(I wrote this story in 2017, when Boris Johnson was Foreign Secretary. It was meant as a fierce and rather unsubtle satire on his actions while in that post. However, as none of the editors to whom I sent the story gave any sign of having noticed this, or indeed any sign at all, I don’t know if the satirical intent came across. Anyway, now, with Johnson about to depart from the post of Prime Minister, seems as good a time as any to make it public.)
While we were away, we left Jasper with Uncle Henry. Jasper is our Jack Russell. We flew back on Sunday night, slumped into bed, and slept for twelve hours. We didn’t feel up to going round and collecting him until the following afternoon.
When we arrived, Uncle Henry was out in the garden, shovelling the last of the soil into the hole. “Offal,” he said. “How was Florida?”
“Lovely,” I said. “I hope Jasper has been behaving himself.”
“Oh, he’s been no trouble,” said Uncle Henry.
“Where is he?” I asked.
“Do come in and have a drink,” said Uncle Henry.
I looked round as we went in, but I couldn’t see Jasper. “Is he having a nap?” I asked.
“Tea, coffee? Something stronger?”
“Coffee, please. No milk or sugar.” Linda wanted tea. We sat down.
We talked about our holiday for a bit, and Uncle Henry admired our tans. He told us the latest news from the Rotary Club. At last, we got up to leave.
“Anyway,” I said, “we’d better disturb Jasper and let him know we’re back.”
“Pish and tush,” said Uncle Henry. “You can pop in and collect him any time you like.”
“I’d like to have him now,” Linda said. “We’ve missed him.”
Uncle Henry said: “Tell you what, sit yourselves back down and I’ll get you another drink. Whisky and splash?”
So we sat down again and he went over to the cabinet and measured out a generous portion for me.
“I’m driving,” said Linda. “Just water.”
Uncle Henry got Linda some water and handed us our drinks.
He said: “Jasper is… chin-chin… a lovely little dog. An absolute corker.”
“Thanks,” I said, taking a sip.
“He’s just a bit under the weather, that’s all. Nothing to signify. He’ll be right as rain again in no time.”
Linda set down her water and looked at Uncle Henry. “Where is he? What have you done with him?”
Uncle Henry raised a hand. “There’s really no need to worry,” he said. “The vet’s just giving him the once-over right now. He’ll be back before you’ve noticed he’s gone.”
“But,” Linda said, “we have noticed he’s gone.”
“Ha ha,” said Uncle Henry.
Linda stood up. “Come on,” she said. “Yes, you too, Uncle Henry.”
“Me?” said Uncle Henry.
“You,” said Linda, “are taking us to the vets.”
We went in our car. The journey was a bit tense, but Uncle Henry kept things jolly. “Jasper’s a perky little beggar, isn’t he?” he said. “Many’s the time he’s nipped at my ankles. Bless his little cotton socks. Now I mind the time–”
“Shut up,” said Linda.
“My, my,” said Uncle Henry, giving me a glance.
Uncle Henry directed us there, and we parked up and went in to Reception. He strode up to the desk, bared his teeth, and said: “Ah, young lady, we’d like to see the vet, please.”
The receptionist looked at him without smiling. “Do you have an appointment?” she asked.
“No, we do not. You see–”
“What’s it about?”
“It’s about Jasper, our dog.”
“Jack Russell,” I said.
“Jack, as my nephew so rightly says, Russell. You will recall I brought the little fellow in earlier as he was feeling a wee bit on the peaky side and I was worried. You remember?”
“Well, well, you see a lot of people. Anyway, if we might just, you know, toddle on through and see how little Jasper is getting on, then–”
“We don’t have no Jack Russells here.”
“Oh, piffle, of course you do. I brought him in myself this morning. Now I’m sure if you will just take a look at that absolutely tip-top database of yours–”
She stood up without a word and walked away behind the scenes.
“Courtesy,” Uncle Henry said to me, “is dead.”
Five minutes later, she came back. “I told you,” she said. “We don’t have no Jack Russells. You must’ve been mistaken.”
“Madam,” said Uncle Henry, “I am never mistaken. Check again.”
“We haven’t got none,” she said.
Next, the vet came out. “What’s the problem?” she asked.
We explained what the problem was.
“I spoke to you about it this morning,” said Uncle Henry.
“No, you didn’t,” said the vet. “I’ve never seen you before in my life.”
“But this is absurd,” said Uncle Henry. “I was here this morning. I saw you about Jasper, just as plain as I’m standing here.”
“No, you didn’t. I wasn’t even in this morning.”
Uncle Henry looked at them both with a magnificent disdain. “I have but one word for you, and that is tosh and balderdash. However, if you are going to maintain this unhelpful attitude there is clearly no point in our pursuing the discussion. Come.” He swept out of the surgery, Linda and I following in his wake. The vet and the receptionist stared after us.
Back in the car, Linda asked: “What have you done with him?”
“I told you,” said Uncle Henry. “Jasper is being looked after by the veterinarians. I can’t conceive why they are being so awkward about it.”
“This is ridiculous! Of course they don’t have him.”
“Yes, they do,” said Uncle Henry. “I brought him here myself.”
“They said they don’t, Henry. They said it just now.”
“Oh, don’t take any notice of that. They’ll come round.”
“It’s just their way. Now don’t you distress yourself over this absurd business one second longer. Leave it all to your Uncle Henry.”
“Henry. Jasper wasn’t there. He just wasn’t.”
Uncle Henry looked over at Linda for a while. “Well,” he said, finally. “Well. I must say I am surprised to see you taking their word over that of your own flesh and blood. However, I am big enough to rise above the slings and arrows. I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We’ll wait till you’ve calmed down, and then we’ll sort it all out. Tomorrow.”
So we left it at that.
Linda drove us back to Uncle Henry’s place.
“You must stay for dinner,” said Uncle Henry. “It’s the least I can do.”
“Yes,” Linda said, “it is.”
As soon as we entered the house, Uncle Henry went into the kitchen and shut the door in our faces. “Don’t come in,” he called out to us. “I absolutely forbid you. This is my special treat. My pièce de résistance.” So we stayed in the living room, talking in undertones.
We heard from the kitchen the loud slams of the cleaver on the chopping-board and the rending of flesh. At intervals, the sounds would cease, and Henry would burst in, his apron smeared with blood, and top up our glasses with some choice wine.
At first, we chatted brightly and without cessation, Linda and I. Then, little by little, imperceptibly, pausing more, thinking more, at last we stopped talking, and the silence descended, and we sat, our glasses empty, awaiting the awful moment when Uncle Henry would appear at the door, and announce that dinner was served.
I don’t know enough about UK politics to understand some of the particulars, but in terms of generally being a creepy satire that conveys someone is a terrible person, this hit the nail on the head.
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I don’t often get really ANGRY about public events, but that man’s carelessness with words, his indifferent relationship with truth, and the often terrible real-life consequences of these things, still make my blood boil.
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