Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Tally

Every year, George would give them each a spaniel for Christmas. A generous gift; but George was a man of give and take.
Every year, George would give them a spaniel for Christmas, but without fail by St. Valentine’s, all of the dogs would have mysteriously vanished.
One would run away on Boxing Day night, homesick for its mother; a firecracker would startle one on New Year’s Day. The January frosts took most; they would go out walking and most probably they had fallen through the ice.
The Mill Brook Lake had taken 43 dogs all told. That’s what they said – the bottom must be dog deep.
But every year, George would give them all a spaniel for Christmas.
It would not be the same spaniel; that would be reckless. For such an operation to work you must rotate the dogs, otherwise folks would get suspicious.

“George,” they might have said, “you said dog drowned Mill Brook Lake, Handsel Monday last. Now you give dog back. Why you do this, George?”
But George rotated the dogs, so each would receive their neighbour’s dog of the previous year. Nobody was any the wiser, though occasionally one might say,

“George, I am not so good with the dogs, is there not some better gift? Four have drowned; one stole my horse and left for the East; birds ate two. Please George, no more dogs.”

Or one might think, “the dog at my neighbour’s house is the likeness of poor Rex, who burned straight to ash.”
Every twelve years or so, George would have to buy new dogs. This was the part of the plan he hated most.