Blueberry - Part Three
By Jane Hyphen
Think Sandra, think, think, think. Guessing the correct password for Ben’s laptop would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. She tried: Thomas123, Blueberry123, BenandThomas1! Her heart raced as she racked her brains, desperately trying to hack into her son’s partner’s top secret cerebral files. It was no good, she took a short break before trying again but immediately the screen locked, she’d made too many attempts.
The options were running out. She heard the sound of Blueberry lapping up water from her bowl in the kitchen, so at least the kitchen door was open and if nothing else the dog wouldn’t die of thirst, yet. Sandra was thirsty too, she remembered some of the survival programs she’d watched on television, Ray Mears eating insects and breathing through his nose. There were no dead insects on the window sill and no condensation, the place was immaculate.
In desperation, she opened the laptop again and began banging loads of buttons on the keyboard in a mad way but the screen remained firmly locked. She let out an enormous sigh and repeated her own name, over again, Sandra, Sandra, Sandra. Her father had died suddenly when she was a child, she missed calling his name and occasionally she still indulged in this futile exercise. ‘Dad? Dad, Dad!’ It sounded ridiculous, even to her.
It was getting dark now and she could hear a slight upsurge in traffic on the main road about half a kilometer away, the school run. Mike wasn’t thinking about his wife, he never worried about Sandra, she had also seemed to him, as tough as nails. He would be fussing about picking the children up, making a meal of it and expecting a great deal of praise from their daughter, Lorna who would probably give it to him.
Blueberry paced around outside. She had parked herself in the doorway to the kitchen and began to make a strange low crying sound which varied from a full-on howl to a sort of whistling. Sandra pushed the door open just a centimetre but the dog immediately rushed towards it barking ferociously. Sandra began to wonder if she was in fact some sort of devil, a demonic beast acquired by her own son with the sole purpose of destroying her or something which lived inside her.
Again, she began to question how she had treated Thomas as a child and a young adult. He’d been her favourite when the children were little, a darling boy, so gentle and caring, unlike his sister who could be manipulative and spiteful. Something had shifted as they transitioned into adulthood, Lorna had settled down quickly with her long-term boyfriend, marriage, children, a stable job. Thomas had drifted and been more secretive and unfathomable in his life choices.
She sat down on the spinny chair and began to rock gently from side to side as if to soothe herself, eventually drifting into a shallow sleep. A short time later she woke with a start, it was pitch black now but a security light had come on outside the window. Sandra shot up and saw a cat walking climbing over the top of the fence, it glanced at her then jumped down and disappeared in the direction of the front garden. She switched on the silver lamp on the desk and pulled the laptop towards her again.
But the cat had disturbed Blueberry who launched herself towards the front door in a frenzy, slamming her body against it repeatedly and barking. Sandra seized the opportunity to make a run for it. She’d planned to run to the kitchen and shut the door so that she could escape through the patio doors but as soon as she left the office, clutching the laptop, Blueberry turned and came after her. Forcing her to retreat through the nearest door which led to the downstairs loo. The dog attempted to follow, barking, growling and lunging, her great head blocking the doorway. Sandra had no choice but to slam the laptop over the dog’s head, pushing the door shut and locking it.
She reached for the light, stared at herself in the mirror and shook her head in disbelief. In less than twelve hours she had been reduced to next to nothing, her life seemingly in tatters. Her situation had changed now, on the upside, she had running water and a toilet which she quickly made use of, on the downside, there was no window and not enough space to lie down.
A screw had fallen out from the hinge of the laptop on one side causing the lid to be wobbly and lop-sided. Expecting a broken screen, Sandra opened it and to her surprise the screen options had been altered, ‘Browse as a guest,’ flashed up at the bottom. ‘Yes!, yes!’ She looked up towards God and raised her hands in gratitude.
Breathing heavily with shaking hands, she logged into her mailbox and sent an email to Mike, ‘Mike, help me, I’m trapped in the loo, the dog has attacked me. I’ve been bitten, not badly but I need rescuing. Don’t tell Thomas. Send a dog expert ASAP.’
She had almost forgotten about her bite, she washed it out with liquid soap and water then sat and watched the screen, waiting for a reply while knowing that the reality was that Mike could go twenty four hours or more without checking his email. It was a strong ray of hope though.
Beneath the toilet door was a gap of a couple of centimetres, occasionally Blueberry placed her large nose underneath it and sniffed before making a growling sound and pulling it away. Hours passed, Sandra was beyond hungry, she slumped on the floor, leaning on the toilet lid and slept for a few hours, waking with a stiff neck and cold agony in her buttocks.
Mike had replied. He didn’t like dogs or any animals, he was confused by what was meant by ‘a dog expert’. ‘Sandra, are you okay? The dog bit you? I think we should call the police.’
She replied hastily, banging the wrong keys as if trapped in a nightmare, unable to type. ‘No. No Mike. They’ll shoot Blueberry and Thomas will never speak to me again.’
Mike didn’t reply. He was a rational person. Ignoring her advice he phoned his son, concocting a milder form of the story, his mother needed a bit of extra help with the dog. It was the early hours of the morning in South Africa. Thomas and Ben had only just arrived. After being reassured that Blueberry was okay, Thomas handed the phone to Ben who calmly said, ‘It’s okay, don’t worry Mike. I’ll send my brother round, he probably won’t see my message until the morning though.’
Sandra spent the next four or five hours in a state of psychological disarray. Mike didn’t reply because he didn’t want her to know that he’d contacted the boys. The charge on the laptop later ran out anyway. Blueberry was hungry and from the stench she had evidently evacuated her bowels somewhere in the hallway. She howled, demanding her dinner, her walk, the undivided attention of her two owners.
Sandra thought about the world she’d created, the cosy world, revolving around her traditions, her grandchildren, her beliefs about family and how she was never wrong. How she’d refused to accept Ben as a member of the family, how Thomas’s sexuality made her feel uneasy. She rarely talked to her friends about him, instead gushing about Lorna’s job and her grandchildren. It was as if she’d been waiting for something to change, her expectations to fall in line with her narrow view of the world.
She thought about Thomas’s happy face in the photo in the office and she cried. Blueberry lay down with her back against the toilet door and she slept a fitful sleep, her belly grumbling.
Some natural light began to infiltrate the tiny room through the gap below the door. Sandra was startled by the sound of a key turning in the front door. ‘Blueberry! Hey baby, what’s happened to you, what’s all this poop everywhere? My poor baby, hey. I’m here now.’
‘Hello, hello there. Have you got her?’ Sandra shouted sternly.
‘What?’ Replied a male voice, calm, almost laughing.
‘The dog, have you got hold of her?’
‘She’s fine….yes, I’ve got hold of her.’
Sandra unlocked the door and tentatively stepped out to see a young man, not much more than twenty, crouched down rubbing Blueberry’s belly. The dog was like an entirely different animal, soft eyes, submissive. ‘I’m sorry about this…only she bit me on my leg,’
‘Oh, is it bad?
‘I think it’s okay now, a bit sore.’
‘I’m Luke, Ben’s brother by the way.’
‘I’m Sandra. I can’t believe this. This is NOT the dog I encountered yesterday!’
‘Really? Ben left me a message. I can take care of her, if it's too much and you want to go home.’
Sandra breathed a sigh of relief. ‘Are you sure? That would be wonderful. I so wanted to help but Blueberry just wouldn’t accept me.’
‘She’s as soft as butter.’ Luke released Blueberry from her collar and she trotted past Sandra, completely ignoring her as she went towards the kitchen.
‘She’s hungry and she hasn’t had a walk I’m afraid. Look, I’m so sorry, I need to go home, sleep and get something to eat.’
‘That’s okay, I can take her out and look after her from now on. I love dogs. Hey it’s nice to meet you though,’
‘Yes,’ Sandra nodded and smiled, ‘It’s nice to meet you too.’
She’d never met any of Ben’s family. It had never occurred to her to make an effort in the same way she had done with Lorna’s husband. She felt so stupid. Blueberry had made a fool of her. She gathered her things and went out to her car, checking her leg wound as she got into the seat. It didn’t look so bad now, two little black holes. If Blueberry had really wanted to hurt her, she could have killed her in seconds. And why didn’t they ask Ben’s brother in the first place? Was it because she was always babysitting Lorna’s kids and Thomas wanted a bit of that attention directed his way?
Sandra’s head was thoroughly jangled. She walked down the driveway to her car with a sense of her tail being between her legs. There was a lot of thinking to do, re-centering and being open to connecting to Thomas in a new way. One thing was for sure though, Blueberry was never going to meet her grandchildren.