“……… And that, dear reader, was the beginning of the beginning!………”
The magazine made a lazy scrunching noise as I screwed it up then tossed it to the other end of the settee. Even more annoying was it sliding off the cushion and onto the dog’s back. From a mildly twitching sleep she jumped onto all four legs before looking round and down at the runkled pages lying where she had been. A baleful, accusing, look at me and she collapsed again with all four legs splayed out, snout flat on the floor and a heavy sigh. That was it!
Wouldn’t you have expected more of a reaction? Not that the magazine was heavy, maybe the equivalent of a stiff pillow landing on your back when you are fast asleep but even then the shock ought to be more than a look and a disappointed sigh.
Mind, I never got worse than that when the phone rang and I had to get up and go out, leaving the wife, when we should have been in bed playing about! I suppose I should say ‘having sex’ but I always was old-fashioned. Yes, I got too used to a look and a sigh. So did she, I suppose, watching me leave in the middle of the night. It got too regular. Me always going rather than coming.
Then it did get worse. She left. I got home at ten in the morning after an extended shift all night. A messy GBH, bit of a chase and then the interview and write-up. By then I had been awake over twenty four hours and managed to say ‘hello’ before hauling myself upstairs and collapsing on the bed. She called ‘Bye, I’m leaving’ up the stairs. I didn’t even hear the door close.
You guessed it! She was gone. I woke mid-afternoon, stiff as a board, with the dog doing its deer-hound impression in a desperate attempt to get someone to open the door to get out. Eventually I twigged and scrambled down to open the garden door. Even more eventually I saw the note leaning against the kettle. A very small scrap of paper with just one line written on it, the last word squeezed in and nearly falling over the edge. I read it as I waited for the kettle to boil. What do you do? I read it again. So short a note and no ifs or buts; gone!
All the emotions you would expect filtered through me, I won’t actually say them, use your imagination! The problem was that I was due on shift again in three hours and still had a dog dropping toys at my feet trying to entice me into the garden to play. It was okay for the dog having just relieved itself; it took no notice of my predicament. Mind you it hadn’t cottoned on to the fact that I was now it’s benefactor. It would have been more worried if it had realised sooner.
I read the brief one-line letter again. You really ought to say more than ‘I’m leaving and won’t be back’, and that written on a torn-off strip two inches high. Maybe that’s what I deserve. We never had much quiet time. Had! Work eats into your life and there’s no life left!
I spent the next hour drinking more mugs of tea than I should, sliced some cheese, made some toast and broke it into a cheese sandwich. The dog. Can’t leave the dog all night on its own, haven’t even taken it for a walk. Sod it!
I brushed the crumbs off my shirt, realised I was still in the same clothes I put on thirty-six-odd hours ago and looked at the phone. I didn’t dare ring her mobile. I think I smelled of my own sweat, maybe the smell from the victims vomit hung around me too. The dog dropped the toy at my feet yet again and pleaded, eye to eye with me.
Resolutely I moved to the phone and rang the Station. We don’t have such a thing as HR just the Duty Sargent. I rang him, spoke with a bit of a hitch in my voice and just garbled that the wife had walked out and I had to look after the dog until I could sort something out.
I relented over the dog and went into the garden. It followed, pushed its way past me at the door and collapsed by the wall of the yard; looked at me from its prone position, eyes flickering between me and the ball it had let dribble out of its mouth. We played for a few minutes. I threw the ball onto a paving slab for it to bounce onto and off the yard wall at an angle for the dog to jump overly-excitedly and catch it. Thud, bonk, scrabble. Thud, bonk, scrabble. And a third time. Fourth time the dog just watched as the ball rebounded and bounced mildly on the slabs to a stop. She sat on her haunches, looked at the ball and up at me. A quick stick-out of her tongue and strolled back indoors. Typical!
So, another satisfied customer. At least it didn’t involve projectile vomit or handcuffs this time.
I followed the dog.
Back indoors, shift cancelled, dog played with, I had eaten; nothing for it but to watch television for an hour or maybe get the whisky bottle. I should have gone to work. No time to think there. Always doing something even if only gossiping or catching up with ongoing crime. Sorry, should call them cases these days, they are not crimes until CPS tells us to proceed and that only happens if all forensics are there; and on and on. Even when they put their hands up it still has to hang around getting the paperwork certified.
I sat there like that. Thinking. Soaps were on, I couldn’t watch them without the wife being there. They were her favourites, I usually just sat and half-watched. That was good enough to follow the storylines until the police programmes at nine o’clock. I stopped thinking and watched the dog wash its arse yet again. That reminded me I still hadn’t showered but I couldn’t be bothered. ‘Still too tired’ I thought to myself but knew it was more than that.
Maybe I was working too hard, rather, too often. But there is always work to catch up, thieves or whatever’s to chase and officers off sick to cover for. I can understand when they get hurt, that’s often enough, but all the buggers that claim tension or depression get my goat. They should get up off their backsides and back on the job. I do. I work day after day, or rather night after night getting covered in sick or kicked or somesuch just like the others. You put on a brave face, pretend to smile even if you haven’t slept a wink for days. You have to be nice to the public, positive with colleagues, always watching their back, your back. My back! What would it matter anyway. There’s always some other sodding policeman to step in the gap when your down.
When I’m down? I’m always down, always working, always angry or tired. Both. Poor girl, all she’s got for company is the bloody dog. Looking at you all the time, trying to tell you something. Always wants to be sitting beside you, head on your lap and pleading for sympathy. Sympathy? Who needs sympathy when you have to get up and be assaulted in the streets because you wear a uniform. Stick to it. Forget what the gov. says, and the doctors. And look at today. What am I worth? A torn-off scrap of paper with not even a goodbye, just ‘I’m leaving’ .
It couldn’t be worse! What happens now? Self-pity is what I call it. Depression they said but I don’t hold with it.
I sat there and saw the television screen glaze over and heard voices mangled.
Okay, I picked up the magazine, found the shortest story I could and forced myself to read it.
“One page: cozy, girlie chat in a cafe. My goodness, where do they dig up these short stories!
It started off badly, surprise surprise! And then it frayed me at the edges as they started realising they were two peas in a pod, or some such rubbish and actually liked all the same stuff. Within two thousand words they had moved from enemies to bosom-buddies about to house-share because of their mutual two-timing boyfriend!”
That’s how it finished; with the ‘beginning of the beginning….’. And I crumbled the magazine and threw it and it fell onto the dog. Okay, I admit it now, I sat there, misty-eyed, watching the dog settle again with its huge sigh. I sat there. Sat there. Sat there in the now dark room for however long.
I never heard the front door open, no click disturbed my darkness. A familiar hand ruffled my hair, a quick kiss on my balding spot.
“Hello love, shouldn’t you be at work?”
“I thought I would keep the dog company.” I didn’t dare move or imagine, just fiddled with the note she had left me. Folded it into a narrow strip and then again while she went upstairs. Maybe to pack another bag? I unfolded the note, flattened it on my knee. I heard the toilet flush, tap run and then her feet on the stairs as I looked down at that unforgiving note.
..’..until really late, sorry, love you lots!’
She came into the room, ” I had to go and see Carol, she’s so upset! That husband of hers has left her. It’s so good to get back here”. She sat heavily beside me, snuggled closer and grabbed my hand holding the note.
“Sorry it was on a scrappy piece,” she waved the hand she held, that held the note, “it was the first bit I found in the drawer and I was in an awful rush, only just room even on both sides.”
The dog, intrigued by the waving hands with the fluttering piece of paper actually moved to sit in front of us and swayed her head sideways in its rhythm. To me, she was shaking it in a, “I told you not to panic”, mode.
I gently squeezed the hand that supported mine.