Terence Brady - Playwright, novelist, actor and painter.
  • 'If you are all sitting comfortably?’ the Storyteller enquired. ‘Then I shall begin. This is a story of love, and of romance – of mystery and of imagination – of plot and counter plot, intrigue and infamy. And every word of it is true. If you do not believe it to be so when I have told my tale, then I shall not have done my job. So come sit a little closer to the fire, make yourselves comfortable, and settle down to hear the extraordinary tale of one man and his dog, a tale of derring-do, a story of a short but remarkably dramatic period in our history, an era during which our lives might have for ever been changed had it not been for the almost unwitting intervention of a young man and his extraordinary canine friend. So – to begin at the beginning - ’ 
                                                                                    OVERTURES AND BEGINNERS
             Since severing the head of a blonde and nubile teenager whom they had found lost and wandering in the castle forest and consequently sucking all the blood from her body, he had been unemployed. That was now over two months ago and since then there had not been one call for his services, even though he had been roundly congratulated on the task he had performed, most particularly by the King of Vampires Count Dracula himself, who had announced in front of all those who mattered that he the newcomer was most definitely one to watch.
            Since when he had received not one call – not even an availability check. So there he was, watching his star that he had thought to be in the ascendant, sinking down and out of sight before him. He knew this was the name of the game he had chosen to play, yet he still could not help himself feeling downright disappointed, so much so that he began to contemplate extremely early retirement from this particular line of work and looking for some more sensible mode of employment, such as catching moonbeams in
jam jars.
           ‘Trouble is, you were probably a bit too good,’ his best pal had later suggested.
            ‘A bite too good perhaps,’ he had suggested facetiously in return, before realising what his colleague had gone on to say was true. Being good was good enough. But being too good was very bad, particularly when it prompted the Leader of the Pack to comment upon the so-called excellence of the performance, because what Count Dracula had meant by his commendation was au contraire, that in fact he did not wish to see any young man of any such notable ability appearing in any of his future personal entourages. Acclamations of merit bestowed by the Prince of Neck Nibbling were in fact a seriously effective Kiss of Death.
            And so our hero languished, and unhappily so, even more particularly since he had become physically and even a little emotionally involved with the nymphet whose very life blood he had siphoned from her. Since leaving Dracula’s Castle - which this time had been situated twenty miles south east of Prague - he had found himself missing his last victim her more than he thought, so much in fact that the moment he knew she had been returned to normal life he made an assignation to meet her in a boozer adjacent to his gaffe in Battersea, a rendezvous to which he sensed she had been reluctant to commit herself.
            Yet she turned up, nonetheless, only forty-three minutes late and wearing a fluffy white angora sweater over black leather trousers that creaked like a ship at sea.
            ‘Point is,’ she said with a tone of finality after her third vodka and black, even though he had prompted no such summation. ‘Point is I reckon I fancied you more with fangs.’
            ‘Right,’ he smiled back foolishly, as men do at such times. ‘I think I know what you mean. You were purely delectable with flaxen plaits and in damp muslin. I could always put them back in. The fangs I mean.’
            ‘That’s not what I mean,’ the girl replied stubbing out her cigarette. ‘What I mean is - is not that I fancy you anyway because I don’t think I do – but that I think I only really fancied you anyway as a vampire.’
            ‘Then I shall continue to be a vampire,’ he replied with what he hoped was a that’ll-do-it smile. ‘And if I do so -’
            ‘Don’t even give it a thought.’ The girl got up, swinging her handbag onto one shoulder. ‘It was a job. You were a lovely vampire, and not a bad shag neither. But that really is as far as it goes. Okay?’
            ‘No it is not okay.’ He got to his feet, in protest. ‘It most certainly is not okay. I think – as it happens I think I might have developed – well. Developed feelings for you.’
            ‘You mean the little man has,’ she grinned back at him. ‘That’d be more like.’
            ‘I’m being serious. I really do like you.’
            ‘Look – um – Steve.’ She reached for his name, finding it just in time.
            ‘I prefer Stephen if you remember.’
            ‘Look, sweetheart – this hasn’t got anything to do with being serious.  And it hasn’t got anything to do with really – really that is as in reality. Okay? That’s why we both do what we do, ‘cos we don’t do reality. That’s why the both of us is both bloody actors. Know what I mean? See yah.’
            She was gone, sashaying across the bar and tossing her mane of golden hair at the more than occasional wolf whistle.
            ‘Same again, please Chalky,’ Stephen McCann said to the Nigerian barman, putt-ing his empty pint glass down on the counter. ‘What a life.’
            ‘Swap you,’ Chalky said, drawing a good pint. ‘Try this.’    
            ‘I did last time I was out of work,’ McCann replied. ‘Got Shadow cirrhosis in a week.’
            ‘So how you going to survive this bout?’
            McCann, shrugged, easing his pint of obliterator inexorably towards him.
            'By doing the usual dignified things actors have to do when resting, I suppose,’ he replied. replied.  ‘Cleaning peoples’ houses, sticking flyers under windscreen wipers, doing man in the street polls. All the stuff that is leading me towards playing the definitive Macbeth.’
           And then merciful oblivion, at least and then being after another four or five pints of MegaTun HomeBrew.
                                                                                       THE FIRST STRAINS
           By mid afternoon he was still convinced it was Thursday, possibly because it felt precisely like a Thursday. Since he had woken up on that particular Wednesday morning which was now exactly two months after finishing his brief stint on Dracula Dies, the day had started out and continued to feel precisely like a Thursday. Oddly enough since he had begun his latest enforced rest he had discovered most days felt like a Thursday. Not that it mattered, he pondered as he pedalled his slow way to the Recycling Centre. At the moment life - and in particular his life - would be the same whatever day of the week it was.
         'Except for Sunday,’ he recollected, steering round a pothole. ‘All except for good old bloody Sunday.’
         With so many other people idle on Sundays, being jobless was a little less apparent on the Sabbath.
            But despite his previous conviction, the day of the week really was still only a Wednesday, and so with his wretchedness suffocating him in the manner of a plastic bag tied tightly over his head, he cycled wearily onwards to the municipal car park where stood the Recycling Centre, an old supermarket carrier full of empties on one handlebar and another bag full of the remains of several dead trees on the other, blithely unaware what the Sisters of Fate had for him in store. 
For the Bottle and Paper Banks was set to be the scene for their meet-cute. It was to be where worlds would collide. An unromantic location no doubt, but life is neither a fairy story nor is it remotely like the movies, whatever the trailers might claim. So it was that while Steven J. McCann, aged thirty four years and six months but at this moment in his life feeling more like a hundred and thirty four years and six months, of fixed abode but no fixed employment was trying to find room for his copies of the week’s stale news in a brimful rusting container jammed with discarded yellow pages and other banned sub-stances a vision moved into the edge of the frame of his life. In a Flash! Tristan met Isolde, Clark met Lois, Mickey met Minnie, - whatever. Lighting struck. Sizzle. Thunder clapped. Bravo! McCann’s jaw dropped. Clunk.
        The vision then moved from edge of frame into full screen and when he caught full sight of her such was the size of what seemed to be his immediate cardiac arrest that Stephen feared and fought for his life. Yet somehow the breath returned to his lungs, his heart remembered the beat and he survived the attack to find himself looking wondrously into a pair of bright green slightly squinty eyes, peepers that went up in their corners to match a mouth that seemed to be affixed in a permanent demi-grin. The vision’s hair was black and lustrous, sheeny tresses that flicked up at their ends, and amongst the strands she wore a small white flower to one side, pert and sweet. He could see it well because the wearer was smaller than he, considerably smaller - maybe half a foot in old fashioned sizes - and very well made. He remarked safely on that as well, now she was looking away from him to continue the stuffing of her own dead trees into the paper bank. He took all of her in, the perfect roundness of her upper arms, the nape of a slender neck, the appled buttocks to which her Levis clung, the surprisingly long slender legs, and the perfect medium sized and apparently entirely self supporting breasts, boozzies that cleft perfectly where they met in the open neck of her skinny red wool sleeveless top.
        She looked back at him then, cutting short his sneak-peek. The uptilted almonds caught his, trapping them in a silent and now unsmiling glare.
       ‘Sorry about that,’ was the best McCann could do, dropping his eyes as Cleopatra Colbert stood with dark nail varnished hands on hips while continuing to stare at him with unblinking green gimlets. ‘I really am sorry,’ he continued. ‘It’s just a habit I have. Staring at beautiful things.’
        ‘Is that a fact?’ she said. ‘You do not say.’   
        ‘I do. I do,’ McCann assured her. ‘And I really am sorry if it upset you.’
        ‘Why should I be upset by such?’ the vision mused again, fiddling with the Michelmas in her mane and still eyeing him as she did so. Then she shrugged. ‘I am not upset.’
        ‘Then I am not upset either. If you’re not upset.’
        ‘I said I am not. I’m perfectly Oklahoma.’
        ‘You’re perfectly….?  You mean you come from Oklahoma?’
        ‘No. What I said was I was perfectly Oklahoma. Oklahoma?’
        ‘Oklahoma,’ McCann mused. ‘What – as in -’
        ‘As in Oklahoma.’
        ‘Oh I see. I see – as in – fine. Fine,’ McCann mumbled, a tad estranged by her quaint mode of parley-vous. ‘If that’s what you say – then that’s Oklahoma by me too. One of my favourite musicals as it happens.’
         ‘Musical what?’
         ‘Um. One of my favourite musical musicals. As in – Oh what a beautiful morning -’ he sang.
        ‘What a peculiar fellow you are,’ she replied carefully. ‘The skies are extremely overcast.’
        ‘You have never seen Oklahoma?’
        ‘So far all I have seen is the contents of this particular island.’
        ‘Yes. Well.’ McCann paused, to take air. ‘Well as they say it takes all sorts.’
        ‘All sorts of what? And please define what It stands for’
        ‘Nothing. Let it pass. The old brain’s in a bit of a spin. For instance I keep thinking it’s Thursday.’
        ‘If it was, I wouldn’t be around,’ the vision replied. ‘This is purely a Wednesday custom only.’
        ‘The custom  being of a Thursday?’ he asked in his best Olivier voice.
        ‘That’s my private concern.’
        ‘You have am interesting was of parley-vooing, if I may say. If you don’t mind me saying.’
        ‘I don’t mind you saying. Not a tall.’ The turned up smile was back, as was the light in her eyes as she surprisingly took his hand and shook it. ‘My thanks. I enjoy odd compliments. And I have a word of advice for you. Just remember that all that’s golden doesn’t always glister.’
        ‘I’m absolutely certain that is so. As I have found out previously to my cost.’ McCann raised one finger in acknowledgment and prepared to bank his last newspaper. ‘You from round here?’
        The smile turned back to a frown.
        ‘I’d hardly be doing this here if I wasn’t.’
        ‘True. True.’
        ‘Are all those all your bottles?’
        ‘No. And yes. They’re not mine personally – but we had a bit of a party at the weekend – I mean normally it’s two clinks and away. But we had this party.’
        ‘We being?’
        ‘We being me and my flat mate.’
        ‘Your partner?’
        ‘My flat mate.’
        ‘A girl friend.’
        ‘A male friend.’
        ‘You are a gay person?’
        ‘Hold on – hold on.’ McCann stopped dropping Clear into Green and held up a finger. ‘You are getting personal.’
        ‘I am ascertaining facts. What harm in that? If we are to relate.’
        McCann frowned.
        ‘If we are to relate?’
        ‘You remind me of an echo.’ She stuffed her last copy of some newspaper in the slot, wiped her hands on her jeans, and eyed him seriously. ‘Do you have a living?’
         ‘What I do, I do in vain,’ he replied.
          ‘Please answer properly. I’m curious.’
          ‘So am I. Why do you want to know about my living?’
          ‘Perhaps because I think I may have seen you somewhere. In fact I am almost certain I  have seen you somewhere.’
          'Dracula Dies? In your multiplex now?’
          ‘Dracula can’t die. He’s a vampire.’
‘That’s the whole point of the film.’‘You make films?’
‘I act in films. Correction. I have acted in films. I’m an actor.’
‘I knew I’d seen you!’ she sighed. ‘The Fresh Breath mini-film! One spray! Hey yay - pish
pish! And you’re fresh all day! Check it out.’
          ‘You recognise me from a commercial? Not only a commercial but a commercial I
made five years ago?’
          ‘Time is purely relative and I have an extremely retentive memory. Which I why I
knew I had seen you. This is good cheese. Very good cheese in fact – very good all round cheese.’
            McCann was about to come back on that one when he stopped, alerted by a most beautiful sound.
          ‘What is that?’ he wondered, in awe. ‘That is no wino. That is no derelict. What is that?’
          ‘Schubert,’ the vision replied, refixing the little flower in her hair although it was
perfectly well fixed. ‘Schubert’s Ave Maria. Why?’
           ‘You have a habit of hearing Schubert sung as well as that in municipal car parks?’
 ‘Possibly someone’s audio or some such mechanism.’
 ‘No that is someone actually singing – al fresco. And singing quite beautifully.’   
 ‘Very beautifully.’
 ‘That’s what quite beautifully means.’
 ‘I don’t see how. I understood quite was a qualifying adverb. As in quite good.’
 ‘Okay,’ McCann said over patiently. ‘Or rather Oklahoma -’
 ‘There’s no cause to be that.’
 ‘That being?’
 ‘Whatever you call that you’re you’re being.’
 ‘Okay – then that rendition of Schubert’s Ave is very good. Very, very good in fact.’
 ‘I agree.’
 ‘You don’t seem as surprised as I do,’ McCann remarked. ‘Hearing a version as superlative as that in a bottle bank of a Thursday.’
 ‘A Wednesday.’
 ‘There I go again.’ McCann mock slapped the side of his head.
 ‘Possibly because they’re things we’re not expecting to happen.’
 ‘But then why should you expect things to happen? At least when you expect them to. And then be surprised when they happen when you least expect them to.’
‘Something to do with the theory of order versus chaos, I suspect.’
‘The only theory I recognise about order and chaos is that the imposition of too much order inevitably leads to chaos.’
‘I have to say this is a first.’
She looked at him quizzically.
‘This is the first time I have discussed philosophy while getting rid of the empties.’
‘I wouldn’t bother too much with philosophy, if I were you. It clips the wings of angels.’
It was McCann’s turn to stare in silence, not quizzically, however, but more in stupefaction.
          ‘Nonetheless,’ she continued, ‘ even though I do not subscribe to your sort of mental agenda, I have to admit this meeting of ours could be beneficial.’
          ‘You could?’ McCann wondered, finding his voice. ‘Is that you’re way of saying you’re glad we’ve met or is that just a thesaurus in your pocket?’
           ‘I do not understand that reference – and please – please don’t even bother to try and illuminate me.’ She held up one small perfect hand to keep him quiet. ‘As an actor should I assume that at this moment you are not being a particularly successful one?’
           'That is a very personal question, Miss Chance Meeting by the Bottle Bank.’
           ‘Are you in employment?’
           ‘No. But I live in hope.’
           'Faint or good?’
           ‘Look, look what is this?’ McCann protested, beginning to become more than vaguely aggravated. ‘What has my state of employment or non employment got to do with you?’
           ‘It isn’t your state of employment that interests me. It is your state of mind. Are you content? Discontent? Apprehensive? Dismayed? Desperate? Or suicidal?’
           ‘Not any of those things. None of those things. Why should I be? I’m an actor. And being an actor means spending a lot of one’s days like this.’
            ‘In discontent, apprehension, dismay, and possible desperation.’
            ‘What is it to do with you?”
            What had started out as a perfect meet-cute was fast becoming a complete night-mare, a nightmare still wondrously accompanied by the distant but superb rendering of Schubert’s Ave, which helped only to make the event even more bizarre.
            ‘It has much to do with me,’ the vision replied. ‘And possibly more than a consid-erable amount to do with you – depending on how the loaf crumbles. And now if you will pardon me, I must bugger off and leave.’
            The angel smiled suddenly, taking a crash helmet out of a carrier bag that was
resting unseen on top of the bottle bank and beginning to strap her head in.
            ‘Hang on,’ McCann groaned. ‘Not so fast. You can’t start something like this and then just – just vanish.’
            ‘I was not under the impression I had started anything,’ she said, her chinstrap still unbuckled. ‘Neither do I intend to vanish. That would really give you something to think about.’
            ‘Couldn’t we just go for a drink or something?’ McCann asked helplessly. ‘Couldn’t we just get to know each other a little better?’
            ‘Why not?’
            The vision regarded him steadily, pursed her pretty kisser, wrinkled her nose then shook her head.
            ‘No,’ she said finally. ‘There’ll be plenty of time for that.’
            ‘For what?’ McCann wondered.
            ‘For that,’ she replied. ‘Provided things work out. In the meantime - Ethiopia.’
            ‘Now you really have got me. Ethiopia?’
            ‘I understood that was argot for goodbye.’
            ‘I think you mean Abyssinia.’
            ‘Neither makes much sense to me. However. Abyssinia then.’
            ‘Can I have your telephone number?’ McCann called after her as she turne4d away from him. ‘Won’t you tell me where you live?’
            ‘No need for either!’ she called back over her shoulder. ‘Don’t exasperate!’
            She was headed for a large black and chrome motorbike, a vehicle several sizes too big for her. McCann was about to give chase when he was nearly brought to the ground by the arrival of a large brown and white sheepdog.
            ‘Roof,’ it said, jumping up and placing its large paws squarely on McCann’s chest. ‘Roof.’
            ‘Nice dog!’ the Vision called back, as she straddled her saddle from the wrong side.
            ‘It isn’t mine!’ McCann returned.
            ‘I think you might be proved wrong there! Be careful with yourself!’
            ‘Wait!’ McCann yelled pointlessly, unheard now above the Triumph’s roar. ‘Hang about!’
            But she was gone. Whoosh – with a blip more throttle, a plume of exhaust
and with a quick blink of brake lights leaving the park she was nearly out of his sight.
            ‘Roof,’ said the dog.
            ‘Pooh,’ said McCann. ‘You whiff.’
            Caught unawares, he found himself half-falling backwards as the big dog leaned on him, his breath panting in his face.
            ‘And you need Breath-Fresh! Blazes Kate and ten times over!’
            Trying to rid himself of the hairy canine, McCann eased the two huge hairy feet off his chest and the dog dropped to the ground. With half an eye on the horizon, even though the Triumph was no more than a memory, McCann sighed and pulled his old pushbike up from its parking place on the side of the bottle bank. A nano-sec later and he and the bike were sent flying as the dog jumped him from behind.
           ‘What is it with you?’ he wondered from ground level, eyeing the beast that seemed to be smiling at him. ‘What do you want?’
            ‘Roof!’ said the dog.
            ‘Really? Well as far as I’m concerned, pooch, you can roof off.’
            With a wary eye on his assailant McCann mounted up and pedalled on.
            The dog followed.
            ‘Didn’t you hear what I told you? Roof off!’ McCann shouted at his tail.
            The dog took no notice.
            ‘You heard, dog!’
            The dog followed him all the way home.
            ‘Oh for Jaysus-sake, dog!’ the cyclist sighed, locking his conveyance in the rack outside the flats. ‘Just try pissing off, will you?’
            The dog took no notice, shaking himself thoroughly before wagging his long hairy tail, and hurrying on upstairs in front of the person selected to be his new owner.
McCann stands by the desk, being all but ignored by the florid faced over fed copper on duty.
PLOD             No. (heavy sigh) No dogs fitting this dog’s description have been
                        reported missing. Sir.
McCANN     (wondering) So what do you suggest? Suggest I do? Constable.
PLOD            (over-wearily) I suggest you try the local pet shop. (long pause) Sir. And
                       perhaps the post office, too. Even the local supermarkets. To see whether or                            not there’s any little cards posted what say whether or not a dirty filthy shaggy     
                       dog's gone missing. (hard look) Because I have got a lot of crimes to solve and    
                       even  more paper work to do, so why not run along and take your smelly mutt 
                       with you? Sir.
McCANN      It’s a vocation, is it? Being a policeman then?
PLOD            You being funny?
McCANN      No. I don’t think so. Just being observant. Constable.
PLOD             Run along, sunshine, there’s a good Paddy. Before I fit your backside up with 
                       a couple of kilos of illegal substances.
McCANN      Thank you for your help. Cuntstable.
PLOD             No problem. Mick.
             McCann and Max exit, and thence to Tescos, Safeways, the sub-Post Office that
sells mostly very ugly china dogs and even uglier dollies and very few stamps nowadays, thence on to a confectioners run by a chain smoking Northern Irish mutterer known for never giving the right change to two customers running and finally to a Pet Supplies Shop specialising in cellulose dog foods and unintentionally miniature goldfish.  
           Nowhere was there a notice posted advertising the loss of a canine fitting or
even roughly approximate to the cur on the end of McCann’s string lead. In desperation the dog’s adoptive owner even returned to the Bottle and Paper Bank in the palest of faint hopes of re-orientating the stray pooch.
         ‘Home,’ he ordered. ‘Good boy. Piss on off out of here.’
          The dog of course refused to comply, preferring rather to perch his matted back-side on McCann’s right shoe while contemplating the sky above them.
         ‘You must have a home. A nice dog like you.’
         ‘E’s got a home all right,’ a bag-woman checking the bins behind him offered.  ‘Or ‘e will have. In a nice little urn’s where he’ll be when they find him.’
‘Make if fifty p and you can have the whole fucking can,’ Bag-Woman replies.
McCann coughs up.
          ‘Dog’s a stray.  Was the Duke of Wellington’s.’
          ‘Must be quite an age then. Says a lot for modern dog food.’
          ‘Duke was a dosser, matey. Dog here was his. Give us fifty p.’
          ‘I’ve just done that, Beatrice!’
          'Nothin’ to stop you doing it again.’
         ‘Very true – you have a point,’ McCann agreed, coughing up once more. ‘At least nothing logical to stop me.’
         ‘Duke’s left the ‘ouse, matey. Curled ‘is toes up couple of days ago. Had enough and who could blame ‘im. Give us a quid.’
          ‘I’ve just given you a quid.’
         ‘You give me fifty p, you tosser.’ 
          'Two fifties make a quid. Remember?’
         ‘Long time since I was at school, wanko. Come on - my time’s money. I got expensive tastes.’
         'You said something ominous about an urn,’ McCann remarked, ferreting in his pockets and finding them bare.
         ‘Did I? Did I. If you says so.’‘
          'If he’s a stray, he’ll go to the Dogs home. Surely?’
          ‘The name’s Annie. Do I look like a Shirley?’
          ‘That’s a brand new spin on a favourite golden oldie.’
          ‘What you so interested in the dog for anyway?’
          ‘It’s more of a case of him being interested in me. He appears to be stuck on me.’
          ‘Lucky the old Duke’s dead. He’d have had your gutters for garters.’
          ‘Better that way. So the dog is now definitely a stray, Annie – right?’
          ‘Give us a quid.’
          ‘I’ve given you all the money I have, my lovely one.’
         ‘That case you should move in with us. Under the arches.’
         ‘Dogs of this calibre – they don’t put them down. They send them to the Dogs’ Home. Particularly after all those tele programmes.’
          ‘I don’t watch television, matey. Nothin’ on nowadays.’
         ‘I don’t actually relish the notion of him being put down.’
          ‘Who you talking about now?’
          ‘This auld dog here.’
          ‘Belonged to the late Duke of Alberquerque, matey. Now piss off on out of here. Unless you can spare me a fiver.’
          ‘I told you. You’ve done my trousers! Look!’
          He turned his pockets inside out.‘Tosspot.’
          The old bagger eyed him, and dropped one of her overpacked liners.McCann stooped to pick it up for her.As he did, she snatched the strong lead holding the dog.
          ‘He’s your’s for twenty quid!’ she quacked. ‘Twenty quid or I give him to the dog catcher!’     
          ‘You dirty old bag-woman!’ McCann retorted. ‘Give him back here!’
          He made a snatch for Stinky but the old bagger danced out of reach. As she did, McCann became aware of several other baggies appearing, not a lot of them old, and very few of them crones.
        ‘Twenty quid, Paddy! Or he’s for the urn!’
         'I told you, Dolores! You have fair cleaned me out!’
         ‘Then go to the hole in the wall! Go to the hole in the wall, wanko!’
         McCann hesitated. He had the plastic, and he just about had the funds, but the blackmail was going to cost him the fun filled weekend he had planned with a six pack and a couple of cut price videos.    
         ‘Going up!’ the old baggie cackled. ‘Twenty five pounds for the pooch, matey – or he’s history!’
          McCann didn’t want a dog. He didn’t need a dog. He couldn’t afford a dog.
         ‘Roof,’ said lump of dirty fur. ‘Roof roof!
         'Shite,’ McCann muttered, already on his way to the hole in the wall. ‘What the bloody hell am I doing anyway.’
         ‘Make it thirty!’ a male voice yelled. ‘Or I’ll see to the mongrel personally!’
         From the cash machine McCann drew thirty of his remaining forty-two pounds and handed it over to the Blackmail Gang. In return Annie, leader of the Three Witches, handed him back the dog lead + dog.
        ‘Have fun,’ she crowed. ‘P’rhaps ‘e’ll bring you luck – like a new baby.’
          Exit Bagwoman, dragging one large black polythene bag which clinks of glass and pushing a previously owned supermarket trolley full of half read magazines and newspapers, followed by a devoted band of Alkies, sauced out of their craniums with their daily cocktail of Special Brew and Green Chartreuse. McCann regards his new acquisition, who promptly jumps up, paws on his owner’s chest to lick his owner’s gob.
         ‘Roof,’ he says.‘Same to you, Stinky,’ McCann returns, hastily wiping his temporarily unemployed kisser.  ‘And many of them.’ 
         But what was on his mind as he trailed homewards was not the future of his canine acquisition but his meeting with the Angel of the Recycling Centre, she of the unique looks and the equally unique way of communicating. Weird perhaps, but also wonderful, and as far as women went, McCann particularly went for the weird and the wonderful. He thought about her all the way home, slowly pushing his push bike with still string-attached Stinky happily padding on behind. The consequence of so much thought was that by the time he reached the depressing portals of the block of flats wherein he dwelt for the second time that day he realised what had happened to him, and why he was gaga and punch-drunk. It was quite simply because he was
In Love Again
He was even more smitten than he had been only a few weeks ago by the flaxen haired victim of his phony fangs let alone the real love of his life spotted one year ago, when in the local park a young woman with a waist-long plait of lustrous black hair and wearing the minimum legal requirement of spandex had sped past him on a multi-coloured racing bicycle as he had mooched through the tundra. La Bicylettiste had long and slender sun-browned arms and legs, the figure or a huntress and feet in ankle high bright white pom-pom socks which were strapped to the pedals of the machine by shining metal toe-caps, giving the impression that the bicycle was making her do the work rather than vice-versa. As she had stood up from her narrow saddle to speed her two wheeler even faster up an incline her super shiny London derrière had gone up and down and from side to side, forcing him nearly but not quite to shout after her Come back here you darling thing! I think I love you! In fact I know I do! But he had remained dumb and she had sped swiftly on, leaving him to watch transfixed as in a breathtaking manoeuvre she had overtaken a dawdling yellow Toyota before darting back round in front of it to swing away around the corner and out of sight of his now pounding heart.
Why was it always women mounted on two wheels?
            ‘Time for a steady girl friend, Max,’ he informed his recently purchased four-legger as they climbed the echoing concrete stairs to his apartment. ‘I need to get laid. Time I got a job as well, I suppose. Then I could get regularly laid and paid. Now there’s the right sort of notion.’
            He opened the door to an empty set of rooms that in spite of the burning of ten thousand joss sticks and the contents of hundreds of tins of environmentally friendly aerial spray deodorants still smelt faintly and depressingly of fish paste. However, with the advent of Stinky and his freshly attained pong, McCann for once found himself longing for the old eau de mer.
So in the interest of health and safety and the future of the planet as contained within his flat, new dog owner bathed new dog. It took three changes of bath water and an hour with a fractious and possibly illegally noisy hair drier before what was a dark brown dog was returned to his rightful shade of oatmeal.
         ‘Yes but now what, Stinky?’ McCann wondered as the dog immediately tried to roll away the horrors of bath time. ‘I really don’t have the room for you in my life. Let alone the wherewithal to feed your habits.’
           ‘Roof!’ Stinky barked joyously, now up on all four paws shaking his fine long coat. ‘Roof!’
He bestowed a large wet tongue-kiss on McCann’s cheek before deciding to tear madly around the room as if newly released from prison. Roof roof!’
            ‘I really don’t have the room for you, boy, - nor indeed can I afford you – particularly after the hold up in the car park. So we are going to have to do something. Like find you a loving new owner.’
             As if aware of the danger, the dog stopped feigning lunacy and sat looking at his new owner, panting lightly. Then he held his head back and howled, albeit oddly tunefully. For a moment in fact McCann thought he recognised a hidden melody then thought better of it. Anyway, by then the dog had finished howling, and had turned his attention back to his new owner as if trying to gauge the effect. The effect was a comforting smile, a sigh and a bonce-pat.
         ‘Blah blah blah,’ McCann said. ‘In dog speak. Anything I say to you just sounds like blah blah-blah blah, I’ll bet.’
         The dog’s response startled him – at first, until he had it rationalised - because at first he thought the dog had shaken his head in return. But then, once logic had kicked in – McCann grinned and awarded Stinky another bonce-pat.
         ‘Except I don’t know what I’m standing here grinning for, Stinky,’ McCann
remarked. ‘It seems I’m stuck with you and stuck on a lovely creature whom I imagine I may never clap me peepers on again.’
            ‘Roof,’ Stinky barked, marked pianissimo.
            ‘Yes,’ his Owner replied. ‘I think you may be absolutely right there, dog. And roof to toi aussi.’
            Max stared at him and warbled him four notes.
            McCann stared back at him.
            ‘Correct me if I’m wrong,’ he said with a smile. ‘But didn’t that sound just a tad like Nessum Dorma?
            ‘Roof!’ the dog barked delightedly in return.
Website Builder provided by  Vistaprint