“My sister Carey had trouble with her husband, who, after a few years, refused to talk directly to her and instead would talk through his Labrador, saying things like ‘Tell her to bring the bloody paper over here.’”
– Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner
As soon as I woke up, I knew it was going to be one of those days. It was best to put off, whatever it I was putting off, to as late in the day as possible. So I went back to sleep. I hid my head behind the curtain and dozed off.
Master Oliver woke up about fifteen minutes later even though, it may as well have been two hours, I don’t know. I’m not great with times. Let’s just say it was a short enough time for me to feel like I had just fallen asleep but also long enough for me to have dreamt a juicy dream.
You know the ones in which you chase a squirrel through a maze and just when you’re about to catch it, you wake up? I suppose we all have those.
I shook myself awake, from head to tail, and walked around the bed to Master Oliver’s side.
I made my eyes as big as possible. Those puppy eyes always made his heart melt.
Call it a preemptive strike.
“Good morning,” Master Oliver said. He sounded grumpy.
“Good morning, sire,” I said, and did my morning stretch.
“I should probably do that, too,” he grunted.
“I do recommend it,” I said, “gives you a good start to the day.”
I walked to the door and waited for Master Oliver to put on his robe and walk downstairs for breakfast.
“What’s on the schedule today, Charlie?”
Master Oliver insisted on calling me Charlie even though he knew I preferred Charles. Then again, he had named me, so he called the shots. Also, he was the master.
“First: breakfast!” I said and nodded for him to get going. I felt the smell of bacon and coffee.
“Is she there?” he asked me.
“I believe Madam has already had her breakfast,” I replied.
“Good, let’s go then.”
Master Oliver looked at me with a curious look on his face.
“Did you tell her to get the bloody paper?” he demanded.
“Not yet, I’m sorry.”
“Did you at least leave her a note?”
“Of course, sir.”
It had been a mistake on my part. Master Oliver had specifically asked me to tell Madam about the paper, but I simply forgot and then she had retired for the day, but I did push a note under her door.
“OK, well, I guess that’s fine then. What did she say?”
“I’m afraid I haven’t seen her this morning.”
“Don’t tell me you’ve been asleep all this time?!”
“Oh, you’re incorrigible, Charlie,” he said.
I wagged my tail like I always l did when I didn’t know the meaning of a word. I may have been a talking dog, but my vocabulary was limited. Master Oliver did what he always did when I – or anyone else – didn’t understand him. He shouted the same thing over and over again, the volume of his voice increasing by each attempt.
“I know, sir, I know,” I said finally. “I apologize,” I added and made my puppy eyes as big as I could.
That worked. Naturally.
“Well, mistakes do happen,” he said.
“I don’t want to blame others, but Jack was asleep, too, and he sleeps with Madam,” I said.
Master Oliver laughed.
“Isn’t that a little bit racist, Charlie?”
“Blaming it on the poor Jack Russell like that.”
I was ashamed. I avoided eye contact and pretended to be sniffing something.
“It’s fine. I’d do it, too!” Master Oliver said and let out a big laugh.
As if on cue, Jack Russell – that was his name – walked in. He stopped at the door and tilted his head in a condescending way.
“Please tell him that Madam will not take dinner at the residence this evening,” he barked.
“We’ll be taking a trip,” he added, nodding, his tongue hanging by the side of his mouth.
I could only shake my head. The nerve! Jack had always been obnoxious, mostly because he had a last name and I didn’t, but this was getting out of hand.
I didn’t say anything, I just trotted back to Master Oliver.
“Would you tell him to leave the room,” I said then.
Master Oliver looked up.
“Shoo,” he shouted and with a flick of his hand, sent Jack away.
“Thank you. Now, let me get that paper for you,” I said. I snuck through the small crack in the door and ran full speed to the mailbox by the road. I could see half the paper sticking out, so it was an easy job for me to pick it up in my mouth.
The headlines were grim that day so before I dropped the paper on the table, I flipped it open in the sports section. I knew that if Master’s precious Tottenham had won their match, he’d be happy. I didn’t care about sports myself. I never got the point of running after a ball and kicking it farther away! “Bring it back, idiots,” I always shouted at the TV.
“Tottenham won,” Master Oliver muttered and held out his hand. I carefully took the piece of marmalade toast.
After breakfast, I emailed the town council and complained about a broken streetlight on our street. I did it on Master’s behalf but I did completely agree with him.
After lunch – sausages – we went for a walk.
“By the way, Madam’s Jack Russell informed me that she will not eat dinner at home,” I said as the thought just occurred to me when we returned home.
“Great,” said Master Oliver and gave me another piece of toast. “Cancel my trip. Want to watch The Crown with me tonight?”
“There’ll be marmalade toast.”
“I’ll be there,” I said.
“The best boy, sir?”