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Sunday, 3 July 2011

CHAPTER 19


“A dog is a man’s best friend.  How sad is that?”  Cass was sitting in her bedroom in the flat staring at her note pad.  She had written the same line thirty times, starting off quite neatly and ending in a lazy, irritated scrawl.  She was sick of the dog business and of the dog’s business.  Billy Bob was gradually changing the relationship of the three residents.  There was more tension in the air than before and, in those moments when a bit of uninterrupted peace and quiet was craved, the dog would bark or whimper or scurry around ruining concentration and those potentially delicious minutes of calm would be wrecked forever.  Cass knew it was not the dog’s fault.  The dog was bored, cooped up in a small apartment all day.  Maxine had decided that, much as she knew it was necessary, to take the dog out for walks would be too risky.  So she had this laughable routine of putting a lead on and strolling around the kitchen and lounge to simulate some kind of exercise regime.  Then there were the toilet consequences of having a pet around.  Billy Bob was not as house trained as he could have been and occasionally he would leave, what Cass’s mother had dubbed, “little messages” all over the place.  It was disgusting on any level of social argument and a health hazard at worst, despite the presence of disinfectant smells.  As she screwed up the piece of paper from her note pad into a raggedy ball, she decided to confront Maxine about getting rid of the dog.
In the lounge, Matt was lying on the sofa watching the sports results.  Maxine was in the kitchen preparing some food for Billy Bob.  Cass walked in, looked at the opened tin of pet food on the kitchen table, then at the dog slavering and anxious to start eating, and then to Maxine who seemed as lively and jolly as ever.
“Max,” said Cass.  Maxine turned round.
“Hi Cass, everything okay?”
“No, actually, not everything is okay.  I want the dog out of here.”  She steamrollered straight in with her agenda.  Maxine looked at Cass and then to the dog.
“He’ll be out of the kitchen in a few minutes.  It only takes a few gulps and the food disappears.  Billy Bob’s a greedy little so and so, aren’t you Billy Bobkins?”
“No, no, Max.  I mean I want the dog out of the flat for good.  I’ve tried to be nice about t.  I think I’ve honoured the agreement for a short stay but the flat is too small, the dog is a bit of a loose cannon the way it runs about and jumps around and it can be pretty disgusting at times.”  Maxine walked to the sink to get a drink of water.
“How can you bee so selfish, Cass?  You know what this poor dog has been through.”  Maxine was close to tears.  Billy Bob was becoming more and more agitated at the lack of food.
“Max, I’m not trying to upset you for the hell of it, but this was only supposed to be a temporary arrangement, a short-term thing.  But it seems that you have some kind of plan to make it much more permanent.  I mean, Matt feels the same way as me.  We just want things to get back to they way they were before the dog.”  Cass sipped her water.  Maxine placed the food bowl on the floor and Billy Bob launched himself at it and began to slurp away.
“I think you’ll find that Matt and I have already discussed this and he is on my side, that the dog can stay as long as is necessary.”  Cass noticed that Maxine was putting on a tone of superiority, as if the decision for the dog to stay was a given.
“The last time I spoke to Matt, he said that the dog had to go.  We agreed in the pub, all three of us, that we would let you look after him for a few days.  I’m not aware that Matt has changed his mind.”  Cass’s stare was glued to Maxine’s reddening face.
“Matt,” shouted Maxine, “can you come here a minute?”
“What is it?  I’m watching the sport.”
“Just come here,” bawled Maxine in a burst of anger that shocked Cass and provoked the dog to lift his head from the bowl to check out what was going on.  Matt rushed into the kitchen, looking fearful and subservient.  Cass looked perplexed, trying to understand why Matt looked the way he looked and why Maxine seemed to have some power over him.
Matt, tell Cass what you think of Billy Bob,” said a calmer Maxine.  Matt looked shifty, first glancing at Cass, then at Maxine, then at Billy Bob and finally picked a spot to focus on out of the window.
“I think he should stay.’ His voice was almost inaudible.
“Louder, please,” said a more forceful Maxine.
“I think Billy Bob should say in the flat.”  Matt looked at Cass again. She was staring wide-eyed directly at him.
“There,” said Maxine, “case closed.”  Cass slammed her water glass onto the draining board.
“What’s all this?  What is going on here?  Have you two been plotting something behind my back?”
“Cass, we are just two sensitive animal lovers and we know what we have to do to ease the stress of this poor animal.”  Maxine looked smug.  Matt looked sick.
“Oh, piss off Maxine,” shouted an angry Cass, “enough of the supercilious tone, madam.  I don’t know what’s going on here but I promise you I will do everything I can think of to get that dog out of this flat even if that mean’s opening the window and chucking it out on the street.”  Cass stormed out of the kitchen with Maxine hot on her trail.
“If you lay a finger on him, it’ll be the last thing you do.”  Cass turned round and stuck her face as close to Maxine’s as it was humanly possible to do with touching and bawled at her.
“Don’t push your luck.”  Maxine could feel Cass’s fiery breath and, instinctively, she grabbed her hair and the two began to fight like wildcats.  Billy Bob ran into the lounge and started barking.  Matt stared in disbelief at his two friends brawling on the floor, screaming and slapping and pulling.  After a few minutes, he pulled the two girls apart.  Cass had a trace of blood under her nose and Maxine had a long scratch on her arm.  They stood glaring at each other, teeth clenched and fired up with Matt in the middle to keep them apart.
“Let’s all calm down,” said Matt.  “Let’s take a little time to relax and get ourselves ready for the party.”  Maxine and Cass looked at Matt and then went to their bedrooms, huffing, puffing and mumbling as they went.  Billy Bob went back to the kitchen.  Matt returned to the sofa and tried to unravel the wooly thoughts in his head about what just happened and what might happen in the future.

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