TOMMY AND HIS MISTRESS
A few years ago, when I was living in the small market town of Brampton in North Cumbria, UK, I had an unusual and theoretically impossible encounter. I was just about to go into the smaller of the two Spar supermarkets on a warm summer evening, when someone approached me to ask a favour. It was a smiling and heavily made up woman in her late sixties who I’d never seen before. She had a number of furrowed lines on her face and was visibly dishevelled, her jeans and blouse in grubby disarray, and she also exuded an odour of beer and wine that effortlessly overpowered the evening air. She also had a little dog on a lead and the dog was a tired but amiable old Lakeland Terrier, with a hint of lengthily acquired dopiness that possibly correlated with its mistress’s recreational habits. The woman looked at me and said could I please stand and hold the dog for her, while she went inside the shop. Somehow, I felt a premonitory unease at the request, and asked her why she just couldn’t tie him up at the convenient post nearby, like every other dog owner.
“Tommy doesn’t like being tied up,” she said. And then she hiccupped.
I stared at Tommy and decided I couldn’t imagine him disliking anything much, other than being forced to walk up a steep hill in the adjacent North Pennines.
“OK,” I said.
The woman disappeared for what turned out to be an endless 15 minutes. I stood there staring at the traffic going past, and feeling rather stupid. I even had the mad idea that possibly the woman wanted rid of Tommy, and this was an elaborate albeit drunken ruse for his abandonment. I said to myself that I would stand another 5 minutes of being a sentinel with his canine adjutant, and then I would shout inside the Spar to tell her to hurry up. Just as I was rehearsing all of that in my head, I suddenly felt something very warm on my left leg, and then within a second the warm turned to cold and then wet…
Tommy had treated me as a lamppost, even though one of unusual design, and had decided to piss on me…
Dog piss on your lower leg when you’ve been doing someone a handy little favour, fills you with a painful sense of melancholy and even of self-pity. I didn’t blame daft little Tommy of course, I even felt sorry for the feckless little blighter… but I did blame his stupid bloody mistress. When, after a marathon wait, she emerged, and I was starting to smell like a social work case, like the swaying lady herself in fact, I snorted:
“Your dog’s pissed on me! Look here! Look! It cocked its bloody leg, as if I was a lamppost.”
She tried not very hard to restrain her quaking mirth, and without a trace of guilt, embarrassment, dismay, much less any mordant self-reflection. Then what she said took my breath away…
“Are you sure it was my Tommy?”
For a time I was speechless, for she was seriously frowning as if I must be the fanciful kind.
I snapped at her, “Who else could it be? Ordinary Brampton folk aren’t in the habit of randomly pissing on locals, nor even on passing strangers. Look. The wetness stops exactly at Tommy’s height…”
She shook her addled head with haughty finality.
“That’s not the way my Tommy would behave!”
I reeled at her righteous use of the subjunctive. Meanwhile she assumed a majestic disdain, surveying me as if I was the inebriate, and she a woman of sobriety and immaculate habits, not to speak of flawless control of her autonomic nervous system.
“Try looking closer to home,” she advised, before revolving on her heel and departing with Tommy.
The next post will be on or before Friday November 15th