Like Cats And Dogs – Episode 07

Imogen Carter had added a phone number, so he picked up the phone and dialled. He got an answering machine.

“Hi, Ms Carter. It’s Matthew Timmons here, from the kennels in Oakenfold. Poor Chap sounds like my kind of animal, and I’m sure I can help him. I’d like to visit to assess him first before I get your hopes up. Give me a ring and we’ll get it arranged. If I’m not here to take your call, leave a message and I promise I’ll get back to you.”

He made a note in the memo book at his elbow, and moved on to the next e-mail. Whistling tunelessly between his teeth, gradually he worked his way through all of these latest enquiries.

Once he’d finished with that he turned his attention to the envelopes he’d picked up from the mailbox at the gates. It was a substantial stack that again gave him great satisfaction, not because they were more enquiries, but because he knew these were in response to the ad he’d put in a small and carefully chosen selection of trade magazines.

The ad had been for help from experts willing to lend their expertise on an on-call basis. He’d given his location and set a radius that he felt was feasible. No point in having an expert who was at the other end of the country when he needed them.

From the codes he’d inserted into his address, he could see that there were six responses already, a very encouraging sign.

He looked around the makeshift office, seeing not the cobbled together desk or the bashed filing cabinet that Jack had dropped off yesterday, but the corner where a dog bed should lie, the door hook where a lead should hang, and the gap by his side where a dog should be sitting obediently at his feet.

He’d had dogs all his life. He’d put it off long enough. It was time.

“I need to get myself a dog,” he said, and felt better for having made the decision. He would check out the local rescue centres today.

He sliced open another envelope.

This one was from a different batch and the letter inside spoke of how perfectly suited the young writer was to be a kennel maid. Tim had quickly realised that he’d need someone to do the routine work, partly because of his own physical limitations, but mainly to free him up for his main aim of working with mentally scarred and damaged dogs. An ad in the local paper had already brought in a number of promising applications, and this would make the tenth.

His phone rang and he snatched it up, expecting another enquiry. It was his mum.

“Hi, Ma. What are you up to?”

He relaxed back in the chair and let his mother’s warm voice wash over him, telling him family news – he had two sisters, both married with children.

“Let me say hello to Dad, will you?” he asked when she was finishing off.

His dad came on the line, as gruff and taciturn as ever.

“All right, son?”

“I’m good, Dad. You?”

“Can’t complain. Well, take care of yourself. I’ll put your mum back on.”

“Cheers, Dad.”

It was as much as they ever said to each other, but in those few words was every ounce of the stout and unshakeable support that had seen Tim through his darkest times.

“Dad sounds well,” he said to his mum, and she laughed. His dad’s strong silence was a standing joke in the family.

“Yes, everything’s going great – better than I could have hoped. If I was a superstitious man, I’d think it was going too well, but they never encouraged that in the Army!”

As he spoke another e-mail pinged into his inbox, and he scowled as he opened it. It was from the council.

“Looks like I might have spoken too soon, Ma. There’s already been an anonymous complaint about excessive noise.”

A face immediately flashed into his mind – a pretty face that had smiled and said it hoped they would be friends. And he’d believed her. Had he really read Cally Tate so wrong?

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 tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.