Rather shakily I let go of Sid, who sat down and had a thoughtful scratch. I rinsed and filled my kettle and put it on the now calmly-burning flame. I groped in the pocket of my leather jacket—which I’d taken off a couple of book boxes ago but was considering putting back on—found my house keys—my house keys!—and opened the back door. The air had that magical post-storm smell which was a little reassuring: maybe it hadn’t been King Kong. Or Cthulhu. I looked out across my garden (my garden). I thought I was facing the lake but I wasn’t sure; there were trees in the way. But boiling off in that direction was a large black cloud that seemed to be moving faster than either the wind or any of the other clouds.
My kettle began to sing. I went back indoors, warmed the smaller teapot and a mug that said 1987 Best in Show Hyacinth River Dog Show. That had been Chan Three. She was a much better natured dog than Chan Two but she didn’t win as much. I added three big pinches of tea and water and put the tea cosy over. Imagine. I’d packed the tea cosy in the same box as the teapot, the tea and several mugs. Anyone would think I’d been paying attention, those last few days in Manhattan.
A restless movement from Sid caught my eye. I looked at her. She looked at me, gave a tiny wriggle and sat. “Dog food,” I said. “Absolutely.” I found one of the sample bags of kibble and a tin of chicken and giant gorilla in gravy. I started opening drawers. The silverware drawer contained six bent spoons, two forks whose tines looked like false eyelashes and three blackened silver-plate knives. I sighed. The best of my old flea-market silverware from the pre-Gelasio era was in one of the boxes. I’d better find it before tomorrow night. You could eat pizza with your fingers but the salad a healthy modern nutritionally-correct young woman would expect to be served with it was problematic. Maybe I could do something artistic with a fruit bowl if I didn’t find the silverware in time. There was a can-opener in with the black knives. In the cupboard above the cutlery drawer there was an assortment of tired-looking dishes and a Pyrex brownie pan whose corners needed cleaning. No, make that excavating. I scooped out the chicken and giant gorilla into the brownie pan with the second-least-bent spoon, saving the best one for my tea, and mixed in a big handful of kibble.
I set this down in front of Sid, expecting her to suck up the lot in a flash of blinding speed. She was still sitting. She bowed her head to look at this feast, and then raised her head and looked at me again. It was an accusing look. It said, Dog food!!! “Yes, dog food, drat you,” I said. “You’re not a dog, you’re a silhouette of a dog, you have to eat.” I pulled out the rest of the cheese, broke off a chunk, and buried it in the chicken and gorilla. Sid stood up, carefully extracted the cheese and swallowed it. I tried not to hold my breath. She sat down, sighed, and began to work her way through the rest of it. I rinsed out her new water bowl, filled it, and put it down next to her. She was eating now as if she was enjoying it in spite of herself. That was something I was repressing remembering about both Salukis and Deerhounds: they were not great eaters. I was used to Ghastlies, who ate anything that would stand still long enough for them to grab hold of (including sofa legs).
My tea should be ready. My mug was still warm; I dumped the water back in the kettle, and poured my tea. This was Brandyleaf Extra Superlative that I used to buy from a tiny cramped shop in an alley off St Mark’s Place; I’d found it by accident on one of my pilgrimages to Trash & Vaudeville and it became an even stronger draw than T&V’s studs and spandex. I’d bought extra the last time I went, knowing I was leaving Manhattan soon. It had a web site; I could order more Brandyleaf Extra Superlative any time I wanted it. But it wasn’t the same. . . .
Oh, dung beetles and pond scum. I was crying again. I gulped my tea so that scalding my esophagus could provide an excuse for the tears in my eyes. Sid had finished her . . . um, let’s call it lunch . . . and was licking the encrusted corners of the Pyrex dish thoughtfully. Before I made my next batch of brownies I’d take a knife to those corners, or possibly a blowtorch.
I was indulging a distracting little fantasy about having fresh brownies to offer Hayley tomorrow night, with the pizza and the fruit bowl, when both Sid and I heard a sound outside. It didn’t sound like deinonychus or attack squirrels. Or King Kong. It sounded like a fairly large, van- or pick-up-type vehicle turning into my driveway, stopping, having its handbrake hauled on . . . and then the sound of a door opening.
* * *
* Saturday night KES going up early because I’m on my way to the paschal vigil at the monks’. Er. Wish me luck.
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