Reg’s Dlog (Well, what else would you call a dog’s blog?)
Have you ever had an imaginary friend? I haven’t, so I was interested to read the Old Girl’s current short story in the ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ series ‘Cyril’s Story’. If you haven’t read any of the ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ stories, I suggest you read the first one ‘Gladys Winterbottom’s Story’ here and the second one ‘Minnie Pegwell’s Story’ here. If you don’t, you won’t know what on earth is going on in the third story, ‘Cyril’s Story’. Although it’s quite possible you won’t know what on earth is going on, even if you do actually read them all.
I have to say, I’m a bit peeved because the Old Girl has stolen my name. Well, not my name exactly – she hasn’t used ‘Reg’ but the hero of my latest story is the incredibly handsome and brave Rog. And the imaginary friend in her story is ‘Rog’. Well, actually it’s ‘Roger’ but let’s not quibble about a couple of letters. By the way, if you’re wondering where my story is, it’s faltered a bit and I may be forced to abandon it and start again. It’s probably my fault for making Rog invisible and then taking him to a deserted island on which there is no food or water. It was all very gripping and nail biting, but now I can’t think how to get Rog off the island before he dies because when anyone lands on the island after hearing cries for help, they can’t see Roger and keep sailing away without him. Perhaps I’ll ask the Old Girl how to develop the plot – she seems to be able to write a lot of nonsense. Anyway, before I forget, here’s Cyril’s Story:
Word Count = 2,005
‘Who’d win, in a fight between a T. rex and Bigfoot?’ asked Cyril.
‘Who do you think?’ asked Roger.
‘Well, I think if the T. rex managed to ̶ ‘
‘Cyril! Who are you talking to?’ Mum flung open the door of the office in the wooden cabin at the end of the garden. Her eyes swivelled back and forth.
‘No one, Mum.’
‘You’re not talking to that imaginary friend again, are you?’
‘No, I was just saying my times tables. Four nines are…um…thirty-six.’
‘Well, if you’re sure, Sweety-Pie. I’m glad you’ve grown out of that nonsense with Robert.’
‘Cyril! We’re ten years old, so we’re a big boy now. And big boys don’t have imaginary friends, do they?’
‘Five nines are…um…forty-five.’
‘Good boy,’ she said as she closed the door.
Cyril threw in a ‘Six nines are…um.’ as she walked up the path to the house. ‘What are six nines, Roger?’
‘Dunno,’ said Roger, ‘I’m just imaginary. If you can’t remember, how d’you expect me to?’
‘So, is it T. rex or Bigfoot?’ asked Cyril.
‘Who do you think?’ asked Roger.
P’raps he was getting too old for an imaginary friend. It wasn’t like Roger ever answered anything. But then again, he never disagreed with Cyril either. School had been one long argument. The others had picked on him or had got him into trouble for picking on them. And as for the teacher!
‘That woman blames our Cyril for everything,’ Mum had told Dad, ‘He’s a sensitive boy, so I’ve made up my mind, I’m going to home-school him.’
Cyril had punched the air in triumph and so had Roger. Of course Cyril had to work now and again, but Mum spent a lot of time chatting to her friends, giving him time to go to his den behind the rhododendron bush next to Mr. Johnson’s fence. If Mum discovered he’d left the office, he usually claimed he was studying flora and fauna. He wasn’t sure what flora and fauna were but Mum was thrilled, so it didn’t really matter.
‘D’you think I should?’
Cyril slipped out of the shed without replying. He knew Roger would be there for the world’s first battle between a Stegosaurus and…well…that depended on how many marshmallows were left in the carrier bag he was clutching. Luckily, there were enough for an alien army. He pushed a Cheesy Wozzler into each marshmallow.
‘Laser guns?’ asked Roger.
Now for the Stegosaurus.
He nibbled the edges of several crisps until they were the right shape, then pushed them, rounded end down, into the top of a large, jam doughnut, to give rows of pointed, armoured plates.
He placed the doughnut Stegosaurus on the tea tray opposite the pink and white marshmallow, alien soldiers armed with Cheesy Wozzlers and surveyed them.
Once, Mum had almost caught him mid-fight, but the den was sufficiently inaccessible that he’d had time to sweep the Swiss Roll Crocodile and Liquorice Python into the carrier bag and shove it under the bush before making a show of inspecting a leaf.
‘Look Mum, you can see it photosynthesising.’
She’d squealed with delight although she’d added that you couldn’t actually see photosynthesis take place but well done for looking. He’d then suggested she gave him a spelling test. Mum had almost expired with joy.
By the time Cyril had got back to his carrier bag, it had been invaded by a swarm of ants.
‘Ants beat Crocodile and Python,’ Roger had remarked.
Cyril checked his watch. He had plenty of time for doughnut Stegosaurus and the alien marshmallow troops to fight.
‘Who d’you think’s gonna win?’ he asked Roger.
‘Dunno, who do you think?’
‘Stegosaurus,’ said Cyril, dropping the doughnut forcefully onto the marshmallow cohort.
The aliens fought valiantly but were all squashed to oblivion by the Stegosaurus, until he was wounded by a Cheesy Wozzler. Gushing jam, he died, but not before Cyril pronounced him the winner.
‘You were right, as usual,’ said Roger.
‘Mmm,’ agreed Cyril through a mouthful of marshmallow.
‘Want some?’ Cyril gestured to the mess on the tray.
‘Oh well, I guess I’d better eat the lot.’
‘Yeah,’ said Roger, ‘well, you usually do.’
Lunch had been cut short by the arrival of Mum’s friend, Florrie.
‘You’ll never guess what Mr. Johnson’s been doing…’ she stopped when she spotted Cyril.
‘Take your lunch to the office, please, Sweetie-Pie. I’ll be along shortly to mark your history essay.’
Florrie was hopping from foot to foot in anticipation of sharing her news so he knew Mum would be occupied for some time discussing boring Mr. Johnson.
‘Of course,’ he said grabbing his sandwiches and closing the back door behind him.
‘Right, Roger, follow me. I’ve had an idea. You know you were saying that we need to find some new challengers?’
‘No, I don’t remember that.’
‘Well, if you’d have thought about it, that’s what you’d have said.’
‘Yeah, I guess I would.’
‘I’ve thought of two new opponents.’
‘Man-eating Tiger versus Killer Wolf.’
Roger nodded. ‘Good choice. Do we need to go to the supermarket for more supplies?’
‘No, these are real fighters.’
‘Yeah. Follow me.’
Horatio eyed Cyril warily.
‘Here, kitty.’ Cyril peeled a sandwich apart and dropped the salami on the grass.
Horatio rose slowly and ambled to the meat. He sniffed it delicately and then turning his nose up, he was about to saunter off as fast as an overweight cat can saunter, when Cyril grabbed him.
‘You weren’t much help,’ Cyril said to Roger later, as he inspected the scratches and bite marks on his hands and arms.
‘I thought you had it under control,’ said Roger.
‘Well, at least we know he won’t need any training. He’s combat-ready and can obviously look after himself, so, we’ll train the Wolf.’
Cyril was gasping for air, by the time he’d climbed over Mr. Johnson’s fence, crept across the end of his garden and clambered into Mrs. Winterbottom’s. On the way, he’d had the strangest feeling he was being watched. It had unnerved him and for a second, he thought he saw a grey face appear in the window of Mr. Johnson’s shed.
‘Rubbish,’ said Roger, ‘you’re just chickening out of finding the Wolf.’
‘I’m not! Look, I’ve got my training weapon. I’m ready!’
‘That’s a fluffy duster on a stick.’
‘Watch and learn,’ said Cyril.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s overgrown fringe might have obscured his vision, but it hadn’t hindered his sense of smell and he’d homed in on the meat with which Cyril lured him to the end of the garden, like a salami-seeking missile.
‘You call that a wolf!’ Roger scoffed, ‘He looks like a bit of fluff on steroids.’
Cyril waved the duster in front of Wolf.
‘What’re you doing?’ asked Roger.
‘I’m going to train him to attack. The duster looks a bit like a cat. Aargh ̶ ‘
‘He’s a quick learner,’ said Roger as Robert Louis Stevenson pounced and pinned the duster to the ground. ‘Why’s he bouncing up and down on it like that?’
‘Beats me,’ said Cyril, ‘but he looks like a pro. I don’t think there’s much I can teach him about fighting.’
Cyril was beginning to doubt he’d ever get the pink, fluffy duster out from beneath the quivering Robert Louis Stevenson. Finally, he managed to prise the dog off with his foot and made it back to the office, seconds before Mum came to check up on him and mark the history essay he hadn’t done.
‘Seven nines are…um…’ he said hopefully.
The following day Cyril rose early and copied something from the Internet into his history book, ready for Mum when she got back from driving Dad to the station.
‘Where’s the fight gonna be?’ asked Roger.
‘In Mrs. Winterbottom’s garden. She’ll let Wolf out soon and then we’ll have to encourage Tiger over there.’
Cyril cut the bacon he’d saved from his breakfast, into small pieces and laid a trail from the office, across Mr. Johnson’s garden and into Mrs. Winterbottom’s. Again, he had the strange feeling that someone was watching him and he was glad to get back into his garden. But all thoughts of the weird face he thought he’d seen, were pushed from his mind when he received a text from Mum saying she would be stopping at the supermarket on the way home. Brilliant! Now there’d be plenty of time for the fight.
‘Look, there’s Horatio!’ whispered Roger, ‘He’s found the bacon.’
‘I wonder if he can save his!’ said Cyril.
‘His bacon, stupid. Keep up, will you!’
Cyril crept after Horatio and watched over the fence as he progressed across Mr. Johnson’s garden, daintily picking up the bacon pieces. He paused momentarily and stiffened with his ears pricked up.
‘What’s the matter with him?’ asked Roger.
Cyril shrugged and then, inexplicably, the world of normality imploded.
From somewhere behind the bushes in Mr. Johnson’s garden came the stamping of feet and the rattling of beads, followed by rhythmic chanting.
‘Who’s that?’ whispered Cyril, his eyes wide in alarm.
‘Dunno,’ said Roger
Through a gap in the bushes, Cyril could see Mrs. Winterbottom and her friend Miss Scrivener excitedly bobbing up and down behind the fence.
‘Grown ups!’ said Cyril, ‘They’re all barking mad.’
And as if on cue, Robert Louis Stevenson started barking madly, while Miss Scrivener screamed.
‘If Wolf doesn’t calm down, he’ll exhaust himself before he’s even set eyes on Tiger. We’ve got to do something,’ said Cyril.
‘We’ve lost Tiger,’ said Roger.
‘There he is,’ said Cyril pointing at the ungainly cat perched in the pear tree, ‘if you ask me, he’s a coward. He ran off when Wolf started barking. So, the Wolf wins.’
‘Listen!’ said Roger.
‘At what? I can’t hear anything for all the noise.’
‘I think it’s your mum calling.’
Cyril burst out of the rhododendron bush, taking both Mum and Horatio by surprise. There was the splintering of wood and frenzied barking in Mr. Johnson’s garden, accompanied by shrieks, yells and shouting.
‘What on earth… Oh no! Cyril! Cyril! Watch out!’ yelled Mum as Horatio teetered sideways and stepped onto a dead bough.
The blow of the branch and cat knocked Cyril down, driving the air from his lungs and he lay on his back struggling for breath.
‘Get that cat off my Cyril,’ shouted Mum at Mr. Johnson, who’d suddenly appeared at the fence. He climbed over and picked up the dazed Horatio, cradling him tenderly.
‘You should keep that young whippersnapper under control,’ he said pointing at Cyril, ‘he’s a menace!’
‘It’s your cat that’s the menace…’
Clutching his chest and wheezing, Cyril crept towards the house.
‘Where were you when I needed you?’ he asked Roger but there was no reply.
Once in his bedroom, he surveyed the madness taking place below. Mr. Johnson and Mum were still arguing, as were Mrs. Winterbottom and Miss Scrivener. Robert Louis Stevenson was yapping hysterically. And as if there wasn’t enough racket, a grey figure with swinging dreadlocks leapt into view, shrieking and wailing. He scrambled over the fence, and crossed Mrs. Winterbottom’s garden in a few bounds. Hurdling into Mrs. Didcott’s garden, he swerved and bounded over the wall into Mr. Pegwell’s, finally slipping into the shed.
‘Let’s not ever grow up, Roger. Grown ups are bonkers.’
‘Well, I won’t,’ said Roger ‘but you might have to.’
The arguments below were subsiding. Mr. Johnson had climbed back into his garden and was now talking to Mrs. Winterbottom over the fence. Miss Scrivener, Mum, Horatio and Robert Louis Stevenson were nowhere to be seen.
But the interesting thing was that Mr. Pegwell’s shed was rocking.
‘You know what?’ said Cyril, ‘I reckon there’s a fight going on in that shed. I saw that Zombie bloke go in there and I bet he’s battling Mr. Pegwell.
‘Yeah,’ said Roger.
‘Who d’you reckon’ll win? Zombie or Mr. Pegwell?’ asked Cyril.
‘Dunno,’ said Roger, ‘who do you think?’
Well, what d’you think?
After reading that story, I think I need an imaginary friend. If you liked that story, you might like a longer story, so why not try ‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’? You can find the ebook here and the paperback version here. And in the meantime, if you discover where I can find an imaginary friend, please let me know. I wonder of someone will start up an online imaginary friend site, like a dating site. What a great idea!