I wake and stretch my legs until they reach the end of the bed. The sun is shining and my mood is unaccountably light. I can’t think why I feel so untroubled. Then I remember: the dog is on holiday.
Three days earlier: I am sitting in the kitchen while my wife and the oldest one sort through his laundry and certain items are dropped into a suitcase for his week’s vacation in the West Country.
“I might take the dog,” he says. “Should I take the dog?”
“Why would you take the dog?” my wife says.
“Don’t ask questions,” I say. “Just say yes.”
“Who else is going?” my wife says.
“The usual group,” the oldest says.
“By all means take the dog,” I say.
“I don’t like the idea of everyone squeezed into one tiny car,” my wife says. “Driving all that way.”
“We’re not going in one car,” the oldest one says. “Some people are coming on Monday. They’ll be swinging by here to pick up the tent.”
“Fine,” my wife says. “Take the dog if you want.”
“Hallelujah,” I say.
The next morning, the oldest one sets off with a heavy bag and the dog on a lead. 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.
“The trick is not to think about that,” I say. “No news is good news.”
“I guess,” she says, before setting off on a long walk in the rain. Ten seconds later, she returns.
“I thought, why am I doing this?” she says. “I don’t have a dog.”
“See?” I say. “That’s the spirit.”
On Monday, I wake and stretch my legs to the end of the bed. I make coffee without being stared at. I go to my office shed, where the tortoise is sitting on the step in the sun.
“Morning,” I say, ripping a leaf from the raised bed and setting it before him. He gives me a look as if to say: ugh, radicchio.
“It’s good to try new things,” I say. I settle down at my desk for a long and carefree morning of work avoidance. I begin by determining which emails need to be answered and then not answering them.
An hour later, the youngest one leans through my office door.
“Jack and Jackson are here for the tent, but they can’t find it,” he says.
“It should be right there by the… hang on.”
By the time I get inside, Jackson is already clutching the canvas sack containing our tent. He holds it up and curls one eyebrow into a question mark.
“That’s it,” I say. “I guess they didn’t have room in the car for it.”
“Yeah, they seemed pretty tightly packed in,” Jack says.
“They had the dog and everything,” I say.
“I almost went with them,” Jackson says. “But when I saw the car I was like, you know what? I think I might be on the Monday trip.”
“Good choice,” I say.
“Yeah, I missed the traffic, the tyre blow-out, all that.” There is a brief silence.
“I don’t think I knew about the tyre thing,” I say.
“Yeah,” he says. “When you think about it there’s, like, a major difference between ‘flat tyre’ and ‘tyre exploding on the motorway’.”
“There is,” I say.
“I guess it was pretty hairy,” he says. “Anyway, they seemed happy enough.” He turns his phone round to show me a picture of the oldest one and three of his friends gathered on the other side of the guard rail somewhere on the M4, in the rain, smiling broadly.
“It’s good they had time for a photo,” I say.
“Yeah,” he says. “It looks like they’re lovin’ it.”
“Who took this picture?” I say.
“Dunno, maybe the rescue guy,” he says. “I don’t think any of them knows how to change a tyre.”
I go back to my office and sit down, less carefree than before. For the first time in three days, I find myself wondering if the dog is having a nice time.