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Two Terriers

Karen Scott was making a cup of tea in the kitchen for herself and for her mother when her father, Sam Scott,  literally blew in,  smiling broadly.  He was bearing two tiny balls of fluff,  yapping in a frightened and disorientated way.

"Dad!"  said Karen, wondering what on earth her father was doing at home at this time of day.  Sam Scott was the kind of man who usually only showed up at mealtimes. "What in the world have you got there?"

"Yorkies!" came the reply.  "And these  two little beauties," he added, "are going to net me a packet!"  Karen groaned inwardly.  Another of Sam Scott's great 'get rich quick'  schemes.  Karen wondered why her father couldn't just go and get a normal job like anyone else.  He had been claiming disability benefits payment for a 'bad back' ever since she had been ten years old or thereabouts.  He liked the security of the regular payments as opposed to the 'feast or famine' nature of his original business occupation.  His aim in life now seemed to be to drink as many pints and smoke as many cigarettes as possible,  win as much money as he could betting on the horses and greyhounds and find the perfect 'get rich quick' scheme which would 'put him on easy street for life'  if such a scheme existed.  Karen shook her head and added an extra cup of tea to the pot.

Attracted by the yapping, Helen Scott, Karen's mother,  appeared at the kitchen door.

"Sam!  Home already?  Something wrong?"

"Oh, no, Helen!  Something right!   Something very right!  See these?"   And he held up one of the tiny puppies for inspection.

"A little puppy!  He seems to be a Yorkshire Terrier.  What are you doing with him, Sam?"  Sam Scott was a little in awe of his ladylike wife, and knew that an explanation would be required,  so he ordered Karen to bring him a cup of tea, deposited the puppies on the floor (having made sure that the kitchen door was securely closed) and explained how he had purchased this pair of puppies from 'a mate of his', who had assured him that his 'investment' would be rewarded in due course.  Karen and her mother took the whole story with a grain of salt.  Sam, for all his experience of life, could be taken in by a con man as quick as anyone else could.  The way Helen Scott saw it, these puppies  had originated from an unscrupulous breeder who also had the 'get rich quick' mentality, because people of that mentality moved in the same circles as Sam Scott did.  He seldom met respectable people with high morals in the places he frequented.  Whether the puppies would ever net the expected returns was doubtful.  But one thing was sure.  Helen Scott and her daughter Karen would be doing all the work of looking after the puppies!

And of course, Helen Scott was right.  She was always right.  She knew her husband better than anyone else, and Karen had understood this too, from the very beginning.  It was Helen and Karen who fed and cleaned up after the puppies and made sure they had a clean place to sleep and enough exercise, brought them to the vet, had their health checked and got their routine vaccinations done.  Sam Scott, usually in a drunken haze and blissed out on the results of the races, if they were favourable, and fed up if the results were not, hardly bothered about these cute little creatures in whom he had invested such hope.  As far as he was concerned, they were his wife and daughter's responsibility.  He wasn't too impressed, however, when he heard that Karen and her mother had called the pair Jack and Jill.  That was the term he always used when talking about 'the pill', the birth control medicine.  He didn't want any of that influence on 'his' puppies, who would, in due course, give birth to more puppies, for which he, Sam Scott, would 'net' his 'packet of money'.

Karen's elder brother Dave, a painter and decorator like their father, but respectably employed in the maintenance department of a five star hotel chair, simply said "the old man has lost it!"  He felt that the pups were very weak and sickly, due to inbreeding, and would certainly not grow up to be the robust breeding animals of Sam Scott's dreams.  He was right.  The animals were sick every other week and Karen and her mother had become regulars at the local vet's surgery.  Dave, a married man with three children, while having a regular job, was in demand for private work as well, and always had a few extra jobs 'on the side', outside of working hours.  He took full advantage of that work to get some extra money to look after his family.  He often silently put a bit of money his mother's way, knowing what a stingy provider his father was.  Indeed, if it hadn't been for Dave, and the 'few bob' he gave them,  Karen and her mother would have been hard pressed to pay the vet's fees and pay for the medicines.  Karen's elder sister Suzanne, a housewife with two children,  had plenty to say about their father's ways.

"That old man should be locked up for his own safety!  He'll get us all into trouble one of  these days."  But Suzanne observed a very interesting thing.  "Those puppies have done you a world of good ma!  I haven't seen you looking so happy in donkey's years!"  It was true!  Helen doted on her two little Yorkshire Terriers and she was rarely down or depressed nowadays.

Karen wondered about this.  Since Dave and Suzanne had left home several years earlier, and now that she, Karen, was in college, her mother, a total homebody, had a lot less to do than she used to, and had grown bored and rather depressed waiting for Sam Scott to show up for his meals every day.  Now she was always in a good mood, and doted on the two little dogs.  Karen had always been so proud of her dignified, beautiful mother.  She couldn't understand how her mother had got married to a loafer like Sam Scott and worse still, stayed with him.  She deserved so much better.  She also observed that on Saturday afternoons, when she went with her mother  to do the shopping for Sunday, her mother was often silently greeted by a tall, handsome looking man.  The man was always accompanied by a woman, his wife obviously.  But she never seemed to recognise Helen nor notice her husband acknowledging Helen.  Karen had slowly come to notice this mysterious little encounter over the years and agonized over it.  What did it mean?  Was her mother having an affair?  But if so, when did she get the opportunity to indulge in it?  To the best of Karen's knowledge, she never left the house!  One Saturday night, when Karen stayed in as opposed to going out with her regular bunch of girlfriends, she decided to ask her mother about it. It was difficult to know how to start.

"Ma!" she said, "I hope you don't mind me asking, but there's something I need to ask you about.  Do you mind?"  Helen Scott said, "No.  Go ahead!"  Karen took a sip of her tea, swallowed, and continued.  "Who is that man who says hello to you every Saturday afternoon down at the shops?"    Helen's face looked blank for just a second.  Then she smiled.  "Oh, you must mean Jim McGleenan.  He's a fella who used to live on the same road as me when I lived at home, before I got married to your father."  Karen wanted to know more.  "Was he your boyfriend?"  Helen smiled again.  "Well, I suppose so!   He used to call around every day and used to take me to the pictures on a Saturday night.  Everyone took it for granted that we were a couple, and I suppose he thought we were too.  But to tell you the truth Karen, we never discussed it.  I never promised him anything.  But I fell in love with your father and got married rather suddenly.  Some people used to say that I broke Jim McGleenan's heart.  But that's not true at all.  He got married not long after me.  As far as I can see, he's happy.  He's always down at the shops helping his wife with the shopping.  Can you imagine your father helping me?"  She laughed, but not bitterly.  Karen seized the opportunity to ask the answer to another much-pondered question.

"Ma!  How did you get together with my father?"  Helen Scott smiled.  "We met at a wedding in 1970.  He was the nicest looking fellow I'd ever seen.  Sharp.  Very fashionable.  It just happened very fast, Karen.  We were married within weeks, months.  We went off to England and your brother David was born.  But I hated it over there.  I mean, it's nice and all the rest of it.  But I missed my mother.  Especially after the baby was born.  He used to leave me on my own all day.  He was always out working and drinking.  I forced him to come back to Ireland and I don't think he's ever forgiven me.  He loved England.  He finds Ireland too boring, he always told me that.  But I didn't care.   When I got back home, I was able to get some company from my mother and my family especially when the baby was small.  Then a few years later Suzanne was born.  He got very distant from me when the kids were born.  I think he resented the attention I gave them! Karen thought for a minute.

"I was born very late in the day for the two of you.  I wouldn't say either of you were very pleased to hear that I was on the way!"  Helen Scott smiled.

"I had a miscarriage in between your sister and you.  I got quite a shock when you were on the way, but I never minded.  I took very good care of my health and my two elder children were nine and sixteen years old, so I wasn't under too much pressure.  Your father was furious and kept demanding that I go to England and have an abortion.  But I know him.  He came around in his own time."  Then she added with a smile, "He always does."  In spite of herself, Karen found herself smiling.  "You just never let him upset you, do you?"  Her mother smiled back.  "What's the point?" she said. Karen had just one more question.  "Any regrets, Ma?"  Helen Scott thought about it for a minute.

"No!" she said, emphatically.  "I made my choices and I stand by them, but........"  she hesitated for a minute and then went on.  "I can't say I don't feel a twinge of regret when I see Jim McGleenan helping his wife with her shopping on Saturday.   Just a little twinge...."  Then she laughed long and loud and said to her daughter "Well, now you know!"

So life went on as usual in the Scott household.  Karen continued with her studies, eschewing the joys of college life to spend the remainder of her time studying at home, helping her mother with the two little puppies who were growing up into sweet, delicate little terriers.  Whatever going out and socialising Karen did, she did with the girls she had been friends with in her school days.  There were three girls, Linda, Sharon and Susan.  They'd all grown up together and had shared the joys and sorrows of life.  They were totally supportive of Karen in her pursuit of higher studies.  All the three had opted for pre-employment courses and were now mostly working in offices and call centres.   Karen had had to work extremely hard at her studies in order to be eligible for a study grant as she knew she could not depend on her father to pay her fees.  The loyalty of her three friends had seen her through to a great extent.

One Saturday evening, the four girls were having a drink together in a local pub when Sam Scott came over and asked them what they would like to drink.  With a lot of laughs and giggles, the girls requested four colas.  Sam gave them a knowing look and ordered four bottles of the beer that they usually drank.  Luckily, they all drank the same drink,  and there was much laughing and joking about Karen's 'intelligent' father.  However, Karen noticed that one friend, Linda, was not laughing, but was quiet and subdued.  Karen also noticed that Linda  did not touch the drink that Sam Scott had bought for her, although no-one else  seemed to notice.  She saw Sharon had a reassuring hand placed on Linda's arm.  When the time came to leave, Sam Scott insisted on playing dad to all the girls and insisted on leaving them all home in his car.  Linda got out at Sharon's place.  Karen knew then that her father had been up to something.  He had always been a bit of a flirt, but he must have made an obvious pass at Linda at some stage and upset her badly.  Linda had obviously confided in Sharon about it, but they had obviously both agreed not to tell Karen, on the grounds that it might upset her.

Karen felt so sad.  For her friend who had been put through this distress.  For her mother who didn't deserve this insult, and most of all for her father, who in her opinion was making a complete fool of himself.  What an embarrassment to have a father like that!  She had absolutely no respect for him!

A few days later, Jill, the little female Yorkshire Terrier, gave birth to two tiny pups, both of which died within hours.    Thankfully, Jill survived, thanks to the care and love of Helen Scott and her daughter Karen.  The vet assured them that they were lucky that Jill had survived, being so weak and fragile.  It was then that Helen Scott made the decision to get the dogs neutered, and spare poor little Jill from further agony.

This news did not go down well with Sam Scott.  He was furious and let it be known.  He never got angry with Helen, but there is a first time for everything.  He demanded to know why Helen had got 'his' dogs neutered.   Helen coolly informed him that the responsibility for the care of the dogs rested with her, and she had taken the decision in their best interests.

"Those dogs cost me a packet!"  thundered Sam Scott.  "How much?" asked Helen.  He told her.  She laughed.  "They must have cost me at least five times that amount in dog food, vet's bills and medicines.  I've been severely down in my housekeeping money because of them.  I don't know what sort of cowboy you bought them off, but I'll wager he's not a registered dog breeder!"

"The best thing to do with the pair of them," roared Sam Scott, "is to put them in a sack with a stone in it, and throw it in the canal!"  Helen Scott let him have it.  "Over my dead body will you take away my dogs!" she thundered back at her husband.

"They cost me a lot of money!" repeated Sam Scott.  "You can't say they're yours.  They're mine!"  Helen Scott gave him a good, long look.  "Isn't it about time you spent a bit of money on me?  You haven't bought me a present in years.  Unless you count that bottle of sherry you bring me every Christmas.  Well, thanks for the dogs, Sam!  I'll be happy enough with them.  No diamond rings or leather jackets, please!"  With a groan of disgust, Sam Scott got up to leave.  He aimed a kick at one of the dogs, and missed.  He walked out and as he left, he shouted one last comment over his shoulder.

"You!  You always get your own way in the end!"  And he was gone. As his old, fifth-hand car roared off in the direction of the local pub, Karen and her mother shared a good laugh.

"Do you know what, Ma?  He'll never change!" said Karen.

"And do you know what?" sasid her mother,  "neither will I!"


This post originally appeared on Write Away on WordPress on 24/11/2009

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