When the oldest one surfaces at about midday, I am still sitting in a chair watching the cat on the sofa.“The cat’s not well,” I say.“Isn’t he?” the oldest says.“Dad thinks he’s about to check out,” my wife says from the doorway, being unnecessarily faithful to my phrasing.“So take him to the vet,” the oldest one says.
As the front door closes behind him, my own summer holiday begins: a week with no dog sleeping on my feet or barking every time the bell rings, or staring at me intently as I try to write, or read, or watch TV.“I hope they make it down OK,” my wife says.
Because of all these sounds, I do not hear the approach of the youngest one before he leans through my door and holds up an open packet of cat food.“Have you fed the cat?” he says.“Yes,” I say.“He’s hassling me,” he says.
My wife sits up in bed.“What’s going on?” she says.“The dog is barking,” I say, standing up to look out the window.If you open the front door at night, the dog will often run out between your legs to chase the fox down an adjacent lane.
While I’m always pleasantly surprised when in rains for four straight hours instead of seven, this can make it difficult to balance the tortoise’s desire to be outside with spring’s eccentric schedule.“Harold,” says the cat.“Keep trying,” I say.When I look up an hour later, the grapes and the tortoise are gone.
“I think that looks pretty good,” my wife says, standing back.“In the box,” my wife says.“Fix what?” the youngest says.“These are dog attachments, but whatever,” I say.He looks at me, and the youngest one, and then me again.“I’m good,” he says.
The cat crosses the room, jumps on to the worktop, sits down at the edge of the sink and turns in my direction.“Ray,” it says.“I’m not Ray,” I say.
Later that night, I find my wife at her desk, looking at what appears to be a website dedicated to the adoption of abandoned dogs from around the world.“What are you doing?” I say.“Look at Lucky!” she says.“Are you trying to adopt a dog?” I say.“To live on our farm!” she says.“But we have a dog,” I say.
It is just after 11pm and I am in the garden in a downpour that began precisely as I stepped outside, searching for the tortoise by the light of my phone.“I suppose it would be terrible if he were to sadly pass,” my wife says.
I set my alarm for 7am to release the puppy from the cage at its accustomed hour, but when it goes off, my wife is already downstairs, the tiny dog running figures of eight round her ankles.“I knew you’d be down here, sucking up to it,” I say.“Did you want to be the one to let it out?” she says.“No,” I lie.“The extractor fan man will be here soon,” she says.“That’s today?” I say.