“Hello, Timmy,” David grinned on the doorstep. “Thought you might need some company?”
Timmy looked puzzled. “Why?”
“Because – you know – Raffles.”
Timmy nodded. He beckoned David in. “I’m all right,” he said. “Raffles is in a better place, Mummy says.”
“Oh, what’s this?” Timmy’s mother emerged from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron. “Talking about me behind my back! Hello, David. Staying for dinner?”
“You’re very welcome. There’s more than enough. Now, you two go up to Timmy’s room and play quietly. I’ll call you down when it’s ready.”
“Thanks, Mum!” Timmy pounded up the stairs.
David lingered in the hall. “Is he all right, Mrs Farrell? I thought he’d be sad.”
“You’re a good friend,” Mrs Farrell smiled. “And losing a pet can be tough. Did you know, Raffles was as old as Timmy? That’s quite old for a dog.”
David did the mental arithmetic. “Raffles was 70!”
“Yes. But he’s not in pain any more. Now, you run along.”
She went back to the kitchen. David caught a whiff of the dinner to come. It smelled delicious.
He joined Timmy in his room for a quick game of superheroes, bashing action figures into each other and doing all the sound effects with their mouths.
“Timmy…” said David, toying with a figure of Wonder Hound. “It’s OK, you know. If you want to talk about Raffles.”
Timmy scrunched his nose. “What for?”
“Perhaps you could write it down. Then you could bury it. With him. With Raffles.”
Timmy looked aghast.
“It could help you. That’s what funerals do. They help people. When my gran –”
But Timmy wasn’t listening. He bombarded Mr Terrific into Blast-o-path, making noises like explosions. David sat back and watched his friend. Bottling things up; that’s what Timmy is doing, David diagnosed. And that’s never good – not according to David’s mother’s magazines, anyway.
Mrs Farrell called them from the foot of the stairs. Dinner was ready.
“Looks delicious, Mrs Farrell,” David tucked a napkin under the collar of his Fabulous Five T-shirt. “And it smells – like heaven!”
Mrs Farrell grinned. “I’m glad you approve, David. It’s nice to get a compliment.” She sent a meaningful glare across the table to her husband, who was already tucking in. “Roger,” she hissed. “The prayer!”
David dropped his knife and fork. He had forgotten that Timmy’s family were quite religious and did things David and his family did not do at home. He decided the best thing would be to close his eyes and bow his head.
“We thank Raffles for the time he shared with us and the love he gave,” Timmy’s father intoned. David thought he heard Timmy sniff back a tear. “And we say our final farewell to him with this commemorative repast. So be it.”
“So be it,” echoed Mrs Farrell.
“So be it!” said Timmy enthusiastically. “Come on, David. Don’t let your dinner go cold!”
David looked up. The Farrells were all smiles. They made enthusiastic noises as they devoured the meal Mrs Farrell had prepared. David tried a forkful of the mashed potato. It was the creamiest, smoothest he had tasted. Even the peas – and he had never been a fan of peas – were sweet and – and – minty! David’s mother would never put mint in the peas. She would dismiss it as yet another of the Farrells’ odd ways.
“Something wrong, David?” Mrs Farrell gave him a look of concern. “You haven’t touched your meat.”
“It’s the best part,” said Mr Farrell.
“I always save it until last,” said David.
“Some people have funny ideas!” Mr Farrell rolled his eyes. “Get it down you.”
Not wishing to appear rude, David sliced the end off his portion of meat. It was thick and succulent. It seemed to melt in his mouth. But – but – there was something else. David coughed and spluttered. Mrs Farrell sprang to her feet and began to pat his back. David pulled a clump of hair from his mouth. Long, red hair that reminded him of Raffles.
“Perhaps we should let him choke, love,” chuckled Mr Farrell from the head of the table. “Lad like him would keep us in dinners for a fortnight.”