Monday, April 15, 2013

Tales from Tacklake - 2. John's dog.

It's been a quiet week in Tacklake. The single set of traffic lights continued to change without requiring maintenance or repair. The River Tack maintained its course to the sea, barely stopping to notice that it had widened imperceptibly and that locals had called that place a lake. Nominative determinism sees to it that this small town (big village?) has a name that works.

Here John, local pub owner, is walking his dog, mid-morning.

The three historic Tacklake families, the ones who have lived here since it was no more than a village unfamiliar with the County Development Plan, do not have appropriate names.

There are the Butchers. Whilst there is still a lean to building behind their shop which was once the end of a short journey for animals about to become meat, they were put out of business by the two supermarkets some years ago. Their sideline of meat pastry products remained popular however and so Butchers are now bakers. Fred Butcher walks to work well before dawn.

Then there are the Trowts. They ought, all things being equal, to run the small trout farm on the opposite side of town to the lake. They don't. Trowt is a family name and the family is descended from the ninth Earl of Pembroke, an adulterous man who left Wales when the ninth Lady Pembroke discovered him in a rarely used loft room with an often-abused domestic assistant. The Trowts are, as they say, big in the city, although as the city is not London they are not that big. But they still live in large enough houses to employ domestics, albeit ones who no longer live on their nerves.

Finally the Smiths. All Smiths are probably descended from smiths. The days when the rural idyll of England required horses to be shod regularly are long gone. There are more Smiths in Tacklake than the law of averages would have allocated but none of them have anything to do with horses. Even Harvey, oldest son of George and Ruth Smith and named after their favourite show-jumper, remains gloriously undetermined by his moniker. He did once steal a tractor and drive it round the lake. It was as close to rural as he ever got. Sobering up the next day he drove it back to the farm where he had found it and apologised. Arthur Field (yes, at least one name fits), who lost a teenage son in the army, was forgiving. He wondered if this is the sort of thing his Billy would have done if it hadn't been for an - he can't bring himself to call it an improvised explosive device. A bomb left his Billy in bits.

The Butchers are bakers, the Trowts are bankers and the Smiths are what-have-you-got?

The lake is a popular place with dog walkers, most of whom diligently clear up after their pets and carry small black bags of shit on their walks. Today John carries two, his collie too excited to do all his business in one go.

By mid morning, especially at weekends, the campaign led by one particularly militant mobility scooter user leaves walkers in danger of being run down by the differently able. The same percentage of the can't-walk is dangerous at buggy driving as we find with the can-walk and cars.

There is a yelp as a border collie is struck by a sticking-out crutch. Its back is cut. There is blood everywhere. The mobility scooter doesn't stop. It is a hit and run. John could chase it. It is not going as fast as a runner could. But his dog is in pain and he weighs up how much he really wants to be shouting at a disabled woman about being more careful in future. It wouldn't end well. It could cost him business and times are hard enough. He has a towel in the car and wipes the dog down. Petsafe Insurance is about to save him some cash.

It's been a quiet day in Tacklake. No one died; no one was born. On his late evening walk a black and white border collie wears the lampshade of shame. Other dogs pass by and John can feel the owners' disdain at his bloody, stitched up pet. 'Why couldn't he care for it?'

He wants a banner to proclaim. 'Run over by crazy cripple.'

But around Tacklake people will be talking. He knows it. 'That John...' he imagines them saying, '...he should look after his dog more carefully.' Then they discuss how unwise it is to keep a lively dog cooped up in a pub yard all day.

But the dog is happy. He has a routine and the cut will heal. He's in no hurry. He won't have to wait for the traffic lights to change when Tacklake's rush fifteen minutes begins tomorrow.

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