Like Cats Abd Dogs – Episode 09


The girl in question, Imogen, was maybe in her mid-twenties, dressed head to toe in black, which created a striking contrast with her pale skin.

A quick glance, and Cally nodded.

“I’ll introduce you, if you like.”

She strolled over to the counter and smiled at the girl behind it.

“Hi, Imogen! How’s Chap?”

Imogen pulled a bit of a face.

“Oh, just the same. I’m surprised you can’t hear him – I swear I can,” she said, looking up at the ceiling as though she could see through it into her flat, where Chap had been left alone. “But then I think I hear him in my sleep now!”

Cally’s face creased in sympathetic concern, then she turned to Tim.

“You’ll want to meet this man, then. This is Matthew Timmons – he’s opened the kennels along the road from me.”

Imogen’s face lit up as he nodded a greeting.

“Oh, thank goodness! Thank you so much for coming, Mr Timmons. I’m hoping you’ll have the answer to my problem. I’m due a coffee break in ten minutes – can you wait? Then I’ll take you upstairs to meet Chap.”

“Sure. And please call me Tim – everyone does.”

Cally had turned away to browse a rack of greetings cards, but he leaned over.

“Thanks for doing the introductions. I’ll see you around. Oh – and wish your mum a happy birthday for me.”

She laughed, and he thought it was a nice sound – a sound he’d like to hear more often.

****

While she finished serving a sudden rush of regular customers, Imogen surreptitiously watched Tim browsing the newspapers and magazines in the background.

He looked relaxed and in control, and she found that reassuring. He seemed the kind of person Chap needed.

Only when all of her customers had left did he step forward again, clutching a car magazine and a family-sized bar of chocolate.

He grinned ruefully as he slid it on the counter for her to ring up on the till.

“My favourite. I can never resist – not that I try very hard!”

She was handing him back his change as a uniformed schoolgirl came in the front door on a rush of summery air. Tiffany, shop-owner Teresa’s teenage daughter.

“Hi, Imogen. Is Mum in the back?” she asked.

“Yes. I was just about to ask her if she could cover my coffee break for ten minutes. Look smart and she might pay you a couple of pounds to do it instead.”

“Fab! Mum!” Tiffany yelled, and Imogen and Tim winced in unison as she disappeared into the back shop.

“Seems a lively kid,” he commented, grinning.

She was back moments later, without her schoolbag and blazer.

“Mum says take your time . . .”

Imogen turned to Tim.

“Chap’s in my flat upstairs . . . and I warn you, he won’t take kindly to seeing you with me.”

She led the way out of the shop’s front door and to a neighbouring red-painted door behind which was a stairway to the flat upstairs.

As they climbed the stairs, she gave him a quick summary of how she had come by the dog and the state he had been in when she found him.

Her voice grew louder as they neared the flat and the sound of Chap’s barking increased in volume.

Tim grimaced.

“Does he do that all the time you’re out?” he asked.

“I think so. He does it as I’m leaving and whenever I come home. It’s hard to imagine him just rolling over and going to sleep once I’ve gone. And if I pop outside I can hear him barking.”

Tim was nodding.

“Separation anxiety. Poor little guy. Do you have neighbours?”

“I do – old Mr Meldrum. But the walls are pretty thick – and he’s deaf as a post, thank goodness.”

When she came to the glass door at the top of the steps, she turned to him, suddenly uncertain.

“Should I let you go in first?”

He shook his head.

“No. You go in and do whatever you usually do when you come home. I’ll come in behind you, but just ignore me for now.”

She could already see Chap peering at her through the frosted glass panel and hear his ecstatic whimpers as he pawed at it.

Pushing it open, she braced herself as he hurled himself at her. Scooping him up into her arms, she squeezed her eyes shut and endured a thorough face-washing from his tongue.

“Hello, baby – have you missed me?”

She was aware of Tim following her as she moved further into the flat. His movements were slow and steady, and it took a moment for Chap to notice him, but when he did the animal let loose another volley of frantic barking.

Imogen looked to Tim for guidance, but he was stepping gradually closer and murmured for her to do nothing differently while he continued to observe them.

“I want to see whether he’s possessive of you or frightened of me,” he told her quietly.

Imogen fussed Chap as usual, persuading him out of her arms and down to the floor with some biscuits, though the animal kept a very wary eye on Tim the whole time with frequent warning barks.

Finally, Tim nodded and backed towards the door.

“I reckon I’ve seen enough. Let’s leave him be.”

Another couple of biscuits distracted Chap while Imogen followed Tim out the door, but as she locked up and they retreated down the stairs, the barking started up again.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.