking up at impossible angles, face grubby, in need of a good scrub, a soak in the bath and afterwards wrapped in a towel, carried, a bundle of warm, still slightly damp small boy, to bed, his head, suddenly to heavy for him to hold, lolling against her shoulder….she pushes the thought away and instead feel his hand, almost holding hers.

She knows now, not to grab, sudden movements frighten them, send them away, but extends her fingers, one by one, feels almost the touch of his hand in hers and she sighs, risks a look down.

He is not looking at her, his eyes are fixed on the candle light, mouth open, his face glowing in the soft light and they stand together in silence, waiting.

Her daughter is still louder, still more, more drama, more presence, just as she was….before.
The candles flicker and then she is here too, standing next to her mother, face turned away, staring at the flickering night lights.

The pink t-shirt, new that day, seems too thin, inadequate for the chill of this autumn evening.
She wants to gather her up, warm her from her own body, but knows that this will send them away, will leave her here alone, with just the candles for company.

” look” she says into the night air ” I have brought you something” and she reaches, slowly, carefully into the carrier bag hanging on her wrist and brings out a small pink bear, glitter in its’ fur, sparkling in the candle light.

She places it on the ground and reaching into the bag again, she pulls out an impossibly large black plastic spider.

Before, before, she knows her son would have laughed, grabbed the toy, chased his screaming sister around the house, waving the spider in her face.

But now, the children stare straight ahead, all their attention focused on the lights, the movement of flame in glass.

She places the toys in the little pile on the ground.

Somedays, some evenings when she comes, a toy or two is missing and she needs to believe that the children have taken, to where ever it is they are now, have taken some comfort from them.

She shivers, her skin cold, knows she cannot stay much longer, knows that her husband, waiting for her in the car park, head resting on the dashboard, hands at exactly ten to two on the steering wheel, will, soon, appear on the other side of the street, no nearer, a mute presence and that it will be time to leave.

He has started talking about taking the candles, the toys, the coloured night light holders down, stopping this nightly vigil, but she allows the words to wash over her, floats through her days, waiting for darkness.

She looks down again at her children, their faces rapt, eyes shining, but not on her, never on her.
Carefully, she fans the fingers of both hands, almost, but not, touching theirs and then she leans forward and starts to blow out the candles.

She feels their howls of protest
“Not yet, not yet, we’re not ready”
And so she waits, leaves one candle burning,as she does every night and empty carrier bag flapping on her wrist, she crosses the road to join her husband.

The children do not acknowledge her leaving, they stand, close together, hand in hand, all their attention on the final, remaining flicker of candle light in the dark.


What would Elvis do ? – On the night-bus – 10

More and more he finds himself turning to Elvis as a moral compass when he doesn’t know what to do, of course, you have to be careful about which Elvis, not the bloated Elvis, hepped on goof balls and deep fried foods, lost in the jungle room surrounded by yes men and half clad teenage girls, but the young Elvis, the boy who sang songs for his mother and called all men sir, even when he knew that he was the next big thing, in the days before any next big things.

That’s the Elvis he thinks about, tries to channel, he’s got the shy duck of the head, the eyes looking upward, the half smile off to a tee, somewhere between Princess Di and the King himself, but it’s good enough, gets him through the day or more accurately the night.

Afterwards, when the union and human resources, a woman who patted his arm and changed her nail color to match her outfits, said he didn’t have to go back to driving, said he could have an office job, take long term sick leave, he paused and Elvis spoke through him, the Elvis from Sun Studios, hands at his side, deferential and he said that he just wanted to get back to work, the ma’am slipped out, but he didn’t think that anyone in that small windowless room had noticed.

So, back to the night shift, back to the night buses, back, because it was May to those morning walks home, sun shining, streets quiet, the off time somewhere between the early hours and the work day, back to the mug of tea and the fried eggs, fried bread breakfast.

Fat Elvis, deep fried chicken, jelly donut Elvis.

He sleeps in the bedroom he has occupied all his life, feet can touch the wall at the end of his bed if he stretches just an inch or two, makes him feel like a giant, squashed into furniture just that little too small.
When his mum died, he planned to move into her bedroom, is still planning to, has got as far as bagging up her clothes, stripping the bed, picking up an Ikea catologue, circling potential new bed-side tables, but knows he is not yet ready.

Elvis’ mom, watching her son on stage, hearing the screams of girls as he thrusts and plunges, face shiny back then with the sheer joy of performance.

After breakfast, the best cigarette of the day, smoked, these days, in the kitchen, knot hovering on the fire escape, plate scraped, surfaces wiped, dutiful son Elvis, homeboy Elvis and then bed, sleep.

When he first went back, the other drivers were cautious, circled him carefully, looking out for signs of slippage, but time passed and other stuff happened, Salim helped a woman give birth to twins on the Crouch End bus, someone left a brief case with 3 grand in it on the Muswell Hill Circular and he was old news.

Elvis in Vegas, forgetting the words, stopping mid song to stare at the audience who have come to see someone who used to be big.

He misses the old Routemasters, the days when the driver lived in a cab, kept separate from the passengers and the buses that actually needed driving, huge heavy steering wheels, double declutching to change gear, the smell of diesel.
Now, he is there with the fares, takes the fares, polices the fares and the bus is all power steering and reversing sensors and his job is to be the face of the company.

Elvis, his uniform specially altered, tweaked, carefully choreographed photo shoots, you’re in the army now.

The night- bus is easy, once you get past the drunks and the lost and the ever so slightly mad, flat rate fare, no change and there is room to drive, roads not deserted, never deserted, but a hint of space, a possibility of movement and sometimes, out in the suburbs, out towards the end of the line, it feels like it’s just him and the bus and the night and he wonders what would happen if he just kept driving, but that’s a James Dean thought, not the moral compass for a man on the 47 night bus.

James Dean, Jimmy Dean, flashbulbs light up the found art that is car/tree/car and your body, scarred with cigarette burns and sly slicing to your arms and wrists.

Find a happy place, take a deep breath, centre yourself, this is the 47, heading out of town, he gets a grip, stares in the mirror, checks out the passengers, checks himself, find the happy place

Elvis cradles Priscilla in his arms, his hands are huge, designed to dig and cut and work and freed from all of that when he opened his mouth and sang gospel like a black boy.

Mostly, he doesn’t think about what happened, not in detail, not for long. He knows that it is becoming a depot tale, one of the dark ones, the stories that don’t get told in the pub.

He didn’t even notice her, why would he, small, skinny, hair pulled back in a straggly pony tail, he had lots of time to look at her, afterwards of course.
She sat on the back seat, curled up into the corner, he saw it on the CCTV, afterwards and quietly, somewhere between Oxford Street and the terminus, the far suburb, the streets where foxes with unblinking yellow eyes watched the bus go by, she slashed her wrists and bled to death, unnoticed, just a huddle of black clothes, a sleeper who has missed their stop.

He doesn’t think about her very often, drive the bus, move the people, watch the foxes, ask what would Elvis do?

Elvis, on that last night, hot southern night and the pills don’t work and the girls don’t work and the food won’t fill the hunger and you walk from room to room trying not to catch sight of yourself in mirrors and you wait for day to come.


Phoenix Writers – weekly writing task

The task set this week was on the subject – Your worst ever job.

I don’t write autobiographically and was toying with the idea of something funny,light, whatever, when this short short arrived completely formed. i know its perhaps inappropriate, but it is offered in respectful rememberance.

The transport has shaken you. i can see that, the cold, the hunger, the thirst and above all the stench, the terrible stench.
You have begun to believe that things cannot, will not get better, but somehow, against all logic, something good is happening now.
Leaving the train, you were directed towards the right, towards us, huddling together, trying to keep a semblance of warmth, waiting for you.
You trot towards us, you, the other old men, the children, the pregnant women.
We greet you in your mother tongue, we speak a lot of languages now and tell you that there will be food, warm clothes, a shower.
i put my hand on your wrist, feel a watch and quietly suggest that i look after it for you, while you shower and you look at me and you see a man, filthy, verminous, ill- fitting stripey clothing, thin, but you don’t see the red armband, you don’t see that in the kingdom of skeletons, to be merely thin is to be well fed.
We open the doors, usher you in.
As i walk away, i drop your watch into my boot.
I am still alive.


Comanche Joe and the afterlife

Sadly, the creator of Comanche Joe, the only talking dog in the west, has decided to take a stand against whimsy and kill off his creation.
Never one to be put off by something as small as the death of a character, I have, a la Sherlock Holmes, brought him back from the dead.

Comanche opened one eye and carefully, experimentally, flexed his right front paw.
So, this then, was the after-life, somehow, he had expected more, well, difference. Truth be told, he had felt far rougher after a heavy night of rot gut.
He sighed and then realized that he wasn’t actually breathing, so the sigh, although dramatically correct, was not completely necessary.
He opened the other eye and looked around and was not surprised to find himself at the back of the old Radley place, in the pet cemetery. In death he had, it seemed returned to a more canine existence, quickly, he nipped in the bud a complex internal dialogue as to whether he could, in all accuracy, use the term existence in his newly dead state. He recognized the sophistic cul-de-sac that he was heading down and decided instead to mosey into town and see how much he was being mourned.

As he walked towards the ramshackle collection of buildings that comprised Falling Pines – population 666, he found himself reliving the last few moments of the life before this after-life.
He heard again the clatter of the runway wagon, the gasping of the terrified horses, the soft smashing of heavy wooden wheels across his body and then the gentle comfort of Slims’ arms around him and the tears dropping softly onto his yellow fur.

Comanche shook his head to dislodge these terrible images and set his face towards Main Street, he didn’t see the stirring, the digging, the gentle movements coming from out of the pet cemetery.

Now, Comanche prided himself on a pragmatic approach to life in general, he shook his head, there it was again, the after-life raised an un-ending stream of linguistic and syntaxical conundrums,so, he sighed, a pragmatic approach to the after life in general, so he did not expect to see a town completely destroyed by grief, but he had high hopes for the undertakers’ lily vase or spittoon with perhaps his name picked out in chrysanthemums and he was sure that soda fountain & reiki healing center would have done something clever and restrained with black crepe paper.

He was therefore just a little surprised to see no changes at all to Main Street, unless he counted the large poster advertising an Iron John drumming retreat nailed to the livery yard fence and a new line of vegan bakes piled up in a window display in the General Store.

Comanche sniffed the air, he couldnt feel any grief, any out-pouring of loss. Of course he thought, the Saloon, that’s where I spent my best moments, the book group, the cahiers du cinmema appreciation society, the midnight screenings of Iranian cinema, that’s where I will be missed.

As he headed towards the Saloon, he failed, again, to notice the dust cloud created by the small feet, paws and claws moving from the pet cemetery towards the town.

The gambler, dressed in black, with his back against the wall was the only one to notice the tiny, almost imperceptible movement the swing doors of the saloon made, he shivered, a icy blast crept down his neck and then he shook his head and went back to the task in hand, the removal of as much gold as possible from the hardworking townsfolk before they began to question his re-working of the rules of Snap.

Comanche looked around, the bar was full of familiar faces, but no-body seemed miserable than passed for normal on a dog day afternoon, he shook his head and then realized that for the first time in his life, there it goes again, he thought but managed to avoid another linguistic loophole, that he was not itching or twitching with un-wanted visitors, clearly, the after-life did not include fleas.

And then he saw Slim, the most familiar of all the familiar faces, standing in his usual place, a half full glass in front of him, Comanche was about to pad over, to give his old drinking buddy a gentle sense of his presence from beyond the grave when he saw it. On the bar, curled up half asleep was a small beige puppy and as Comanche watched in horror, Slim picked up the tiny dog and began to tickle his tummy, crooning endearments into its small floppy ears.

Comanche turned and left the bar, his leaving noticed only by the out of town gambler and then only as slight frisson of despair.

The dog began to walk towards the town limits, his tail and head both pointing towards the dusty ground.

Some way out, on the windswept prairie stood a black cowled figure, Comanche nodded to himself, it seemed fitting that Death had adopted a Bergemanesque appearance.

Behind him and in a line stretching back to the pet cemetery came guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits and a one eyed, three legged cat, still wearing a blue velvet collar with the name tag Lucky glinting in the late afternoon sunshine.