Maxine, Cass and Matt were in the Royal Artichoke. Maxine was drinking her usual chardonnay, Cass was on vodka and tonic because she needed to chill out after a particularly annoying debate with her tutor, but normally she stuck to halves of lager, and Matt loved the feel, and taste obviously, of a pint pot filled with best bitter.
“He is sooo annoying when he gets on his high horse,” said Cass, still irritated. “He thinks he’s always right and after a while he just stops listening to what anyone else is saying. But the final straw was when he said in front of the whole lecture hall that he already had achieved his degree with honours and I should treat his argument and intellect with more respect. Some of the lads howled at that. It was very embarrassing.”
“What was the argument about?” asked Maxine.
“Officially it was a debate, but whatever. It was about the effects of junk mail on the environment. I said that it was appalling for big companies to chop down trees to make paper and then use the paper to print crappy leaflets and catalogues which most people threw in the bin. I couldn’t see how that made any sense at all. He said that the publishing of so-called junk mail, which he preferred to call opportunity mail, worked to an extent and helped the economy. People were employed in large numbers to design and write this stuff and businesses wouldn’t spend millions of pounds from their budgets if they did not anticipate getting a return on sales. He said that more trees could be planted to replace the ones chopped down, the discarded paper can be recycled and the planet, which has been around for thousands of years, much longer than human beings, could cope with the production of a few leaflets. I told him he was wrong and that he was missing the point. In the end he as good as told me to sit down, shut up and respect his superior point of view.”
“Calm down, Cass,” interrupted Matt, “that’s the way some of these people are. Get over it.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” conceded Cass. “You’re a bit quiet, Max.”
Maxine did look down in the dumps. She was normally full of beans and stories about her part-time job as a vet’s assistant. Her eyes were watery.
“Somebody brought a dog in today. They said they found him up an alley in town. His front leg was fractured slightly and it looked so scared. The man who brought him in said he couldn’t walk past the dog. He just has to bring him in for treatment. I’m glad he did. You know, somebody out there has done cruel things to that poor dog and they should be ashamed of themselves. If I knew who it was I’d break their leg to show them how painful it is. Anyway, the dog will recover. In fact, the vet asked me if I would look after him for a while, until he’s back on his feet. Do you have any objections to a pet in the flat for a couple of weeks?”
“I’m not a big dog lover. What kind is it?” Cass was screwing up her face with indecision.
“It’s a wire fox terrier, short ginger hair. He’s got a lovely brown face, just adorable, and a black patch on his white back. But the eyes, those sad eyes will melt your heart.” Maxine was gazing into thin air.
“I suppose if it’s only for a couple of weeks,” said Matt, we could cope with it, eh Cass?”
“Oh, all right, but I don’t want it in my bedroom and if it pees on the sofa or does worse on the carpet, it’s out.” Maxine grabbed Cass and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She hugged Matt. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
“I’ve just thought of something,” said Matt after draining his beer glass, “there might be Maple Court rules about pets. Do you think we’d better check before we do anything?”
“It’ll be fine. It’s only for a few weeks. We’ll smuggle him in and no one will ever know,” said Maxine in an unconvincing way. Cass looked at her and raised her eyes to the ceiling. Max just smiled and said: “It’ll be a laugh. Who’s for another drink?”
“I’ll help you,” said Cass to Matt. They both left Maxine at the table. She checked her mobile for texts.
“She is doing my head in, Matt,” said Cass at the bar. Matt laughed.
“She’s had a bad day,” said Matt, “give her a break.”
“And this dog thing, I’m not happy about it at all. She said a couple of weeks at first and then changed it to a few weeks. What if she falls so much in love with it that she wants to keep it? Dogs smell and they think they can go to the toilet wherever they like. They get fleas and they need to be washed.”
“What, the fleas?” sniggered Matt.
“You know what I mean,” spat Cass through clenched teeth. “Are we going to be sharing a bath with a dog, for God’s sake? Who’s going to take it for walks and feed it and sort it out if it starts barking in the middle of the night or it bites someone? There are so many things that can go wrong. And what if the neighbours cotton on, what if they complain? We all get on well enough at the moment in the flats and I’d hate to see it spoiled.”
Matt handed half a lager to Cass. He picked up Maxine’s vodka and his beer. “Just for two weeks, Cass, I’ll back you on it and the first sign of trouble amongst the three of us or with any of the neighbours and the dog is gone.”
Maxine gave them both a big smile as they sat down. “I really, really love you guys. Cheers”
Cass and Matt looked at each other in despair.