You didn’t want to walk the dog tonight, even though it was your turn. The colour in your eyes fled away before boiling storm clouds and you faced me with a flat, flinty stare of foggy-evening grey.
‘No, no, no,’ you said, speaking over the top of me as I tried to reason with you. ‘I’m not walking him. I don’t care. Shut up.’ Your temper sparked and flashed reminding me why my private nickname for you is Semtex. I stayed calm – against the odds – because one false move, one false word and you’d explode and your fury would pour into the room like lava in a bright orange fire-ball flash.
I won, or rather the dog did, when I reminded you that you didn’t have to take him down by the river. For a change, you could go up the hill into the fields with some doggy treats and your clicker. There you could practice training him like you’ve learned to from that TV programme you watch before school.
‘Come on, Floyd,’ you called, slipping on your boots and pocketing the dog treats. Floyd bounced around on the end of his lead, yapping and wagging the tail that your sister recently dyed pink.
‘Enjoy your walk,’ I said just as the front door slammed behind the pair of you.
From an upstairs window I watched you stride up the hill into the emerald tunnel where the roadside trees reach over and interlock their branches. You were lost to my view then but I knew where you’re going. At the end of the tunnel, at the top of the hill, the fields on either side of the road undulate away to the clifftop beyond which is a glimpse of dark-denim English Channel. You will have stepped into one of these fields, your boots scuffing through stubble that’s faded to a dirty beige in the autumn rains, with the dog hopping and jumping over the prickly stalks.
You stayed up there a while, running through the twilight, squeezing into dark thorny hedges playing hide and seek with the dog until he got bored and refused to play any more. Then, you brought out the treats. You had Floyd sit, stay, gimme-your-paw. You even had him up on his hind legs. He did what you asked, you clicked the clicker and fed him his reward as evening gathered around the hilltop and painted deep shadows beneath the trees. You noticed the creeping dark and came home in good time, bursting through the door full of chat and smiles.
‘Guess what,’ you babbled. ‘We went up the hill. Floyd was really good and did everything I told him but then he sat down and wouldn’t move any more cos he was tired and …’ On and on you went, the endorphins obviously fizzing through your system, your bad temper dispelled and I looked into your eyes and– the clouds had blown away. I saw you again. And I saw the countryside reflected in clear, pale and shining green.