That night, George lay awake for a long time, all kinds of conflicting ideas going through his discontented head, while the watercolourist slept peacefully beside him. He worried through his various intermingled insecurities, until an incongruous image flashed on the screen of his torments. It was one of the landlord’s dogs, a female Alsatian, smoking a roll-up. Lips closed on the flimsy tissue paper, she pulled on it deeply but carefully, trying to get the maximum draw without tearing the cigarette. The image was enough to make George laugh out loud in the dark room, and to relax him. He fell asleep instantly.
Next morning, however, as he lay dozing in bed, he half-dreamt, half-imagined the Alsatian skulking among the wild chicory flowers in the field, having a surreptitious drag. She was discovered there in the early light by a television crew, and prevailed upon to give a reluctant interview. How long had she been smoking, and why did she begin? She had been smoking, she said, ever since her hysterectomy. She had always wanted to smoke, but thought that as long as she was able to have puppies, it wouldn’t have been fair on them. But after her operation, she had felt free to indulge herself.
And why had she always wanted to smoke? The viewers of breakfast television were treated to the spectacle of the big mournful brown eyes close up, as she hesitated about her answer, and the producer back in the studio began to worry about impatient channel zappers. Well, she said at last, I had observed that my former master smoked, particularly when he was under stress. It seemed to have a calming effect. I have always suffered terribly from my nerves, you know…. Another close-up: two big tears formed in the two big doggy eyes.
The interviewer’s attention was diverted by the crackle of the producer’s voice on his headphones: Be sure and ask for the canine position on abortion. And don’t let the mutt go on for too long.
The Alsatian continued. I suppose, she said, it will come as a surprise to many of your viewers that a dog, especially an Alsatian, should suffer as terribly as I do from nerves. But we are actually more sensitive than you are. We mourn not only the loss of our own kind but the loss of our human friends as well, especially the children. My nerves are shot entirely from loss and mourning, especially since my former master never excluded me from the house, and allowed me to curl up on the floor beside him every night when he was watching television. And it was from watching the news on television that my troubles began. Night after night, I watched the suffering of humans and their children in war-torn and famine-stricken countries…
Close the interview! came the voice of the anxious producer over the headphones.
What is your position on abortion? the interviewer asked. A change came over the Alsatian. She perked up enormously, took out her tobacco pouch and Rizzla papers and rolled a nonchalant cigarette. I’m glad you asked me that, she said, but if you think you’re going to get a halfways decent answer in the short time you’re allowing me, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Oh my God, Barking! she hooted.
At last she stopped laughing and, taking a long drag on her cigarette, wound up her interview: I’d like to take this opportunity to say hello to my new friend George from Ireland, without whose dire dilemma I wouldn’t be here in this field this morning, and wouldn’t have had the opportunity of not airing my views on abortion. Watch this space, George; watch this space.
With this, the Alsatian did a disappearing act, taking television crew and countryside with her. A loud bang of words exploded in George’s ears, thunderous as the voice of the Almighty: WATCH THIS FIELD!
Wildly agitated, George jumped out of bed and ran down, still in his pyjamas, to the bluff overlooking the field. But there was nothing below only the field itself - to not air his views on, to not write about, only to watch.
From Ciaran O'Driscoll, A Year's Midnight, Pighog Press, 2012
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