Lost Dog 15-17
Was my nightmare similar to Mrs Rowe's nightmare ? Lying in the dark, with death and the prospect of death, all around ? Did she, like me, feel abandoned and neglected by those who are closest, those who are supposed to retain our trust ?
I thought of her that night as I lay in my father's cabin, trying to summon the courage to sneak out and free the dog-pups, and failing, miserably, to do so. I thought of her sitting alone in her wheelchair, watching as I went about the jobs given to me by her husband, jobs that I now realize were only arranged to get me out of the house, leaving him free to
seduce my mother.
One day I was asked by Mr Rowe to do some cleaning. When I arrived Mrs Rowe was sitting in her usual place, in front of the TV. Her head was lying to one side and at first I
thought she had had another seizure. I went over to her and stroked her face. She woke with a start, at first confused, looking around her as if she wasn't sure of where she was. "I didn’t realise you were sleeping, Mrs Rowe" I said and to my surprise she offered me her hand. I took it, uncertain of her intentions. She mouthed a word and I asked her to repeat what she had said. Soon I realized she was calling me 'Alan.'"
I continued with my cleaning. Mrs Rowe watched me intently. She turned on the power
button of her wheelchair in order to maneuver it away from the television. I felt uncomfortable and sorry for myself that I had to do such menial work. After two hours Mr Rowe returned and said I could go home. He had stopped giving me cash, preferring instead to hand the money directly to my mother.
On one occasion I was asked to clean upstairs. I had never before ventured to this part of the house. Mrs Rowe had the use of a stair lift. A second wheelchair was kept at the top of the landing. The bathroom had been refurbished, including a harness system to lower Mrs Rowe into the bath. The Rowe's bedroom, I noticed, consisted of twin beds.
I began to clean the bedroom. As I was doing so I heard movement from downstairs. Then I heard a mechanical whirr and realized that Mrs Rowe was making her way to the top of the stairs. I peered out of the door and saw her slowly maneuver herself out of the stairlift and into the waiting wheelchair. The upstairs wheelchair, unlike the downstairs one, was not battery powered. Slowly she wheeled herself into the bedroom.
She indicated to me the wardrobe facing her bed. The Rowes each had their own wardrobe and she kept pointing towards one of the three lower drawers. I opened the first and second draw but her sharp grunting told me that it was the third drawer she wanted opened. Inside the draw were scarves - woolen winter scarves as well as thinner summer scarves. I thought it was one of these she required but still the harsh sounds she made suggested this was not the case. At the bottom of the draw, hidden beneath a piece of
newspaper was an envelope. This was what she wanted. I took it out and offered it to her but she shook her head and nodded as if to say: "You open it."
One day I was asked to look after Dog because Tamsin and my mom were going out.
"We're going to a function at the rowing club" my mom said.
"Can't I come ?" I asked.
"Don't be stupid" mom said. "They don't allow little boys in the rowing club. Anyway, it's a private function. One of Tamsin's nurse friends is getting married and I've been invited to go to the disco afterwards."
I didn't really understand why my mom had been invited and I asked Tamsin the next time I saw her talking to my mom over the fence. She laughed and said that mom hadn't been invited at all.
“The girl who was originally coming along dropped out so your mom can be my guest” Tamsin said. And then, to my mom: “Do you think it will be alright leaving Kyle in the house all by himself ?” Even though she said it in a jokey way and ruffled my hair I could tell her question had a serious side to it. Mom nodded and said I was a responsible boy for my age and that I'd be OK. Tamsin mentioned that it was against the law to leave a child under the age of sixteen in a house all by themselves. Mom, though, didn't seem to mind. "Any problems he can just go over to the curtain-twitchers opposite."
Tamsin must have noticed that I didn't seem too keen about the idea of being left alone because it was then she said: "What about if Dog comes over to keep him company ? Then he’d have a little friend to play with. Would you like that, Kyle ?"
I said I'd like it very much.
Mom didn't seem to like the idea, though, and Tamsin had to talk her round. "OK"
she said at last "but only if you keep him off the sofa. And you don't let him into my bedroom, do you hear ?"
I said that I wouldn't - Dog would remain with me in my bedroom. When Mom's back
was turned Tamsin put up her thumb and smiled.
On the night of the wedding disco they left together in a taxi. Mom had been out the day before and bought herself a short black dress; Tamsin's dress was red and her hair had been styled differently for the occasion. They'd both been drinking wine in Tamsin's kitchen before they left and I could hear them giggling as they made their way along the
When they'd gone I let Dog have a special meal of tinned fish and milk. Then we played in the garden until dark. When we eventually went to bed I found that I couldn't sleep. Dog kept running around the bedroom, whining to go out. I kept picking him up
and placing him on my bed but he kept jumping off. It was past midnight when he settled but I was still unable to sleep.
At one am I heard a car pull up. I looked out of the window and saw Tamsin and my mom get out of a taxi. Also in the taxi were two men. Tamsin spoke to them through the window of the car and they got out too. One of the men kissed Tamsin on the lips while the second man put his arm around my mom and walked her to Tamsin's front door.
I went back to bed. I told myself that my mom would soon be home. They had probably all gone in to Tamsin's house for something to eat. I lay awake until two thirty am then drifted off to sleep. Mom was still not home.
Mrs Rowe liked it when I was in the house. That’s what Mr Rowe said. "I know she can't speak" he said to me "but I know exactly what she's thinking. And when you're here she feels safe. You also do a decent job of cleaning, so consider yourself welcome any time."
I was doing jobs for them regularly now - three times a week after school and a few extra hours during the weekend. I didn't mind. It meant that I spent less time with my mom. Her moods were unbearable. According to gran she had fallen out with Tamsin - something happened after their night out together. Gran didn’t go into details. All I knew was that my mom was either constantly shouting or crying in her room. I was too young to understand she told me on the odd occasion she tried, in a semi-rational manner, to explain. I didn't like seeing her this way but there was nothing I could do to help. So, I
was drawn more and more to the Rowe's house while my gran, as she always had to do, attempted to pick up the pieces of her daughter's life.
My presence at the Rowe's house allowed Mr Rowe to escape. I didn't know if he still went to see my mom or not - I didn't really care. I got on with my work and helped Mrs Rowe. It became a regular thing for her to sit looking at her photographs. Now I knew where they were hidden I made a point of bringing them out for her. She would use the chair lift to reach the top of the stairs and then use the upstairs wheelchair to come into the bedroom. I would lay out the photos on the bed in preparation for her arrival. I
handed her each individual photo and she would study it. Then she'd look at me, as if comparing me to the figures in the photographs. At first I assumed the photos were of Mr and Mrs Rowe when they were young. But I soon realized that this wasn't the case. Notes scribbled in pencil on the back identified one man as Alan. I knew that Alan wasn't Mrs Rowe’s brother because in some of the photos she and Alan were kissing - passionate, theatrical kisses at parties, in pubs, on a golden beach in summer. I found it a bit creepy the way she tried to compare me with Alan. And because the photos were hidden
and were of a man who was not Mr Rowe I began to worry that we'd get caught, that Mr Rowe would arrive earlier than expected and want to know who Alan was. After all, I knew all about the danger of hidden photographs, about what could happen when secret images of the past saw the cold light of day.
One evening after school I went to the Rowe's house and discovered Mrs Rowe sitting in her wheelchair crying. I thought she'd most likely experienced one of her attacks
and went straight into the kitchen to get her medicine. She refused it and started grunting and hissing in a way that I'd never seen before. Mr Rowe was nowhere to be seen. It became clear that something had upset her. I put the medicine away in the kitchen cabinet and began my cleaning work. After half an hour or so Mr Rowe returned. He looked to be in a fearful mood. He told me bluntly that I wasn't required any more. He got out his wallet, paid me in full
and told me to leave. That was the last time I worked for the Rowes.
I thought mom would be angry. But when I told her what had happened
she didn't seem to care.
I wanted to go over and knock the Rowes' door - ask why I had suddenly been stopped from working there. My mom told me I was not to. She too had fallen out with Peter
Rowe as well as Tamsin. He wasn't welcome to visit our house and she didn't expect me to visit his. I tried to put across my point of view but mom wouldn't listen. She seemed to be cutting herself adrift from everyone.
Gran seemed to think everything would soon return to normal. Things would eventually 'blow over' she said. I wondered if my Mom's dispute with Tamsin had something to do with Tamsin's new boyfriend. I recognized him as one of the two men who returned to
Tamsin's house after their night out, the one who put his hand round my mom's waist. He was tall, well built, and bald with a beard. He drove a green sports car but always parked it round the corner near the bus stop, out of the way. I didn't tell mom I'd seen the bald man going to Tamsin's house. I thought she might get angry and go into her bedroom to cry.
I missed Dog. I wanted to ask Tamsin if she'd let Dog play in our garden, like he used to do, but mom told me not to speak with Tamsin either. "It will all blow over" gran said. But things didn't blow over at all – in fact, things got worse.