Harry gets his desire, but is it really what he wants.
|Word count 1477
For all of his life, even as a small boy, Harry Brown wanted a dog.
“I’m sorry, honey, but we’re not allowed to have one.” his mother would try to explain each time he asked. “No pets allowed in the apartment block, not even a cat.”
“It’s just not fair.” Harry cried on his tenth birthday when his mother presented him with a
sad-looking goldfish in a round bowl.
When Harry grew into a lanky teenager, he became a dog walker for the folks in the neighbourhood who didn’t have time to walk their pets themselves. He loved his job; it earned him a bit of money, which he used to help his mum, but it wasn’t the same as having a dog of his own. He promised himself, one day, when he could make his own decisions, he’d be the best owner, to the best dog in the world.
A few years later, he replaced his obsession with dogs to girls. One girl in particular, Fiona. She and Harry became inseparable from high school, and their relationship lasted right through college and graduation. After they married, Harry's thoughts once more turned to having a dog. Fiona dissuaded him, saying to wait until they had a house of their own. “It’s not fair to a dog, leaving it alone all day while we’re both at work, Harry.”
“But...” He tried to explain how much it would mean to him, but Fiona shook her head.
After the birth of their first child, Harry had dreams of little Tommy growing up with a puppy by his side. It would protect his young master, play games, cheer him up when he was sad and teach him to care for animals.
“Oh, no, Harry, he’s far too young, and think of all the extra work for me. I’m busy enough looking after a baby.” Fiona put her foot down when Harry tried to plead his case. No!” she eventually shouted, then her voice softened when she saw her husband’s crestfallen face. “Maybe later on, hey, when Tommy’s a little older?”
When Harry reached forty, Fiona and he agreed their marriage was not working out and they separated. It was a mutual decision, Harry would leave the family home and find himself somewhere else to live. He would have the kids with him every second weekend. Adjusting to living alone, he found difficult at first. The house he rented was small but had a big backyard in which Harry could grow vegetables and flowers. Each day he’d leave for Summerville High, where he taught English, coming home to an empty house. He was lonely. One evening, as he sat at his desk, marking papers, he slammed down his pen, sat up straight and grinned. “I’ll get a dog!” At last, he realised, no one could tell him, “No,” anymore.
He’d decided he didn’t want a puppy. No, he’d give some poor abandoned creature another chance in life. Harry scanned the newspaper advertisements. The local community paper had a ‘Woofer of the Week’ in each edition. He’d always, for as long as he could remember, looked every week at the photographs of the strays with their, “Butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth,” appearance. His chance to own one for himself had come at last. He picked up the phone and made an appointment to visit the Summerville Dog Refuge on the first day of the long school holiday. That way, he decided, he’d be home with the dog to settle him in before having to leave him alone.
When he arrived in the refuge’s carpark, the sound of barking, yelping and howling was deafening. The thirty or so impounded dogs heard his approaching vehicle, and were excited, perhaps hoping today could be the day they might escape their jail cells.
“Take your time, mate. Have a wander, see if there’s anything takes your fancy.” The manager, a brawny, thickset guy, wearing overalls and Wellington Boots, advised him. “Each dog’s history is on a folder hanging on the cage. It’ll tell you the sex, age and temperament.”
Harry nodded and set off to peer at those available for purchase. The first one he came to had yellow eyes. He looked mean, as if he distrusted humans.
“Hiya, boy,” Harry said, jumping back as the dog lunged and barked. Ambling along the row of cages, he spoke to all the animals. He felt sorry for them, especially the ones who wouldn’t make eye contact or growled behind the wire fence. Suddenly his heart gave a little leap.
“Oh. A possibility”, he thought, looking at a medium-sized, brown dog with a white patch over one eye. He reached for the folder hanging on a piece of string. ‘This is Muttly. He is sterilised, four years old, friendly, and is looking for a new home,’ he read.
“What’s wrong with you, mate?” Harry asked him,. “Did you upset someone?”
Muttly wagged his tail, staring into Harry’s eyes with a pleading look.
“I’ll just keep on looking, Pal. I’ll come back.” The dog’s tail dropped between his legs as Harry moved on, but as promised, Harry returned.
On the way home with Muttly in his car, Harry had a grin on his face. At last, I have a dog of my own.
“Wait here, boy, I’ll be back soon.” Harry stopped outside the pet store. He needed to buy supplies. a bed, collar, leash and food. When he arrived back at the car, Muttly had jumped into the driver’s seat.
“Oh, you want to drive, eh?” Harry laughed, shoving him over onto the passenger seat.
The first week went well, just as he’d always imagined having a four-legged friend would be like. Muttly settled in well.
“I can’t imagine why you needed re-homing, boy. You’re such a friendly fellow.”
Muttly wagged his long tail and cocked his head, as if he knew what was being said to him.
“Oh, you’ll love him, Tommy. You’ll meet him this weekend, when you and your sister come.” Harry said, speaking to his twelve-year-old son on the phone. “Did you like the photo I sent? He’s great, isn’t he?”
“Mum’s worried he’ll set off my asthma.” Tommy coughed. “She says Tilly can’t come until the dog’s settled down.”
Harry breathed hard. He tried not to badmouth Fiona in front of the kids. “Oh well, you’ll get to greet him first. Tilly’ll see him next time.”
Fiona dropped Tommy off at his dad’s house after school on Friday. Opening the gate, he waved his mum goodbye. As he walked up the garden path, Muttly flew out of the house and jumped up, knocking Tommy backwards onto the concrete. He lay there for a second or two, Muttly licking his face, before screaming, “Dad! Get him off! Oh, my arm, my arm.”
Tommy had broken his arm. At the hospital, Harry had to call Fiona to pick Tommy up. He said he wanted to go home. Fiona wasn’t at all happy.
Too soon the school holidays were over, but Harry seemed confident that Muttly would be fine outside in the garden whilst he was at work, if he left him food, water and a few toys.
On his return from school, the first day back, he arrived home to find deep holes dug everywhere, and the screen door ripped from its hinges. Every plant had been pulled out of the ground, and in amongst all the damage sat Muttly, his face encrusted with dirt. He seemed pleased with his day’s work.
On the second day, Harry decided he’d try leaving him inside whilst he went to work.
“There’s a good boy, I’ll be back soon. I’ll leave the television on, shall I?” Muttly watched his master’s every move as he readied to leave.
Harry left the house and waited outside the front door to check the dog wasn’t barking. No, it’s fine, he’s settled down He’ll be okay, he thought. He’ll sleep. I’ll take him for a long walk when I get home.
Turning the key in the front door, he called out. Muttly, I’m home.”
He entered the hallway, expecting a warm greeting; all he got was a whiff of something bad.
“Oh, no!” Harry groaned as he stepped in a pile of crap. Leaning on the wall, he carefully removed his shoe. Hobbling into the living room, still carrying the shoe, he stopped, his mouth fell open. The destruction which met him was hard to describe. The first thing he noticed was the television lying on the floor, the screen smashed and the remote chewed up into dozens of plastic pieces. Harry’s sofa had been ripped to shreds and his new prescription sunglasses were in Muttly’s mouth.
Muttly saw his master and leapt up, wagging his tail. Harry surveyed the wreckage and he remembered the old adage.
Be careful what you wish for.