Then, as I was recovering, a link posted to Susan's Ancestry website page in April lead me to finding out the name of my father after 73 years and meeting in October a half-brother I didn't know I had, who is nine years older than myself.
So I think it not unreasonable on my part to claim that 2017 was an exceptional year. What I did do was to continue scribbling in notebooks, so I have a few stories to type up over coming months. It's just a question of where to begin, so I've decided to start with the latest, 'Tommy gets lucky', a revenge story of sorts, as well as an exercise in description and dialogue, written for a friend. I hope you enjoy...
TOMMY GETS LUCKY
How my Tommy looks. A picture I found on the web without any accreditation (it just says 'download'). If anyone knows the copyright holder or the website it is from please tell me and I will try to get their permission to use this image.
Tommy was bait. He could pull far better than Clancy, who the former called ‘Top Dog’ in his head but never said.
Tommy got the introductions, always his name first. They would stand and talk a few moments, maybe walk together. Clancy would make a note if he liked what he saw and heard. Dog owners have routines and Clancy’s golden rule was never to interrupt or disagree. Woman with dogs like adoration and Tommy gave this to perfection.
Clancy chose to live near the town centre so he could play all the parks and nature reserves around the town, including the riverside but not the canal. Another rule was that they had to be on bus routes. Tommy loved buses and if Eileen the clippie on the 16 hadn’t moved he may have stopped a long time ago. Then there were holidays, always self-catering. Whitby was popular with single women of a certain age — ‘cougars’ he heard them described and the term stuck in his head.
He had a nice two up and down house on Old Station Street behind the town’s new railway station. Well it was new 50 years ago and it had just had a makeover. Now it was described as ‘A world-class interchange’ despite the fact that the town’s bus station was a five minute walk away. The house backed onto the town’s canal, the towpath of which was on the opposite bank. Clancy had his own mooring where he kept a small boat complete with a daybed and a galley so that he and Tommy could entertain.
Clancy’s house was worth four times what he paid for it ten years before. At the time he had just inherited half a house from his grandfather and had a decent job copying images so they could be placed onto tin boxes without infringing copyrights. When the factory closed he went solo and he was doing OK. What helped with the house was the town’s old technical college becoming a poly, then quickly morphing into a new university. This last change attracted academics and related professionals, plus better-off students, all needing homes or rooms and almost overnight Old Station Street became prime real estate. It really was a case of location location location.
Tommy couldn’t leave the house without attracting attention and he loved that. So did Clancy, female students bending down to stroke Tommy became his favourite kind of eye candy and they were good competition for the cougars. He was beginning to like the taste of kittens. Tommy though preferred the oldies and it showed. Those Top Dog liked often came with a pooch, so Tommy got some action too and he enjoyed that. The truth be known, the town had a good few Tommy lookalikes. If Top Dog could do it, so could he.
Clancy knew the dangers, which is why he conducted his affairs one at a time and let a location where he scored lay fallow as long as he could. Better an affair die of boredom than in a big fight. The few times that happened Tommy was in there somewhere. More than once he was left holding a box of small puppies.
“My little sweetie how could he? She’s a pedigree and that dog of yours is no better than the mongrel he is!”
“I’ll have you know Tommy’s a cross-border collie.”
At some point a door usually slammed and Tommy was clever enough to know what his kennel was for. Top Dog would give his secret tickle and say “You’re a sly one you clever old dog. How come I never catch you?”
The thing about cougars was they just wanted a nice time whereas kittens often came with expectations. They saw Clancy as a guy 10-12 years older with a good job and a stylish home in the centre of town. “A weekend crashpad” was how Zara described it. They met on the campus when she stopped to make a fuss of Tommy and since he had no cougar in tow at the time Clancy took full advantage of the opportunity. Zara was easy meat — more pork rib than shank, his favourite cut — but she turned out to be a tasty morsel and, worryingly, had his measure. It all came to a head a month before graduation when Zara asked “Can my mam stay with you for my graduation? She manages, but you know how hotel prices go up for this kind of thing. You are coming aren’t you? You could come together”. How could he say no? He couldn’t.
Anthea arrived on the 4:33 from York and Clancy agreed to meet the train. Platform 1. Clancy couldn’t miss her, just like Zara only bulkier and he liked what he saw, but she was ahead of him, waving, then shouted “Tommy”, who broke Clancy’s hold of his lead and shot across ten metres of platform as fast as his four legs could carry him. “My my, you’re every bit as handsome as your photo” then looking up saw Clancy close-up for the very first time and she liked what she saw. “You must be Clancy” but they couldn’t shake hands because Tommy was earning his keep, jumping against Anthea, lifting her skirt as he did so, barking as if to say “Look what I’ve found”, Clancy and a few others nearby turning their heads towards Tommy registered a nice pair of thighs wearing proper black stockings and suspenders. Anthea came action ready and Clancy was already finding his thoughts hard to control. Tommy was panting and his tongue was dripping for more of Anthea’s hand as she stroked back and forth under his chin. Tommy was as close to dog heaven as he could get in the absence of an amenable pooch, all helped by her soothing voice saying “Good boy good boy” over and over again.
Seeing Clancy close-up Tommy turned his attention to Top Dog, still barking as he did, his tail now battering Anthea’s knees. “You must be Clancy. I’m Anthea. Thanks for putting me up. I really do appreciate it”. “That’s okay” Clancy lied, but he was already beginning to change his mind. She would be nice to have around the house for a few days. “I’m sorry about that. Tommy get’s very excited when anyone makes a fuss of him”. “So do I” came back Anthea with a grin spreading across her face as she spoke the words.
“I keep meaning to take Tommy to training classes” Clancy said in a half-hearted way. “Oh I wouldn’t do that. With Tommy you’d lose what we’ve just enjoyed. I like him just as he is”. “Maybe you’ve got something there” Clancy replied as he picked up her bag and walked to a gate from the platform which went straight onto a road. “This is Old Station Street and I live in that terrace on the left, at the end there, two minutes walk”. Tommy was quiet, walking between them, his lead hanging loose, listening and understanding what words he could. In his company there was no such thing as a private conversation.
“Can’t wait to see it, Zara says it’s lovely”.
“Don’t know about that. Plain is how I’d describe it” adding after a pause “It reflects my Baptist roots. I hate homes heavy in colour as much as I hate white text on coloured backgrounds.”
Anthea picked up on the use of the word ‘home’ and liked what she heard. “Zara says you’re a graphic designer”.
“Not really. I used to copy images onto tin boxes, now I do book covers mostly, working with publishers and marketing people. I only occasionally get to meet an author, then they are usually self-publishing”. She picked up on the fact that he pre-empted her questions and wondered if it was something he was going to make a habit of whilst they were together?
All Anthea got to say by way of a reply was “Sounds interesting” as Tommy pulled on his lead and Clancy let ago as they stopped. “Home” was all he said as he looked at her and put a key in the door.
“How did you guess?” he said with a smile every bit as broad as her grin.
As the door opened Clancy invited Anthea to go first. He was warming to Zara’s mum.
“You like my little lobby?”
“I can’t wait to see what’s on the other side”.
The door he opened was half-glazed, the room beyond hidden from view by a moon-white fabric blind on the other side. Anthea guessed that the blind only obstructed the view when he was out or had an unexpected caller. “Wow” was her reaction, “When can I move in?” laughing a deep throaty laugh which hinted she had once been a smoker, but Clancy could pick up no trace of nicotine or tabacco on Anthea’s clothes or her breath. Had he done she would have been a complete no no. The thought of ash in his home made him feel sick.
The ground floor beyond the door was covered in cord matting. Clancy saw Anthea looking. "It's made from horse hair. I couldn't afford it now". Against the wall was a straight staircase beneath which was a door leading where? "A cellar" he said. The rest was one large space with a glass roofed extension to the back which flooded the ground floor with light and overlooked a small back garden. Beyond Anthea could see the canal and, she suspected, the boat Zara had mentioned. There was a galley kitchen to the right but a surprising absence of lingering smells — something Anthea hated about open-plan living. Clancy read her mind yet again. “What makes the space work is air-conditioning. Cost as much as everything else put together, but worth every penny”.
‘Do you have any more surprises?” she asked, laughing again. Clancy obliged by lowering an electrically controlled fabric screen, moon-white again, from above the sliding extension doors. He waited for a further exclamation and it came on cue.
At the time £12,000 seemed like a lot of money but it was an investment which repaid itself time and time again in the bedroom above. It played out a hundred ways, all enjoyable. The cougars and kittens he enticed into his lair invited themselves into his bedroom with no help from him. The toilet was part of his ‘must try’ glass panelled bathroom, complete with a small hot-tub and a walk-in shower big enough for two, and was actually part of his bedroom, but which could be screened off by yet another electric moon-white blind.
Clancy let the ladies discover these things for themselves and excused the openness of his bathroom saying “There’s just me and when I have guests I use the screen.”
The front third of the first floor was petitioned off to provide Clancy with a workspace and from the front windows he could watch the trains as they arrived and left the station. Only pedestrians using the footpath which marked the line of an old level crossing and a short-cut to the canal walked by, apart from his neighbours of course in the half-dozen houses beyond his. It really was quite idyllic if you liked living in a once industrial town. A small copse of silver birch and beech marked the line of a long gone railway line. There was a murphy bed in the workspace for overnight guests, but Anthea would not be sleeping on that Clancy was sure.
Breaking one of his very own rules Clancy heard himself say “Would you like to see upstairs?” He let Anthea lead the way and lingered behind so he could enjoy what he saw. The only potential fly in the ointment was Zara if she decided to stay over, then it hit him! He was a baton being passed daughter to mother. He heard Anthea say “I’ve a pooch at home called Maisie. She and Tommy’ll make a great pair. Tommy’s bark said it all — Clancy was cougar meat! Not long after it was his turn to say “Wow” and Tommy’s barking at the end of the bed seemed to be saying “I’m one lucky dog.”
20 January 2018
This is a revenge story of sorts, as well as an exercise in description and dialogue written for a friend.