They were sitting at the wooden table in the front of the holiday cottage they had rented in Hall-Dunderdale in the Lake District, enjoying breakfast in the sunshine. There were cups of tea and boiled eggs with brown toast on a plastic tray from the little kitchen.
Despite the cloudless sky the air was fresh. The wagtails sang as they rocketed and plummeted in the wind, ewes called for their lambs in the nearby fields, cows bellowed in the stinking shed across the narrow road. The red-faced fells looked down on the valley from each side.
The two pugs, Ollie and Delly, in their harnesses but without leads, were up on their hind legs nosing the edge of the table hoping for scraps. Something caught their ears and they threw themselves into short bursts of body-jerking barking at the road through the gateless entrance to the front garden of the cottage.
Veering round the bend fifty yards up the road was a black Astra with two young men inside wearing wooly hats. Music thumped through the body work of the car. Its tyres thudded on the uneven tarmac like a drum roll.
The pugs twisted, made four foot contact with the gravel by the table, and kicked it backwards as they reared towards the road.
As she looked up it seemed to her that the pugs and the Astra were drawn closer together with each bark and each beat.
The table was the type you see in pub gardens with benches attached on each side. As she struggled to stand up her legs became wedged between the edge of the table top and the edge of the bench.
Her hands frantically wiped an invisible glass screen through which she watched the imploding scene. ‘No, no!… Come back!’ she shrieked at the dogs. Then, ‘Stop!… Dogs!…. There’s two of them!’ at the the Astra.
She lifted each leg in turn out of the timber trap of the table, scraping the skin of her shins against the wood. But she felt nothing. All her attention was on the road.
The car had slowed to a walking pace and the dogs were jumping up to reach the elbow of the boy in the passenger seat as he leant out of the window, grinning. The car stopped.
‘Ello luv…are they poogs?’ the passenger laughed.
Her hands had covered her forehead and eyes as if she were playing hide and seek with the boys. Her hair flopped over them and was straggling between her white fingers.
She slowly uncovered her eyes and let her hands drop. ‘Oh my God!… Oh my God!’ She panted. This was how she had reacted to the torture scene in Versailles on the TV the night before, but this time she was in the scene herself.
She looked around her.
Somehow she was standing in front of the car and slightly to the passenger side of it, over the bonnet. The pugs were straining up to lick the boy’s fingers which by now were dangling down the door of the Astra.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘They are pugs… Sorry… I should have had them on leads… I didn’t realise… ‘
‘Maybe it’s you who should be on the lead luv. We nearly ran you orver.’ Said the driver.
‘It’s just that their uncle Boris was hit by a car and died in London a year ago.’ Her face crumpled and her lips trembled. ‘It was awful.’ she said.
‘Don’t worry… W’or used to ’em’ ere luv.’ Said the driver. ‘Get oop on the fells wi’ em. Yarl be safer thur… ‘ave a nice day!’
The tyres kicked gravel back along the road as they sped off again, laughing.
She dragged the pugs back into the cottage, sobbing, and sat down on the sofa clinging them to her and kissing their snuffling heads.