‘Neighbourhood Watch’ – The Sequel

Reg reading 'Neighbourhood Watch'
Reg reading ‘Neighbourhood Watch’

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

The Old Girl enjoyed writing her story ‘NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH’ so much, she decided to follow it up using the same picture prompt (if you want to see the picture, here’s a link.)

If you read the first story about Gladys Winterbottom and her friend Elsie Scrivener, you may like to find out what happened just before and after the stranger leapt out of Mr. Johnson’s garden and headed for Minnie Pegwell’s.

And if you’re not interested in reading that, you may like to wait until I finish my story. It’s about a very handsome and charming dog called Rog, who is uncannily like me. It’s also a sequel to my last story. Let me refresh your memory – One day whilst sailing the seven seas and minding his own business, Rog discovers a deserted island and finds the scary native fellow in the photo prompt. The scary native fellow, recognises Rog from a photo he has in his wallet and realises that he is the son of his long lost brother. I got a bit stuck at that point but I’m sure I’ll think of some way of finishing it soon, even if the Old Girl has been rather discouraging about the plot.

‘It’s just a story,’ I told her, ‘you know, fiction. Made up stuff.’ But she does insist on nitpicking. So what if Rog is a dog and the scary native fellow is a… well, a scary native fellow? Anyway, while I iron out the few plot wrinkles in my story, the Old Girl’s effort is below.

Minnie’s Story

Word Count = 2,000

Minnie Pegwell gasped.

‘Don’t forget to breathe, dear. You know what happens when you hyperventilate. My condition’s playing up and if you fall over again, I’m afraid you’ll have to stay on the floor.’ Percival Pegwell surveyed his wife over the top of his newspaper.

Minnie snorted. ‘Condition!’ she muttered, but it was enough to expel the air she’d sucked in forcefully when she’d spotted movement in Gladys Winterbottom’s garden.

Percival plumped up his pillows and settled back into the comfort of the memory foam mattress. Minnie despaired that he took so little interest in the neighbours. Someone needed to keep an eye on them or who could tell what might happen? But all Percy did was read the business pages in his newspaper. If she spent long enough at the window, he’d finish the sports section too. Morning was a busy time of day in the neighbourhood with people hanging out washing, putting out the rubbish and doing all the other activities that required her surveillance and supervision, and sometimes there was time for him to even read the television guide.

‘Would you believe it?’ Minnie said.

Silence.

‘I said “Would you believe it” Percy?’

‘What’s that, dear?’ he asked, in what she recognised as a pathetic attempt to sound interested.

‘That dreadful Gladys Winterbottom from number ten is out in her garden.’

‘Well, fancy that dear. A woman out in her own garden. Who’d have thought it?’

‘There’s no need to use that sarcastic tone with me, Percy Pegwell! I’ll have you know she’s bringing down the neighbourhood. I was only saying to Elsie Scrivener the other day, that loose morals will be the undoing of this part of Basilwade. It used to be a respectable place, but certain people are dragging us all into the mire.’

‘I’m sure it can’t be that bad, dear. Gladys Winterbottom seems a very pleasant lady, if you ask me.’

‘Ask you? What would you know? And may I tell you, Gladys Winterbottom is no lady. The things I could tell you! They’d make your hair stand on end. Supposing you had any in the first place.’

Percival’s sigh announced it was going to be one of those days. The sort of day when he could do nothing right. Yes, it was going to be a day pretty much like any other.

‘I warned Elsie Scrivener not to associate with the likes of Gladys Winterbottom. I said “Elsie,” I said, “if you lie down with dogs you’ll get fleas,” but she obviously didn’t take any notice. She’s in Gladys’s garden now. The pair of them are peering through the fence into Mr. Johnson’s garden. And there’s the vicious little fur ball that Gladys calls Robert Louis Stevenson. I ask you! Who on earth calls their dog Robert Louis Stevenson? The likes of Gladys Winterbottom, that’s who!’

‘Yes, dear.’

‘Ha! You see! Elsie’s leg is being defiled by that immoral dog. It’s scandalous!’

‘I’m not sure dogs have morals, dear, so wouldn’t that make all dogs immoral?’

‘Well this one’s turning immorality into an art form. But with a mistress like that, what d’you expect? I’ve seen her creeping into Mr. Johnson’s house and him creeping into hers.’

‘Well, they are adults, dear. And neither has a partner as far as I know. What’s wrong with them enjoying each other’s company?’

Enjoying each other’s company? Is that what you call it? Well, I suppose it would be no good asking you, would it? It’s not like we often enjoy each other’s company, is it?’

Percival’s rather prominent ears turned pink. He slithered further down under the bedclothes and raised the newspaper.

‘I hope you’re not thinking of going back to sleep. You promised to clean the windows today and if you don’t get up soon, the sun will be on the back of the house and the glass will end up with streaks.’

‘Yes, dear.’

‘You know, for someone who spends so much time in bed, you’re remarkably inactive in that area. The most exciting memories that our memory foam mattress is likely to have, are of you discovering your shares have gone up a penny.’

Percival raised the newspaper even higher, his ears deepening in colour.

‘Well, it says in the weather report we’re likely to have rain later,’ he said.

‘Trust you to change the subject. If it’s going to rain, you’d better hurry up and clean the windows.’ She turned to see if he’d started to emerge from the bedclothes. ‘I hope you’re not getting newspaper print over the sheets. I don’t want to have to wash them today. I’ve got enough to do. But I insist on clean sheets. You never know when you’re going to have to slip between them. Although I could probably predict with one hundred percent accuracy ̶ ‘

‘Shall I read your horoscope, dear?’ asked Percival.

‘If you must,’ she said through pursed lips. It was so obvious, the way he tried to divert her attention away from his lack of… well his lack of husbandly fulfilment. Hadn’t she tried everything she could think of? She’d offered to remove her hair rollers if it would help, although she’d been rather pleased he’d declined her offer. It took her an hour to put them in. And since it took a further hour to perform her nightly ritual of face-cleaning, skin-polishing and wrinkle-banishing cream application, she’d been secretly relieved. But it wouldn’t do to let Percy know that. And anyway, he’d had the nerve to suggest that he might be more willing, if the wrinkle-banishing cream wasn’t quite so thick… or so greasy… or so white. He explained apologetically the following morning that he’d had a phobia about clowns since childhood, which hadn’t soothed her mood greatly. Likening her to a clown, indeed! And to make matters worse, she’d seen him eyeing up Elsie Scrivener the other day through her binoculars. Yes, through her very own binoculars! And she could tell he liked what he saw, because his ears had turned puce. Funny little Elsie Scrivener in her garish tracksuits! It was as if she thought the very action of wearing something that purported to be sportswear, conveyed fitness on the wearer. Minnie looked down at her stick-thin body. She’d once been slightly overweight but a rigid fitness regime and a strict diet had soon melted away the fat. She’d have thought Percy would have been happy to see the bulges disappear but rather than complimenting her, his ears had betrayed a penchant for rotund women such as Elsie Scrivener. And come to think of it, his ‘condition’ had started at about the same time as she’d lost weight.

She’d had to take measures. One morning, she’d confiscated his shed key. He’d spent hours hunting for it and eventually, she’d watched him through the window as he sauntered down the garden and tried the door. He’d placed his shoulder against it, obviously expecting resistance, but it had opened so easily he’d hurtled inside headfirst. Fancy imagining she’d have locked it! What sort of idiot would lock her husband’s man-shed? That would have given him reason for grievance. No, she was much cleverer than that. The door was unlocked so he could get in, but he couldn’t keep her out. So, there was no hiding away for hours avoiding her.

To be honest, it hadn’t really solved her problem. His ‘condition’ had worsened and he often went out now, and worryingly, she hadn’t as yet discovered where he went.

‘Shall I read out your horoscope?’ he asked.

‘If you must.’

‘Ah, mm, let me see. Scorpio the scorpion, ah yes. Hold on to your hat! Something will enter your life today that will turn everything upside down. Don’t stop to consider the consequences, just dive in and enjoy yourself.’

‘Huh! What rubbish. As if anything is going to turn me upside down! Huh!’ She turned back to her binoculars.

‘Would you like to hear my horoscope, dear?’

‘If I must.’

‘Umm… Aries. After a difficult start, things will begin to pick up today. Romance is on the cards for you. Although you may need to make the first move. But it will definitely be worth it.’ Percival tailed off, ‘I think I’ll get up and start the windows, dear. Would you like me to do the insides as well?’

‘Huh! What a load of twaddle. Romance indeed! And I’ve no idea how you came to be born under the sign of Aries. You’re hardly a ram, are you?’

‘No, but you’re definitely a Scorpio, dear,’ Percival muttered as he struggled into his dressing gown and shuffled to the bathroom.

‘What did you say?’ she called after him.

But there was no reply.

She turned back to her binoculars.

What were Gladys and Elsie looking at in Mr. Johnson’s garden?

And then through the trees, she saw him. And it wasn’t Mr. Johnson, that was for sure. This man was graceful; dark and exotic with long hair which snaked about his bare chest as he danced.

Breathe! Breathe! She told herself as he stepped out on to the grass, revealing his muscular nakedness. As he gyrated his hips, he raised his hands above his head holding aloft a white object. Minnie couldn’t identify it through the binocular lenses which had steamed up and by the time she’d wiped the condensation away, the scene below had transformed. Elsie was wagging her finger at Gladys, who was on tiptoe, looking into Mr. Johnson’s garden. Robert Louis Stevenson had obviously escaped through a large hole in the fence and had hurled himself at the nude stranger’s leg. A woman screamed ‘Cyril! Cyril! Watch out!’ as an enormous cat sailed through the air, having launched itself from Mr. Johnson’s pear tree into the garden of number fourteen.

And then Minnie’s heart almost stopped. The strange man shook Robert Louis Stevenson off his leg and began to run. He vaulted over Mr. Johnson’s fence landing yards from Gladys and then in a few bounds, sprang over the hedge, into number eight’s garden. Daphne Didcott, who was watering her runner beans screamed and turned the hose on him as he swerved and cleared her back wall in one leap… landing like a ballet dancer in Minnie’s garden.

There was no need for binoculars now. He was just yards away in the garden below. He looked about, eyes wide in alarm and then spotting the shed, he gently opened the door and slipped inside.

Something will enter your life today that will turn everything upside down. Don’t stop to consider the consequences…

Minnie ripped the rollers from her head and ran her fingers through her hair, as she scampered down the stairs.

 

Percival returned from the bathroom to find hair rollers and pins scattered all over the bedroom carpet but thankfully, Minnie wasn’t there. She’d obviously finished her neighbourhood watch for the morning. He looked out of the window to see if there was anything vaguely interesting going on. Gladys Winterbottom was on her knees, calling a small furry dog through a hole in the fence. Mr. Johnson was trying to climb over his fence into the garden next door, where a tall thin woman was shrieking ‘Get that cat off my Cyril!’ And that curvaceous Elsie Scrivener in her pink tracksuit was walking up Gladys’s garden to the side gate. Perhaps she was going home and if he got dressed quickly, he might bump into her in the street and she might invite him in for coffee and biscuits again. And who could tell where that might lead? Again.

But where was Minnie?

A sudden movement caught his eye. There was something going on inside the shed.

His shed.

It was rocking rhythmically. And were those Minnie’s legs and feet he could see through the shed window? Percival picked up the binoculars. If I didn’t know better, he thought, I’d say Minnie was doing handstands in there. What on earth is she doing upside down?

***

What did you think? To be honest, I didn’t really understand it. Why was Minnie doing handstands in the shed? And when I ask the Old Girl, she keeps laughing. If you want to read the prequel, you can find it here

Anyway, if you liked that (and even understood it), you may like the Old Girl’s book ‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’. It’s a much more genteel story and doesn’t involve Robert Louis Stevenson or sheds. Also, all royalties go to St. Nicholas Church, Laindon with Dunton, where the story takes place in the Victorian times.

You can get in in ebook form, from the Muse It Up Publishing website, here and it’s available from other ebook retailers. You can also get it in paperback format from Amazon, here.

Well, I need to get back to work. I’ve got to explain where the scary native chap keeps his wallet and why he has a dog – albeit a very handsome and suave dog – as a nephew.