Ah, if we could talk to the animals.
The dog has been testing the boundaries of meal provision.
He feels strongly that he should have several meals a day. He signals his intentions using mind melding techniques. After the children have been fed he stares fixedly with a doggy sense of entitlement.
I think he’s messing with my memory.
For when I ask myself: “Have I fed the dog this morning already?” I’m drawing a blank. Yet when I sigh, and acquiesce, and fill his measuring cup and clang it into his metal bowl, I have this nagging sense of deja vu.
Did I feed him already? Did I?
Only his gently elastic girth betrays tell-tale signs that this dog is a master of mind control.
I think I’ve fed him at least three times today. Four, tops.
Phil came home yesterday having organised and delivered a conference.Lavish compliments have been flying at work. I wanted to hear some.
“Did anyone e mail you?”
“No.’ There was a short silence while the dog began a staring contest with Phil. My husband met his gaze levelly.”It would be great if the dog could send e mails,” he observed dryly.
“Like: Just CCing you in on this, but I need a walk. FYI, I need a bit of a poo. Re: my dinner: can I have it?”
The dog was FYI-ing for all he was worth. He was quite animated. Phil got up with a resigned air, and went downstairs to fill his bowl.
Maddie was chattering about today’s visit to an organic farm. She saw many things, and fed a donkey, but it was lambing which stole her heart.
What struck Maddie was the expression on the newborn lamb’s face, instants after it was born: total, bleary, bewildered bafflement. My daughter comprehended that this little thing had come from a womb and was overwhelmed by that most rude of changes, that from gestation to life.
She held a lamb later. It stuck its legs out stiffly and bleated. The bleat was echoed by its mother, feet away: tenor, soprano, tenor, soprano. Maddie could not translate, but the conversation had all the power of the dog’s silent entreaties.
I listened, smiling, but I was tired. For today has been Big Al day.
On the agenda for today: whirlpools, death and bones, and a big furry blanket.
I have this blanket which Al loves: maybe a little too much. It is a sumptuous source of sensory feedback, a fake fur fluffyfest. Trouble is, the dog had been lying on said furry blanket. It was dishevelled and mud-weary.
Al tackled the big bones question first. He had seen skulls and skeletons. But he wasn’t clear on how they got there.
“Auntie Kate,” he asked. “how do the bones fall out when you die?”
Pick the bones out of that one.
I took a very deep breath. “They don’t fall out, Al. The rest of you- I mean the rest of somebody – goes away instead.”
“But,” said the young inquisitor, “Where does the rest go?”
Beam me up, Scottie.
“It just gets smaller and smaller and the bones are what’s left in the end,” I ventured, and then uttered a silent entreaty to the fates. Please, don’t let me have to explain the whole beetles and decomposition thing, I prayed. I may just have to be unforgivably creative with the truth.
I was saved, totally unexpectedly, by a vortex. “Auntie Kate,” Al asked, in a startling about-turn, abandoning bones: “What is a whirlpool?”
You can’t say, “I don’t know darling, let’s Google it” with this four-year old.
Just round the corner, I remembered a science centre which had a working vortex model: a means by which one can create a whirlpool. “In five minutes, Al, we’ll go and see a whirlpool.”
There was a short, contemplative silence. “Auntie Kate, I need to be tucked up. And I want your brown blanket .”
“Al, the blanket is dirty, I’m afraid.” I shrugged apologetically, but the inquisitor was having none of it. I could see a storm looming. The blanket was a deal breaker.
In an insane moment I actually started to try to explain microorganisms. I looked at Al’s face. No deal.
Desperate times require desperate measures.
I said:”Al, there are tiny animals living in the blanket right now. They might,” I opened my hands in a gesture which showed I had absolutely no control over the situation, a hotelier with no room, “bite you. Not much, but a little bit.”
Even the possibility of these creatures impressed Al. “What will they say?” he asked in a tone of boyish awe.
I was all out of answers.
Leaving the conversation of a flea colony for another day, I grabbed our coats gratefully, and headed out of the door.