Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Hmph! (03/04/10)
TITLE: The Trouble with Neighbours
By Debbie Roome
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A loud knock at the door disturbed the silence. “Who is it?” he called, annoyed at the interruption.
“It’s me, Geraldine, from next door.”
Reginald frowned as he strode to the door. Woman had only moved in a week ago and her dog was an utter nuisance. Dug in his garden by day and barked by night. He cracked the door open. “Yes?” he enquired in a surly tone. He had never seen Geraldine close up and was surprised to see a trim woman in her fifties with reddish hair sprinkled with golden highlights. In her hand was a tray.
“I’m so sorry Benjamin was in your garden.” she started as she put her foot forward. “He’s rather unsettled by the move and I don’t know what to with him. He’s little more than a puppy you know, and has so much energy. Maybe I need to walk him more.” As she prattled on, she somehow manoeuvred herself through the door. “Now I’ve brought you some freshly baked blueberry muffins as a peace offering. If you’ll show me where the kitchen is I’ll put them down.” She turned to face him, “And maybe I can make you a cup of tea?”
The next disaster was the washing. Reginald went rushing outside when he heard a volley of playful barks in the back garden. Benjamin was attacking his bed sheets, which were flapping in the wind. He would run from a distance and hurl himself at them, streaking them with mud, and probably saliva and germs too, thought Reginald as he burst out of the back door. “Get out!” he roared. “You imbecile animal. Go on, get out!” Benjamin abandoned the washing and Reginald watched as the he cleared the fence in one powerful jump. “Humph. So that’s how he’s getting in.” Geraldine’s car wasn’t in her driveway and he was rather sorry she wasn’t there to witness what her dog had done. He considered dumping the soiled linen on her doorstep, but thought better of it. He knew Mabel would have disapproved of such childish behaviour.
Ten days later, the old picket fence was gone and in its place towered a six-foot concrete wall. Reginald strolled alongside it and could hear Benjamin on the other side. The dog could obviously hear him too and was tracking his footsteps and barking. “I’ve got you now.” he muttered under his breath. “You’ll never jump this wall.”
He didn’t, but two days later he was back in the garden, tearing Reginald’s gardening shoes apart. Incensed, he rushed out with his walking stick and chased the dog as it squirmed through the hole it had dug under the wall. Reginald grabbed the shoes and without thinking, threw them over the wall. Within a half hour, Geraldine arrived with a chocolate cake and profuse apologies.
Benjamin remained a nuisance for many weeks. He learned to jump the gate, and dug many more holes under the wall - but Geraldine would always come over with fresh baking and apologies and stay for a chat. As time passed, however, the dog matured and his forays into the garden became further and further apart. Reginald was shocked one afternoon when he realised he actually wished the dog would appear. Then he could bellow at him and soon Geraldine would be on his doorstep, eyes shining, and cake in hand.
"Humph! What a stupid old man I am," he said to himself. He picked up the phone before he lost courage and invited Geraldine over for afternoon tea. She arrived promptly at 3pm, looking fresh and lovely in a sky-coloured dress. They chatted for hours and as the sun dipped behind the concrete wall, Geraldine drew a sharp breath and reached for his arm.
“Benjamin is back in your garden.”
Reginald glanced outside to see the dog kicking showers of dirt across the lawn ... and then looked at the hand holding his arm. An unbidden smile stifled the humph that automatically arose “Do you know what, my dear? He’s most welcome anytime.”
Under his breath he added, so long as he’s with you.
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