A year ago I wrote a post detailing how I intended to write a novel in weekly instalments. The novel – Buster and Moo – developed into a Thursday slot, a chapter most weeks. November 2015 came and I became absorbed by my short story writing challenge and then Christmas. So the instalments stopped at Chapter 44 and my small but dedicated readership have been left wondering what happened to Mervin and Landen, Sheri and Dave and of course Buster/Moo.
Well I’ve retired them and taken down the page where I preserved each chapter for anyone who wanted to catch up. Instead I am working on finishing the book so it can be published properly.
I wonder if anyone would like to Beta read this? It will be about 70,000 words when done and is a contemporary drama. As an incentive ( if that be the case) the lucky (ahem!) reader(s) will be entitled to free copies of my two published books to prop up their TBR piles.
And to give you a taste here’s the first two chapters as they currently stand (though you will see some significant changes when the final version is ready).
My email is glepard at saqnet dot co dot uk if you’d like to contact me about this.
The dog’s home was oddly industrial. Landen Powell rubbed her left eyebrow slowly as she took in the titled floor, the rough cast to the whitewashed walls and the metal table. If they were trying to make you feel the love, she thought, they were failing dismally. Not that she was feeling any particular love right then.
She stopped rubbing then started again, all the while watching Mervin Stiles, her partner, as he talked to the young man with the floppy blond fringe and ludicrous rainbow framed spectacles. What had he said his name was? Colin? Craig? Why did he have to dress like a children’s entertainer? She smoothed her grey woollen skirt, picking off a white hair with her fingernails. God, Mervin, she thought, you owe me big time, mister.
Just then Mervin turned and smiled. She forced a smile back, and nodded. The young man – their ‘rehomer’ that’s what he had called himself – also nodded and smiled. A cosy little title for an emotional blackmailer. She pushed herself up and walked across to here they stood. Might as well get this over with, she told herself. They clearly weren’t going to leave without a bloody mutt. What the heck was his name? She was usually good with names.
“You ok?” Mervin sounded concerned but she knew he was more worried she might change her mind about the dog than if she felt well.
She nodded and sighed as she peered at the screen which was showing three dogs. She might as well feign some interest if only to speed things along. ‘Which one then?’
The young man – it was Chris, wasn’t it? – moved the mouse. “I think we have narrowed it down to these two. I’ll go and bring the first one. Just click here and you can read a little about him.”
Mervin Stiles brushed white hairs off his trousers. “I think he’s right; we need one a little smaller. That first one would be a real handful.”
“I suppose. It’s your call.” She leant across and stretched up to kiss his stubbly cheek. “You’re the one needing the exercise.”
“Needing?” He pulled in his stomach.
“Wanting. I love you just as you are.” She patted his chest. “It’s not about looks, though—“
“No. Quiet.” Mervin moved away and took hold of the mouse.
“Sorry. I didn’t…” She stopped herself. This was dangerous territory, the one area most likely to anger him, not that Mervin did ‘angry.’ She stared at his shaggy brown hair just touching his jacket collar, his sloping shoulders and arched back. He wasn’t as careful with his appearance these days. Not like when she first knew him. There was no way he’d have owned let alone worn a jacket with threadbare elbows back then. Now it was her who made the effort, rose early to put on her face to confront the world. ‘Her armour plating’ he half-jokingly called it. And it was at least half true.
“So one of these two, you think?”
“I know you’re bored—.”
“I’m just asking.”
He looked up. “As you are keen to point out, I need to lose weight. I do not have either your self-discipline or a gym at my office so a dog—.”
“Yes, ok. You could still get a personal trainer—.”
“For crying out loud, Lanny, I’ve not become some middle class twat who wants a be-muscled nutter beating the crap out of me on my own carpet. I spend too much time indoors as it is. Working from home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”
She looked away. Another topic to avoid. She agreed with him, anyway. She’d hate it. The lack of contact with people, no face to face cut and thrust. An image of James came to her and she shook it away. She touched Mervin’s arm, making him look at her. “I do see. Really.” She stretched up and kissed him, letting her lips brush his stubble again. She loved the rogue sensation, so different from James.
He kissed her forehead and looped an arm around her shoulders. “It’ll be good to spend time waking him, won’t it? We always say we’ll get out, see the countryside Now we’ll have no excuse.”
Mervin scrolled up the screen. “Here’s one for you, Lanny. A real handbag dog.” He smiled at her. “That’s what a top corporate lawyer needs isn’t it? The ultimate accessory with killer heels and a Gucci bag?”
She stuck out her tongue. “I’ve yet to see a dog in a meeting. But it would set me apart. My USP for partnership.”
Mervin stretched his neck looming above her. He was easily a foot taller than she. “You’ll ace it. They’d be mad to lose you. And anyway, even if—.”
“Stop, Mervin. You promised not to talk about it.” Landen felt hot and uncomfortable. She knew she shouldn’t have mentioned it. Stupid, but thinking about James had done it. She shifted her weight. “It’ll be over soon. One way or another.” To distract herself she opened her bag and dug out the wet-wipes she had brought. “Do you need to clean your hands?”
He pulled a mock-surprised face. “Oh for fuck’s sake, Lanny. Do you have to disinfect yourself quite so obviously? When we get him or her home you can’t go around cleaning everything all the time.”
She moved away. “As usual you are exaggerating. And as usual I expect it will be me cleaning up.” She tried to make it sound like a joke but from the way he moved she knew he was pissed off. She knew full well he didn’t need her reminding him of his status as a kept man. Losing his job and trying to set up his own business – copy editing while writing a book he’d promised himself – wasn’t easy and while he did most of the housework, they couldn’t ignore the fact that her standards were different to his: higher or more obsessive depending who was describing them.
Landen sensed rather than saw Mervin shake his head. She knew his hair would catch his eyes and he would brush it away angrily. “I’m sorry. That didn’t come out right. It’s been a shitty week. Let’s sort out this dog and go home.”
Mervin left the computer and moved over to her. He took a hand and stroked the little finger. She smiled as she took his hand. As she met his gaze, he said, “You don’t have to go into the office? James doesn’t need you to mop his brow.”
She did well to keep hold of his hand. There were moments when she wondered if he knew. He was smiling, like it was a joke. He said, “I’m amazed he functions at all without you. At least you can count on his vote.”
She dropped his hand. “He’s back. Chris.”
While the rehomer settled the next dog, she sat with her back to the wall, breathing in deeply to calm herself. Not for the first time she told herself that once the partnership decision was made she’d sort out the rest of her life. If she was going to end it with James that would be the time but was she? She held her hands in her lap, seemingly studying the nail polish.
She heard Mervin say, “Too big,” and the rehomer took the dog away. He sat next to her and rested his head back against the wall. “It’s like a bloody cell, isn’t it? I’d hate having to work here, with no windows.” He put out a hand and covered one of hers in her lap. “I’ve said it mustn’t moult too much. You’ll not want little tumbleweeds of fur around your kitchen, will you?”
Landen heard the door opening again. Mervin began to stand but Landen held his sleeve.
“Let me.” She sensed his surprise but was grateful when he held back.
The new dog was a stocky, predominantly white male. On his face and flank he had large brown patches.
“What is this one?”
Chris smiled – to Landen she thought he, too, was getting a little tired of forcing out the bonhomie – “This young lad is a Jack Russell- Staffie cross.” He quickly held up a hand. “I know you said you weren’t keen on Staffies but he doesn’t look much like one, he has such a good temperament and he’s been beautifully trained.” He released the dog who began to sniff Landen’s carefully outstretched hand. Having done so he licked it gently and turned to Mervin. He did the same and nuzzled Mervin’s leg. Meanwhile Landen surreptitiously cleaned the lick with a wipe.
“So what’s your name then?” Mervin bent forward and rubbed his knuckles into the dog’s head. Landen wanted to tell him to stop, say he was probably hurting the animal but she concentrated on keeping her back straight and her shoulders relaxed, just as her Pilates teacher encouraged. Absently she began rubbing her eyebrow again.
Mervin said, as much to the dog as to the others, “Are you a bit big for us?”
Chris joined him and crouched down. “Because he’s so well behaved, I don’t think you’ll notice.”
Landen pushed her palms hard together. She squatted next to Mervin and the dog and said, “What is his name?”
Landen didn’t stop the look of distaste from curdling her expression. “Great. Can we rename him? I mean will it upset his training and things?”
“Of course you can.”
The dog left Mervin and came to stand in front of Landen as if she had called him. Landen nodded her approval. “Does he sit to order?”
“Try him. Here.” Chris gave her a treat. “Have him offer a paw.”
“Sit.” He sat. “Paw.” The dog did as he was bid. She opened her hand and he licked the treat into his mouth and swallowed in one movement. Landen wiped the palm on her skirt and stood back. As she looked down the dog rolled on his back exposing a spotty stomach. She couldn’t stop herself grinning at his antics. “He looks like a pig. Or a cow.”
Mervin said, “See, I knew you’d love him.”
She nodded. “He’s sweet, isn’t he?” She looked at Chris. “Who does his PR? He knows how to make a sale.” She carried the smile over to Mervin. “I get naming rights?”
“So you want this one?” Chris looked at Landen then Mervin. Mervin shrugged and Landen nodded. “Marvellous. You three get to know each other and I’ll grab the paperwork.”
Left alone Mervin pushed himself up and crossed the room to Landen. “You sure? This is it? He won’t go back.”
She nodded. “It might be rash but I’d say he was perfect for us. Look at the muscle definition. He’s a fit dog.”
“Give me a few week walking him and I’ll be the same.”
She said, “I don’t care, you know. It—.”
“I do. You’ll sort me out, won’t you Oink? We don’t want to give her an excuse to work late, do we?”
She knew it was a joke but she wished he’d just stop going on about her work.
Mervin reached a hand across and stroked her cheek running his rough fingers down her face. She pushed against his hand, for a brief moment wanting confirmation that he still wanted her. “This will be good, won’t it? Like a fresh start.”
Why had she said that? She said hurriedly, “We need a new name. Buster is ridiculous.”
Mervin essayed a smile. “He’s just a dog, Lanny, not some existential thinker. It hardly matters…” Mervin coughed and looked away.
Unspoken words sat between them. Why had she said that phrase? He’d used it a lot after her second miscarriage, when she’d said she wanted to stop trying, when she went back to work full time. Absently she touched her stomach. He was thinking about the dog, she was sure of it. He’d not made the connection at all. Her mind drifted to a hot sunny consulting room, a lifetime before. Before everything turned on its head.
“What about Oink?”
Landen came back to the moment. “You aren’t serious?” She looked at the markings again. “He’s more like a cow anyway.”
Mervin responded quickly. “Ermintrude? Flossy? Daisy? They’re too girlie.”
“What about Moo?”
Mervin pulled a face. “I wasn’t serious about Oink. Beefy?”
Landen bent to the dog’s height. “Come here, Moo.” The dog approached her and sat at her feet. “You like Moo?” The dog nuzzled her hand.
Mervin shrugged. “You’ll regret that, Buster.”
Chris shrugged. “You don’t have to decide now. It can wait until—”
Landen shook her head and moved to his side. “It’s Moo.”
Chris spent a few minutes writing out some forms. “Who’s going to sign?”
Mervin didn’t look up from the dog’s side. “She will. She’s in charge.”
Landen dug out a pen. “He means I do the admin and paperwork and all the tedious stuff in our relationship and he has all the fun. So what is it I’m signing?” She allowed herself the luxury of a grin.
Her phone rang. With her free hand she eased it from her bag. James. Her heart sank. Why now? Another man after her for something. “There.” She signed the last page and pushed the board across to Chris. She pressed answer and mouthed ‘James’ at Mervin before elbowing her way outside for some privacy.
The kitchen was tiny but spotlessly clean, even though it hadn’t been redecorated in years; the paint work around the door was chipped and the area near the light switch stained beyond even Sheri Howard’s efforts to remove. Sheri sat at the round table, her chair squeezed so tight between it and the cupboards that she had no choice but to sit upright. Abruptly she dropped her cutlery and pushed the plate away. “I can’t.” Her blonde hair was pulled back in a tight pigtail which swished violently as she shook her head hard. She felt nauseous again.
“You must eat, Sher. C’mon.” Dave, her husband, reached out but she folded her arms and turned away. He let his fingers curl back into his palm and slowly dropped his hand.
“I’m not a fucking child, Dave.” She rubbed her eyes with the knuckles of her hands, smudging her makeup with the grinding. “Sorry. God, I feel sick.” She managed to look at him, blinking back tears. “You think he’s ok? Why the fuck didn’t we keep him?”
“You didn’t like Buster. You said you didn’t…”
“Shut up. I loved him. I was trying to make it easy for you. Fuck, he was just a fucking dog so why’s him going hurt so much?”
Dave took the remnants of the spaghetti and scraped it in the bin.
She said to his hunched back, “I never knew I loved him, you know?” She waited for him to turn. To say they could get him back. But he stayed on his haunches.
Finally he said, still not facing her. “When I get some work, when I get us straight, we’ll get him. Or another.”
She sighed, not even trying to hide it. “Yeah Dave. Sure.”
He was up and in front f her, anger and something else creasing his face. “I will. You know I fucking will. Just… I just need a break. A start.”
She forced out a nod and pushed herself to her feet. “While you strategize a way to pay off the credit cards, I’ve got to go and clean at the Lodge. Fuck, I hate that place.”
“He’s not come onto you has he? I’ll fuck—.”
She grabbed at his sleeve but he spun away. “You won’t or so help me I’ll fucking leave for good this time. Capiche?” She moved towards him. “Dave?”
He was in her face in seconds, fury contorting his face. She stood her ground and after a few seconds he slumped back. “I know. You’ve made yourself crystal fucking clear. I go back inside and you’ll be off. I just need to get a start but no one wants a fucking ex-con with an assault sheet.”
She put her hands on his shoulders. When he didn’t look up she put a hand on his chin and lifted it so he looked at er. “I love you, you big fuck. I don’t give a toss about the dog. I just want you but I can’t take another spell with you away and your fucking mother and her friends yapping away about what a slut I am and it’s my fault…”
“She don’t mean it. She just get anxious.”
“Ok. I won’t argue. We’ll have to make do. I’ll have to put up with that snooty Latvian bitch and Henry playing with himself all the time and you’ll have to go and see if there are any openings. I know, it’s hard but we’ve got five grand on cards and two with the loan sharks. My money isn’t enough.”
Dave looked about to speak but turned to the sink.
Sheri paused. “Let’s not fight. Ok?”
“Why are you so upset about the dog?”
She shook her head. “I… What are you thinking and not saying?”
“Nothing. I just wondered why you’ve gone from moaning about his mess and hairs to crying your eyes out now he’s gone.”
She pointed her finger. “You bastard. You complete—“
“It’s not the fucking dog, is it? It’s kids. Because I’ve fucked up we can’t have kids and—“
“I’m not listening to this. I’ll pick up something for dinner and you’d better be here and not in that fucking pub or so help me I’ll change the fucking locks.”
As she slammed the door she knew in part he was right. Losing the dog after moving to the pokey flat and having to take more hours at the Lodge just reinforced how far they had to go to get back to some stability and until then kids were a pipe dream.
Dave waited until Sheri disappeared round the corner before collecting his coat. He hunched into it, trying to keep out the cold. He walked quickly, partly to keep warm and partly to stop thinking about where he was going. If Seri knew he was about to drive a truck full or stolen copper she’d go mental but not as mental as she would go if she realised that the extent of their debts was not just shy of ten grand by nearer forty. Not having Buster right now, was something of a blessing. He closed his eyes and imagined Sheri on top of him, eyes closed as she slowly worked on him. God, he kill himself if he lost her. She was the only good thing in his life. The sooner he went legit the better, but when was that likely.
He jumped. Some kid was coming out of the house he was passing. He had his hoodie up and hadn’t seen Dave. Dave watched as he went into the next house and pushed something through the letter box. Maybe he should get a few flyers and see if anyone wanted a handyman. After all what had he too lose?
Landen watched as Mervin picked up the unwashed plates, left from the previous night’s meal and began to stack the dishwasher. She said, “It’s better if you rinse—”
“If you want to do this, I‘m not stopping you.”
She shook her head. She opened her handbag and checked the contents. “Now, he mustn’t be let off the lead, ok.” Landen looked up. “Are you listening, Mervin?”
“Yeah, yeah. I can walk the bloody dog, you know. Yesterday was the exception.”
“Maybe but why take a chance when—Will you do h”
Mervin slammed the dishwasher shut. “Maybe I want to take a risk? I wanted the bloody dog so I’ll take responsibility for his welfare, ok.” He glared at her.
She didn’t look up as she said, “I may be late. The meeting may run on. We’re close to closing and—“
“Yeah, whatever. I may be out.”
“There’s a new writer’s group. I thought—“
“Have you seen my charger? Oh, thanks.” She turned for the dresser where Mervin had pointed. “I think that’s great. A writer’s group. I’ll ring when I’m leaving.” She picked up her watch from the shelf where it lay. “I really should get a new watch. I feel undressed without one on.”
“Most people use their phones don’t they?”
“Maybe I’m just a little old school. Do you think I should treat myself?”
He knew what she was doing. Pretending her money was theirs, like she needed his consent for some frivolous spending. He said nothing; she could make up her own mind what to do with her money. He hated being beholden, feeling neutered. He knew it was his problem, this sense of inadequacy but her being so understanding really didn’t help.
She shut her bag with a snap. “Ok that’s me. You will clear up after him, won’t you? He did a sneaky one behind you on Saturday, didn’t he? Here.” She pulled open a drawer in the dresser. “Take some spares.” He offered him a bunch of black plastic sacks.
“How many times have I walked him? Whereas you’ve been with him, what, three times? Anyway didn’t he go in the garden earlier?” Mervin didn’t try to hide his distaste as he took them. “I’m sure he went.”
“Yes, he did. But there’s no guarantee he won’t need another poo. You said he went three times on Wednesday.”
“Are you keeping a diary? Christ Lanny, do you think he’s ill? Are we feeding him right? Oh my god, call the vet.”
“Don’t be obtuse. He’s on the diet the home recommended and he’s well within the recommended weight range.”
“Well, don’t worry. I’ll clean up after him, your very own untouchable cleaning out the sewers.”
“That is in extraordinarily bad taste, Mervin. You just need to concentrate and not daydream.”
“It’s called thinking time.”
“You’ll need to take some kitchen towels, too.”
Mervin’s mouth became a full scale gag of disgust. “Under no circumstances am I wiping his arse. I didn’t get a dog to nanny him.”
“It’s in case the poo is a bit squitty. You can’t scrap it up with the sack.”
Mervin looked from the paper towels in one hand to the bags in her other. “I wipe the pavement? You want me to wipe the bloody pavement?”
“It’s well known that dog’s faeces carry a worm that can blind small children. The Dinglebell Nursery is just round the corner and I will not have it on my conscience…” Landen checked the contents of her bag again. Mervin could see her lips moved as she ticked off each item. That was three times she’d gone through everything which was exceptional even for her.
“What’s up, Lanny?”
She shot him a look. “What do you mean?”
”This isn’t about the dog. You’re nervous about something, aren’t you? Is something—?”
He knew he was right. It had to have something to do with this damned partnership decision. He’d tried to talk to her about it but she refused saying she couldn’t bring it home and she needed him to give her space. Which he did. Which he’d always done. She made her career decisions and then told him. It had worked out fine when he worked for the publishers. They both kept their work separate from home and left it to the other to say as and when the wanted to. Then he’d been made redundant and they had decided he would stay at home and start up an editing business, with a view to adding his own publishing arm in due course, while, at the same time as writing his much delayed book. That had led in very short order to their financial situations going in diametrically different directions. As he saw it, she earnt it and he spent it and he hated it. He hated even more the uncertainty. The fact that he had no say in what happened next. He had no real idea where she stood with this partnership: whether it was the first time she might be put up or this was her one chance and what in fact were her chances.
He blew out a breath. “Ok. Not my business. Anything else? Do I pre-vet whose bottoms he can sniff?”
“I know that was sarcastic but that does remind me. If you go to the field rather than the park you might encounter a ridgeback. Moo was a bit put out yesterday. He… he tried to mount Moo.”
“Mount him? But Moo’s a male? Do other dogs know he’s lost his balls and think he’s fair game?”
“It’s a way of showing dominance, that’s all. Only this went a bit far.” She opened her briefcase and flicked through the files, running through the order in which she wanted them when she reached the office.
Mervin watched her; her forehead was ridged in concentration but otherwise her face was smooth and creamy. Her hair, her makeup, her suit and blouse, they were immaculate too. She was every inch the successful lawyer and yet he was sure she was shaking. He bent to the dog’s level and whispered so she could hear. “We mustn’t say it but good luck.”
She ruffled his hair. “Thanks. I hope I’ll be back about seven.” She paused. “And please do look after him. I do care.” She dug her fingers into his scalp. “About both of you.”
“I wonder if we should get him a trainer. He is getting to be a bit of a handful.”
“He was meant to be trained but I haven’t noticed many signs.”
“I need to go. How do I look?” She held out her arms.
Mervin stood and appraised his girlfriend. “Wealthy. Successful. Bloody sexy. And wasted on those old farts.” He stood and pecked her on the lips. “Sorry if I’m an arse. I’m just not that good with Moo yet. I thought it’d be fine but it’s tougher than it looks. It gets a bit boring having your arm pulled out of its socket for three quarters of an hour when all around you there are these well behaved dogs…” He held up a hand defensively. “I know, a self-inflicted wound. You look fab. I’ll give you a lift if there’s a chance of a quickie on the way to the station.”
She pulled a wonky grin.
“Knock ‘em dead, Lanny.”
Landen nodded but couldn’t hide the wave of apprehension that hit her. He must have seen the shiver because he caught her arms to still the shake.
“You’ll be great.”
Landen turned away and picked up bag and briefcase. “I must dash. Have a good bonding, boys.”
She hurried to the door. Mervin stuffed his wallet in his back pocket and, as an afterthought, the black sacks. The kitchen roll stayed on the counter. “Come on. You can buy me a coffee.”
It was the number that amazed Sheri. Three blue crates were full of a variety of wine and spirit bottles. Not many mixers, Sheri noted absently. She dragged the crates to the door to the service yard where the rubbish and recycling was stored. The utility floor squeaked as she did so. Another clean up before she finished. It wasn’t like they spent any time in the working areas, other than to give orders and moan but the utility as well as the laundry, the food preparation room and the cold store all had to be as immaculate as the rest of the house. Momentarily Sheri wondered at Henry’s wine cellar. No one other than Henry and the man who delivered the booze was allowed inside. She imagined wooden shelves for the bottles and pornographic pictures on the walls. Wanker.
She pushed the first crate through the door. ‘A little party’ Natalia had said but this was more than her sister’s wedding and there had been seventy hardened drinkers at that event. It had taken her the best part of an hour to clear them up, empty the dregs down the sink and stack them for recycling. Natalia loved recycling; colour-coded bins for everything. She had just wiped the floor for the second time when Natalia put her head round the door. “Hey, sweetie, I’m off to the Salon. Can you put the food and veggie dregs in the composter.”
“Composter? What’s that?”
“Didn’t I say? It’s brilliant. It’s at the end of the garden. So neat. It’s anaerobic, too.”
Sheri hadn’t a clue what she was on about. “Is it obvious? I’ve never seen one before.”
“Big green thing with a chute in the front. Oh, and there’s a little parcel by the back door. Can you toss it into the park?” Natalia came a bit closer, glancing back. “Henry doesn’t like foxes. He hunts, yes?”
Sheri just nodded. It didn’t surprise her.
Natalia went on in a whisper. “I can’t feed them on the lawn so I’ve started to give them our meat scraps in the park. The key to the gate is on the board; the red-striped tag.” She put her forefinger to her lips.
“Is Henry home?”
“Poor love is a little sickie today so he’s working in his study. Try and keep the noise down, maybe.”
As Sheri gathered the vegetable waste and the bag of meat off-cuts she smiled to herself. ‘A little sickie’. Hung-over more like. She pulled on her outdoor shoes and opened the backdoor.
The rain of the last few days had ended and the sun was out, seeding some warmth into the air. Sheri pulled her heavy tunic over her head and hung it on the door knob. It felt good to have sun on her face. The grass looked saturated but the paving stones that curved through the garden were dry enough. It was lovely out here; in the middle of London yet you’d think they were in deepest Devon or somewhere. A lawnmower buzzed a few gardens away and the birds challenged each other to fill the gaps. Sheri stopped by a shrub covered in orange flowers; she sniffed the thick scent. One day she’d have a garden with shrubs that smelt like this.
The door to the park was stiff and made a horrid screech as she pulled it open. She felt so embarrassed and kept her eyes down as she reached out to drop the meat on the muddy strip by the back wall. Then she rummaged in the pocket of her apron for the cigarettes.
“Moo, come here. Oh Christ, sorry.”
Sheri just had time to look up before she was hit in the chest by a white blur, pushing her off her feet and back against the wall. She hardly had time to look up before a large wet tongue wiped itself up front her chin, across her lips and into her eye. “Gerrof you stupid… Buster? Is that you, boy?”
The dog was desperately trying to lick her ears and eyes as he climbed over her head and chest.
She grabbed at his collar. “Stop it, I tell yer. Soppy sod.” She realised her T shirt had twisted and she pulled it in place.
A shadow crossed her face; a man loomed over her. “I am so sorry… Moo, get off now.” He bent to grab for his collar but the dog jumped away, suddenly aware of the meat. “Oh no. Drop that. NOW. Moo, stop….”
Sheri sat up. Moo? Who was Moo? She looked at Buster, wrestling with a lamb bone; she growled gutturally and said in a low voice, “Drop.” Instantly the dog obeyed; crouching down, it took a pace back, its gaze only leaving the bone once to glance at Sheri.
“How did you do that?” Mervin looked from the prone Sheri to the suddenly compliant dog, while she reached out to retrieve the cigarette packet.
Sheri growled again and looked at Mervin who offered her his hand. She said, as she dug out her lighter. “Moo? You’ve called him Moo?” Sheri became conscious the man was looking at her chest. She glanced down. The dog had torn her T-Shirt and a bit of her black bra was on show. “Shit. Sorry.” She pulled at the material to cover the hole, then shrugging, took the proffered hand. “Bloody dogs, eh? Just when you think they’ll behave they let you down.” She lit up and blew out a thin stream of smoke. “He used to be ours. Buster. When’d you get him?”
“Two weeks, last Saturday. How did you get him to stay like that?”
“Easy.” She peered back up the garden and pulled the gate to. As she did so she said to Mervin, “You smoke?” She nodded at the dog, freeing him and he stepped forward to claim his prize.
Mervin hadn’t smoked since he’d moved in with Landen. “Thanks.” The dog’s pleasure was expressed by a crunch that made Mervin wince.