'Smells' and the Barn Bosses!
This is the piece I wrote for the February meeting of the Uxbridge Writers' Circle. It's my word challenge story. The words I had to use are in italics.
I hope you enjoy it.
After the story, I've included links to two short video clips that show the barn bosses at work!
The odour was overpowering, even for Reggie who appreciated most putrid stinks. But this stench surpassed anything he’d sniffed before. He sneezed. His vision was limited by his canine genetics, so he put more reliance on his sense of smell. His favourite scent came from the pheasants. Charles sometimes brought home a brace of pheasants and hung them in the garage. The longer they hung there the more gamey they smelt. Often he was thrown a scrap of skin after Charles and Tina had finished eating. That was the best, and far exceeded the tasteless kibble he crunched on.
Reggie couldn’t understand why Tina didn’t appreciate him sniffing her legs and hands when she returned from wherever she mysteriously went. Sometimes he could pick up clues and figure out that Tina had been somewhere that had food or animals like cats or chickens.
Reggie was tired of barking. After two hours of incessant yapping, he realized it wasn’t doing any good. No one was paying any attention. His water bowl was upside down and the other dogs were making the place reek.
It was his fault. He felt rueful as he slunk into a far corner of the concrete kennel and curled up. He shivered. He was used to warmth and comfort and quiet, well, maybe not quiet on some days. This place was the opposite.
But he’d run away and discovered what happened to strays. It was a shock. Reggie was caught unawares by an animal control officer as he wandered into a fish and chip shop. The door was propped open, and the aroma of cooking lured him in. But he was grabbed by the collar, shoved into a crate in the back of a white van, and then taken to dog prison. He didn’t like any of it.
He stood up and shook himself. It was too uncomfortable on the damp cold concrete. The floor smelled of other dogs’ urine diluted with pine and lemon scents, which confused him. How had he got himself into this mess? But it wasn’t his fault. He whined at the thought of the unfairness of it all.
Charles and Tina had been arguing and their loud, growly voices had scared Reggie. He got the gist of some of what was said but he didn’t understand much.
Tina wanted to offer one of their bedrooms for use by the university for a foreign student. The university had sent out a plea to all staff asking for help in finding places for several French students to board for two semesters. It was part of a student exchange program.
This triggered a frightening—to Reggie—response from Charles who used words like ‘frog’ and ‘alien’ and made it clear that no foreigner was allowed in their house, especially one that spoke French and probably couldn’t put two words together in English.
Reggie became alarmed when Tina shouted at Charles using words he’d never heard in the house before. The grating noise of their angry voices still echoed in his furry head. But when Charles fetched his gun out of the cabinet, that’s when Reggie ran. He scooted out of the dog flap and squeezed under the side gate.
He lay down and crossed his front paws over his muzzle as if to hide from the memory of his fear.
But what was to become of him now?
One of the humans walked past his cage. The man smelled of coffee and cigarettes and his feet were too big for his body. Reggie leapt up and down behind the black bars and barked, but to no avail.
After a few minutes, the man returned and pointed at Reggie. He told the woman who was with him that there’d been ‘a domestic’, and the dog had escaped. The woman tutted. Reggie sank back on his haunches. A sense of hopelessness came over him.
Somehow, he managed to survive the night. He couldn’t believe that he actually wanted to have a bath, usually his least favourite thing. And he missed his boring kibble. But most of all, he missed Tina. He left the full feed bowl and curled up in the corner, trembling. He wasn’t scared. They hadn’t hurt him. He was sad, so very sad.
Although his vision was poor, his hearing was not. At first, he thought he was delusional because he’d been struggling to remember what Tina’s voice sounded like. But there she was—walking towards him. He frantically jumped up at the bars and barked the loudest he could muster despite feeling shaky.
Tina crouched down, ruffled his fluffy ears, and told him everything would be okay. Her warm hands smelled of lavender but the bandage on her arm had an acrid odour. Reggie’s tail wouldn’t stop wagging even though he thought it may drop off. She was taking him home.
And Reggie lived there with Tina until he was fifteen. He didn’t once contemplate escape during that time because he had no reason to leave their happy home.
Vicky Earle Copyright 2023
Some of you may be wondering what the barn cats are up to.
Well, they're in charge of the barn, and these short video clips will help to prove the point: (I do hope these links work!).
The first one stars Brownie, the second Cricket. The victim is Raven, who's nearly one year old and still has a lot to learn!
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