“Lovely evening for it,” said Archie’s neighbour, locking up his car. Archie nodded and waved his free hand but kept moving. He didn’t want to get caught up in any gossip or putting-the-world-to-rights right now. He just wanted to get Poochums to the park, let him do his business and then get home before his date arrived.
The date had said he was a dog-lover and had made some off-colour remark about liking their style. Archie had laughed – well, he had typed HAHAHA, which somehow seemed more genuine than the ubiquitous LOL.
Poochums was dragging his feet. It was almost as if he knew Archie had company coming and was already trying to sabotage the evening. Poochums was a friendly dog up to a point. He could get jealous and possessive if he thought Archie was lavishing a little too much attention on someone or something else.
“Come on, Poochums,” Archie walked ahead. Poochums affected interest in every gatepost, lamppost and other item of street furniture as if he had all the time in the world.
Eventually they reached the park. Archie let Poochums off the lead, knowing he wouldn’t tear off. Poochums never went far. He would root around in the flowerbeds and circle the tree trunks, taking inventory of which other dogs had visited recently. And then, his investigations over, Poochums would squat and begin to tremble as he ‘did his business’ on the grass.
While he waited, Archie took out his phone. He scrolled through the text messages his date, Andy, had sent. Andy. Andy and Archie. A and A. It was like destiny or something.
Poochums trotted back and Archie realised he had a duty to perform. He reached in his pocket for a plastic bag. He couldn’t find one. He had neglected to bring one, so distracted had he been in anticipation of Andy’s visit.
He swore. He toyed with the idea of just leaving it there, just walking away. But the prospect of a fine or a guilt-trip next time he saw a blind kid was too much. He had to pick up Poochums’s poop and dispose of it in the red bin on a stick.
An idea! He strode to the nearest waste bin and, checking no one was watching, delved his hand in to pull out a carrier bag. It contained a sandwich wrapper and some bits of salad. Archie tipped these into the bin and, wrapping the bag around his hand, returned to his dog’s doings.
This was the worst part of owning a dog. The warmth! The smell! Gagging, Archie bundled the bag into a neat parcel and tied the handles into a bow. It was then that he noticed the bag had holes in it. Air holes. Some of Poochums’s leavings had oozed through and smeared Archie’s palm.
Archie managed to open the lid on the red box on the stick and drop the bag inside. He also managed to clip the lead onto Poochums’s collar without his palm brushing against anything. Poochums tried to sniff the hand but Archie kept it out of reach.
They headed for home. Mercifully, the neighbour was no longer lingering. There should be just enough time for Archie to get indoors and wash his hands.
He was at the front door and fumbling his left hand into his right trouser pocket for his key when Andy arrived. Poochums gave a yip of alarm.
Andy was tall, tanned and gorgeous. He smiled and said hello and his teeth flashed white in the porch light.
“Um,” said Archie, taken aback.
“Lovely to meet you,” said Andy and before Archie knew what was happening, Andy had seized him by the hand and was shaking it heartily.
Archie cringed. At his heels, Poochums let out a sound that was not unlike a snicker. A snicker of triumph. He wagged his tail and panted, as if to say, Let’s see how long this one sticks around.