Not Exactly Neighbourhood Watch

Reg demonstrates Neighbourhood Watch
Reg demonstrates Neighbourhood Watch

Reg’s Dlog (Well, what else would you call a dog’s blog?)

When the Old Girl said her latest short story was called NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH, I wasn’t inspired. I was also a bit confused because the photo prompt which had… well… prompted the story, showed a rather scary, native gentleman with long hair, face paint and beads, holding a skull above his head. Since I’m a bit hazy about the rules of copyright – well, I am only a dog, after all – I thought it was wise not to put the photo on my dlog but if you manage to get to the end of the story, you’ll find a link to the photo and you can click on it to see what he looks like.

I am also writing a story from the same picture prompt but mine’s not finished. It’s about a handsome and brave dog, called Rog (who looks quite a lot like me). One day whilst sailing the seven seas and minding his own business, he discovers a deserted island and finds the scary native fellow in the photo prompt.
The Old Girl pointed out that if the scary native chap is on the island, it can’t be a deserted island. How pedantic can you get? Anyway, she quite put me off and now I’m suffering from writer’s block. So, until I finish my epic story, I’ll post the Old Girl’s. It’s only 1,999 words long so it won’t take long to read and it won’t cost you anything although as I pointed out in my last post, you may need to pay your Internet Provider, your electricity/gas provider and in addition, you will be responsible for your own coffee/tea and biscuits. Oh and just to make sure I’m covered legally, I need to point out that other free, short stories are available although exactly where you’ll find them, I have no idea.

Well, here goes:

Neighbourhood Watch

‘Are you sure this isn’t illegal, Gladys?’

‘Illegal? Don’t be ridiculous, Elsie! This is my garden. I’m allowed to stroll about in it if I like!’

‘But we’re not strolling, dear. We’re peering through the fence.’

‘A mere technicality. It’s my garden. I can do what I like.’

‘But it’s spying.’

You call it what you like, Elsie. I prefer to call it “Neighbourhood Watch”.’

From the rear, the two elderly ladies looked like ill-matched bookends; both bent from the waist peering through the fence. Stocky Gladys, aware that bending over might raise the hem of her tweed skirt to unseemly heights, tugged at it periodically, although the only pair of eyes which might have observed her sensible underwear, belonged to Robert Louis Stevenson, the dog. And he wasn’t at all interested in grey knickers. The sight of Elsie’s plump leg encased in soft, pink tracksuit trousers however, was a different matter entirely. Robert Louis Stevenson pounced.

‘Get off!’ shouted Elsie, shaking her leg vigorously ‘Gladys, get your dog off!’

‘Shh! Someone’ll hear!’

‘I don’t care! Robert Louis Stevenson, get off!’ Elsie finally managed to dislodge the mop-like dog which rolled into the bushes. ‘Anyway so what if someone hears? You said this was all right.’

‘Well, of course it’s all right, it’s just that I wouldn’t want any of the neighbours to know we’re looking into Mr. Johnson’s garden. Especially that Minnie Pegwell from number six. She’s a gossip-monger.’

‘You still haven’t explained what we’re looking for, dear. Please tell me we’re not spying on Mr. Johnson!’

‘Certainly not! Anyway, we’re “neighbourhood watching”, not spying, Elsie. And we’re not looking for Mr. Johnson. I happen to know he’s out at the moment. But there’s definitely someone in his garden.’

‘Is it that grotesquely large cat of his, dear?’

‘Horatio? Oh no. He tends not to stay in Mr. Johnson’s garden when Robert Louis Stevenson’s about.’

‘Perhaps Mr. Johnson’s got a friend staying or a relative. He must get lonely living on his own.’

‘He didn’t mention anyone to me.’

‘Why should he, dear?’

‘Well no reason…’

‘So what makes you think there’s someone in the garden? Perhaps that ghastly boy, Cyril, from number 12 climbed over the fence to get a ball.’

‘No, the person I glimpsed was tall with long hair.’

‘Cyril’s mother? She spoils that boy terribly. It would be just like her to climb over the fence to get his ball to save him the effort, dear.’

‘No, this was a man. A tall, dark stranger with long hair.’

‘Did you see him in a crystal ball, Gladys?’

‘Oh very funny I’m sure.’

Elsie stood up, put her hands on her hips and pushed Robert Louis Stevenson back into the undergrowth with her foot. ‘Bad dog!’ she said, wagging her finger.

‘Get down, Elsie, he’ll see you!’

Elsie sighed and bending over again, she applied her eye to the hole. ‘But where is he, dear?’

‘I think he’s behind that tree trunk.’

There was silence for a few minutes, broken only the rattle of beads in the next garden and rustling in the undergrowth in Gladys’s garden as Robert Louis Stevenson got into position for another assault on the pink-clad leg.

‘Can you see anything?’ whispered Gladys.

‘Not really, there’s a bush in the way. No, wait! I can see a pair of feet. Perhaps Mr. Johnson has a new gardener.’

‘I suppose it’s possible. He hates mowing the lawn.’

‘Well, if he is a gardener, Mr. Johnson might want to think again. I don’t know much about health and safety, Gladys, but I do know it’s unwise to do the gardening bare foot. Are you sure Mr. Johnson hasn’t returned home without you knowing?’

‘I suppose he could have nipped home briefly. Oh my! Elsie, just look at that! No, on second thoughts, don’t! Well, it’s not Mr. Johnson, that’s for sure. Look at those legs! There’s not a varicose vein in sight. Mr. Johnson’s legs are almost purple. Oh my word, he’s bending over. Avert your eyes Elsie!’

‘How do you know Mr. Johnson’s got varicose veins?’ Elsie stood up and looked at her friend with a puzzled frown.

‘Get down, Elsie, he’ll see you!’ Gladys’s ears turned pink.

Elsie peered over the top of the fence ‘Good grief! That man is only wearing beads! And they’re round his neck.’ She ducked down beside Gladys, her back to the fence, eyes wide in disbelief. ‘D’you think he’s one of those naturalists?’

‘Don’t you mean nudalist?’

‘Well, I mean one of those people who don’t wear clothes, dear.’

‘He’s got bangles on.’

‘They’re not going to keep a stiff breeze out, are they?’

‘Well, he might be wearing pants. I can’t see. Can you?’

‘No, that low branch is hiding his… well, his manly dangly bits, dear. If he were to move out on to the lawn, we’d be able to see.’

‘Does he look like he’s the sort of man to wear Y-fronts?’

Elsie turned round and looked through the hole. ‘What sort of men wear Y-fronts? Oh my goodness, he’s turning round! Should we phone the police?’

Gladys shrugged. ‘I think we’d best keep our eyes on him and see if he gets up to no good.’

‘Of course he’s up to no good, Gladys! When was the last time you saw a naked nudalist dancing and wailing in a suburban garden? Even if it does turn out he’s wearing pants?’

‘Yes, it does seem quite odd.’

‘Shall we go and knock at Mr. Johnson’s door, he may be back now, dear?’

‘No, if he does nip home, he won’t need us to warn him there’s something going on in the garden. He’ll only have to look out of the window. That chanting is awfully loud.’

‘Yes, I suppose it’s not the sort of thing you can miss, dear.’

‘And Mr. Johnson has very good hearing.’

‘You seem to know a lot about Mr. Johnson, dear.’

Gladys blushed. ‘No, not really. I’ve just noticed he seems to be able to hear… things.’

‘How very unusual. Fancy being able to hear things.’

‘That was said in an unnecessarily sarcastic tone, Elsie. Have you been gossiping with Minnie Pegwell from number six? I admit we may have enjoyed the odd glass of sherry together. But don’t go jumping to conclusions.’

‘As if I would, dear. Still you kept the sherry-drinking very quiet.’

‘It was nothing,’ said Gladys, ‘and it was all Robert Louis Stevenson’s fault.’

‘Why doesn’t that surprise me, dear?’

‘He got into Mr. Johnson’s garden and tried to make friends with Horatio. Mr. Johnson called round to complain. He said the cat had been traumatised and that I’d have to make sure Robert Louis Stevenson didn’t escape again. Of course, I asked him in for tea and cake to make up for it. Then Robert Louis Stevenson came in through the dog flap. Horatio just didn’t understand he was only trying to make friends. But for a dog, he’s such a determined little chap, isn’t he?’

‘Yes, isn’t he. I’m afraid to say, Gladys, Robert Louis Stevenson is completely out of control. He’s far too frisky for his own good. Perhaps you could get some pills for him from the vet. Anyway, you said you had tea and cake with Mr. Johnson. That’s not sherry.’

‘Oh well, we may have met up a few times after that for sherry. Only to discuss fences and how to keep Robert Louis Stevenson under control, you understand.’

There was a shriek from Mr. Johnson’s garden which sent Gladys and Elsie back to their spy holes.

‘Oh my word, Elsie! He’s moved on to the lawn. And he is definitely not a man who wears pants!’

‘He’s got rather large…’

‘Elsie!’

‘What? I was going to say he’s got rather large muscles.’

‘Oh, I see. Yes, you’re right.’

‘I say, dear, I wonder if he’s one of those health and fitness gurus. Mr. Johnson might have got himself a personal trainer.’

‘No, I don’t think so. Mr. Johnson suffers with lumbago when he exerts himself, you won’t get him pumping iron.’

Elsie’s eyebrow arched, ‘Really? And how do you know that?’

‘Well, that’s what he told me, anyway.’

‘Over sherry?’

‘Sherry or cocktails, I can’t remember which. Anyway, does it matter?’ Gladys turned her head sideways and pressed her face closer to the hole in the fence, hiding her burning cheeks. ‘You know, I don’t think he can be a personal trainer. Just look at those dreadnoughts, they’d be sure to get caught up if he was lifting weights.’

‘Well, I expect he wears pants at the gym, dear.’

‘What are you talking about? His dreadnoughts are long but I don’t think they’re long enough to tuck in his pants, Elsie.’

‘Oh, I see what you mean, dear. Dreadnoughts. Yes, you’re talking about those stringy lengths of hair. I thought you meant his…’

‘Good gracious, Elsie! I haven’t been looking at his… well not much anyway. Although looking through this hole, his manly ensemble sort of fills your vision, doesn’t it?’

‘Gladys!’

The two women were silent for a few minutes.

‘He seems to be working himself up into quite a frenzy, doesn’t he, dear?’

‘Mm.’

‘You know, Gladys, I’ve had another thought. He’s got a white, painted stripe on his forehead and he looks a bit dusty. Do you think he could be a decorator?’

‘Well, Mr. Johnson’s bedroom is rather in need of a coat of paint. The skirtings are really quite discoloured and the wallpaper is a disgrace.’

‘Gladys! How on earth do you know that?’

‘Oh, er, well, Mr. Johnson told me, of course. Anyway, you could be right. But that still doesn’t explain what he’s doing dancing “au natural” in the garden. Why isn’t he upstairs painting?’

‘More to the point, dear, what’s that he’s holding over his head?’

‘It looks like a football, Elsie.’

‘No, it’s not round enough for a ball. It looks like… Hmm, it’s no good, I’m going to have to stand up. I just can’t make it out through that hole.’

‘Be careful, Elsie!’

Elsie peered over the fence, gasped, clutched her throat and sank on to her knees. ‘Gladys,’ she whispered hoarsely, ‘we need to telephone the police. That… that… person is holding a skull over his head!’

‘Shall I tell Mr. Johnson?’

‘Gladys, that could be Mr. Johnson. But what d’you mean, should you tell him? You keep telling me Mr. Johnson’s out.’

‘Well he is, unless of course, he’s nipped home.’

‘So you keep saying, dear, which makes me think that you think he’s somewhere quite close.’

Elsie followed Gladys’s gaze to her bedroom window.

‘Gladys Winterbottom! You hussy! No wonder that dog’s so rampant! What an example you set him! You and Mr. Johnson! I just don’t believe it. And to think I told Minnie Pegwell from number six there was no way you’d ever…’ She swerved nimbly as Robert Louis Stevenson sailed through the air, missing her leg by nanometres, and crashed into the fence.

‘Oh no! You bad dog! You’ve broken the fence again.’

‘Don’t change the subject, Gladys!’

‘But if we don’t do something, Robert Louis Stevenson will get into Mr. Johnson’s garden. Horatio doesn’t stand a chance.’

The ululation from Mr. Johnson’s garden stopped abruptly and was replaced by a surprised screech, followed by cries of indignation, canine grunting and rattling of beads.

Elsie and Gladys stooped to peer through their holes and were just in time to see the skull drop to the ground. Robert Louis Stevenson, having been thrown from the well-muscled leg, bounced twice and came to rest against the shed. The blow had obviously done nothing to reduce his ardour and he gave chase to the dusty, beaded figure with swinging dreadlocks, who was scrambling over the fence towards number six.

‘Let’s see what Minnie Pegwell makes of him!’ said Gladys, placing her forefingers in her mouth and whistling shrilly for Robert Louis Stevenson.

The End

So, if you reached the end and you want to know what the man in Mr. Johnson’s garden looked like, here’s a link

And if you think you might like to read a bit more of the Old Girl’s stuff (there’s no more about Elsie and Gladys as yet although there is a possibility that Minnie Pegwell from number six might be starring in another story) why not buy a copy of the ebook ‘DAFFODIL AND THE THIN PLACE’, which is available from Muse it Up Publishing here and from all major ebook suppliers. It’s also now available in paperback and you can buy your copy here