Tuesday, 21 September 2010
I felt Archie tremble. We got up. We waited, looking back at the intruder.
“It’s that damn fox,” hissed Lesley, from the depths of her lounger. She put a hand to her mouth.
Nathan’s panama hat slid to the ground and stayed there.
“We have vermin in the garden, Nathan. Do something!”
But before Nathan could pick up his hat, the fox had leapt out of the pool and was bounding straight towards the party. With a snap, two chocolate biscuits disappeared from Nathan’s plate. We caught a glimpse of a bushy tail. Then the fox took off again over the water feature, showering us dogs, and disappeared into thickets of ivy.
“Well I’ll be damned,” said Archie.
Only a faint flutter through the undergrowth bore witness to the fox’s exit.
“We have a predator in our midst, son,” Archie went on.
He gave a low growl. We were both shaken.
Lesley brought her red legs over the edge of her lounger. “What are you going to do about this, Nathan?” she bellowed. “We have a resident fox in the bushes tame enough to steal your biscuits. He’ll be in the house next!”
“Give us a break, Lesley,” Nathan said, his voice muffled. He covered his face again with his hat. “Urban foxes need a bite to eat.”
Lesley thumped her lounger.
“URBAN FOXES NEED A BITE TO EAT!” she shouted. “I’m sick of it, Julia … I really am ..!”
Archie came closer to me. His teeth were big in the sun as he spoke.
“No good relying on this pantomime couple,” he said to me. It’s war from now on between this piece of wild life and myself” he said.
I lay weakly on my side. I was still recovering.
“Count me in,” I panted.
“I already have,” replied Archie.
Tuesday, 14 September 2010
“Don’t you splutter all over me, son,” Archie said to me the next afternoon. “That cough sounds as if your death is imminent. And you’re spreading it round the entire Fuller household.”
“Sorry, Archie,” I replied.
The two of us pugs lay flat out a few feet apart on the Fuller’s new patio. Although the stones were warm under my fur, I had begun to shiver.
Mistress knelt down beside me. Her hair tickled my back.
“Tommy is not well,” she announced and at that point, I found it hard to breathe.
The sun was high. Nathan and Lesley lay side by side in loungers. Nathan wore his old khaki shorts and had put a panama hat over his face. A plate of chocolate biscuits melted on a wicker table beside him. Lesley glistened in a silver bikini. A sickly smell came off the couple like over-ripe cucumbers.
“I hope you’ve remembered your sun block, Nathan,” remarked Lesley, with her eyes closed.
Nathan didn’t answer. He was beginning to snore through his hat.
“Listen to him, Julia,” Lesley said to Mistress. “Nathan sleeps all day if he has the chance. He’s a complete nightmare in retirement. You’d think he’d give me a hand in the house when I’ve got so much to do.”
Archie clamped a front paw on top of one of mine.
“It’s Woman’s Hour,” he said, “and I can’t take it. Start coughing, son.”
Well I did start coughing and then I couldn’t stop. Shudders went through me for several minutes until I saw stars in the universe. What I needed was a booster. One of Marek’s bacon sandwiches would do the trick, I was sure, and he was out for the day.
I lapped some water from Archie’s bowl instead.
“Body heat, that’s what you need,” Archie growled. “You’d better lie close to me and we’ll hope that I don’t get infected.”
We lay together in the sun and started to doze. Suddenly, Mistress sat bolt upright on her lounger. She gave one of her sighs that indicated the daily confession.
“I’ve got problems, Lesley,” she said over to her. I’ve put the portrait of one of my ancestors, Waldo Sibthorpe, up for sale. I have to pay the bills. I owe £1,200 to the vet. And that’s apart from everything else.”
Lesley scratched her sunburnt nose.
“Wish I could help, Julia,” she replied, “but we’ve just spent a lot of money on the garden.”
Archie nudged me in the ribs. Lesley was right. The paving stones we lay on were made in Italy, wherever that was. There were lilies waving above us grown from a rare and expensive seed. The new water feature had cost half of Nathan’s redundancy and spouted water from a three pronged silver fork into what Archie called the paddling pool.
“Anyway, Julia, your small picture shows never make any money,” Lesley went on. “You’ve always said that.”
There was silence, apart from Nathan’s snores and my heavy breathing. Then I happened to look up. Archie’s head was up too. The stench had come at us both. A mixture of woodland, the odd mammal and the innards of green bins.
It was the fox! There he was standing in the middle of the pool as if he owned the water rights.
And he was staring directly at Archie and me.