And? - Bedlam
When Tiberius Drake was 11 years old (36 days after the inopportune flattening of his father under the drum of a disconsolate steamroller) his mother purchased a dog. She called the dog Bedlam. After Bedlam.
Drake was a slight, pre pubescent child, with the disposition of a geriatric penguin and skin that had the callow translucent quality of a budget price nappy. Bedlam was an 80kg Newfoundland Dog, a breed known for their intelligence, calm dispositions and loyalty, qualities which could never have been attributed to Bedlam, who was a contagiously embittered, irredeemable attack tank.
Drake and his mother resided in a two up two down in Palookaville which was a suburb of Portsmouth (when it was still by the sea).
‘I have bought a dog’ explained Drake’s mother, motioning towards the family car which was rocking backwards and forwards in a manner very typical of an Austin Allegro inhabited by, for example, an angry wildebeest;bison;alligator;pack of wolves or alien monster.
‘The dog will be sleeping in your room’ said Drake’s mother. ‘Where you sleep’ she added, for avoidance of any doubt.
‘Why do you need a dog?’ Asked Drake.
‘I was lonely’ said his mother.
‘You have me’ said Drake.
‘Exactly’ said his mother, walking over to the car, opening the hatchback and unleashing hell.
It was the sort of brittle mid April midnight only experienced by the residents of urban British seaside resorts. Combine the whinge of a reversing rubbish van and a squirt of seagull squawk in a cocktail mixing glass. Add 1 cup of solitary screaming piss-head, a pinch of distant sea surf, stir, and strain into the prepared highball glass. Slowly pour in grenadine and let settle.
In the modest second bedroom of 112 Ferris Terrace, walls strewn with sellotaped photographs plucked from juvenilia, Drake stood shivering in his pajamas, staring at his bed with his hands on his hips. A solitary tear picked a salty trail between tranches of freckles.
‘This is my bed’ said Drake redundantly, pointing at what had been his bed but was now in the occupancy of a growling meat processing factory.
The dog’s mighty snoring skull lay upon Drake’s pillows, a veritable waterfall of drool pouring from it’s loll tongued mouth, directly into Drake’s slippers.
‘If I could just have a pillow’ said Drake tentatively reaching out a random finger eliciting a primeval growl that would have put the fear of god into a charging bull elephant.
“Or I could just sleep on the floor without one’ said Drake.
At 7.00am the following morning, Drake found himself in his kitchen. There was little to differentiate it from the other rooms in his home - there was a towering pile of unwashed plates in the sink, every surface was covered in dust, half empty pizza boxes and yellowing copies of Readers Digest. Drake’s mother had made breakfast for herself and all the remaining food in the house (and a number of things that would not have been conventionally described as food) had been eaten by Bedlam.
‘Take the dog for a walk’ said Drake’s mother.
‘I have to go to school’ said Drake.
‘Again?’ asked his mother.
‘Yes’ said Drake, ‘that’s the point of school.’
‘This won’t take a moment’ said his mother, knotting the dog’s lead around his wrist and opening the front door.
‘Freedom’ thought Bedlam powering towards the outside world like an anti tank missile fired from an Ordnance Quick-Firing 6-pounder.
‘Fu.....’ said Drake, as you do.
The Portsmouth part of 1973 was pretty much like the rest of 1973 but with a greater density of flared trousers and wedges per square inch.
Loretta Shark (14), clad in a rain forest tangerine tank top, green bellbottoms and torn white Converses, stood on the pebbled beach contemplating a one way swim. This had been a make or break year for Loretta and she had chosen break. To the West was Eastney harbour, dotted with mud mired fishing boats, to the North the outline of the Isle of Wight grazed the early morning mist, to the East was both the cankerous skeleton of Southsea Pier and slightly closer at hand, a tremendously fucking huge dog. About 5 feet from the dog at the other end of a heavy chain lead was a slight 11 year old boy. The boy looked as if he had been dragged through a hedge backwards. This was because he had been dragged through a hedge backwards. He was covered from head to foot in mud, half of his school blazer had been torn off, he had no shoes and one sock. The boy slowly lifted his face out of the pebbles, looked at her and waved. Loretta waved back.
Bedlam approached Loretta tentatively (or at least as tentatively as Newfoundland dog’s can approach someone) and sniffed her from head to foot.
‘So, I should be going’ said Loretta, motioning towards the far reaches of the ocean which had been scumbled hastily into the sea fog.
‘Going?’ asked Drake. ‘There?’ ‘Now?’
‘Yes’ said Loretta.
Bedlam growl yawned, stood up, walked over to Loretta, knocked over with his head and sat on her chest.
‘Oh’ said Loretta, barely audibly.
‘He either intends to save you or eat you’ said Drake. ‘You’ll know when he has decided.’