Friday 17 August 2018

Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: Lucy in the sky with dogs


Charlie Savage illustration by Ben Hickey
Charlie Savage illustration by Ben Hickey
Charlie Savage

Charlie Savage

It's coming up to Halloween, so me and the wife are doing the rounds. Looking for drugs. To sedate the dogs. And ourselves. We always leave it too late.

The first of the fireworks goes off in early September, always in broad daylight - some twit who can't wait for Halloween or even night-time - and we hear the dogs going mad out the back. They're throwing themselves at the back door; they're howling at the moon that isn't out yet. It's not a great sound; there's nothing funny about it.

- I'll go down to the vet in the morning, I say.

And I always forget about it, because there isn't another rocket or banger attack for weeks, sometimes well into October.

This year it's been very quiet. I hear one cartwheel in mid-October, in the far distance.

- That'll be the North Koreans.

- You're gas.

I'm starting to wonder if there are any kids left in the neighbourhood, or if kids still go into Moore Street in Dublin to get their bangers.

It was one of the great signs of maturity when I was a kid: the walk down Moore Street and, if one of the women asked you if you were looking for bangers, you were elected. You were grown-up, a bona fide teenager, ordained by the women on Moore Street.

Five years later, I walked down Moore Street again, hoping the women would ignore me. I was too old for bangers. I had an adult smell and hair on some of my face. I had a job, kind of a girlfriend, and a Honda 50. I carried the crash helmet, my adult credentials tucked under my arm. I'd nearly made it to the corner of Parnell Street when I heard the inevitable voice.

- Are you looking for bangers, love?

That was it, official: I was a kid for at least another year.

But, anyway. Last night, it was like a scene from Apocalypse Now. The poor oul' dogs were going berserk. Even I started howling.

So, this morning, I go down to the vet for canine sedatives, or whatever. But he won't believe the amount of dogs we have; he thinks I want to poison a horse or something.

I phone the wife, to get her to verify the number. But he won't believe her either. It doesn't help that she doesn't actually know the precise number, herself, and the dogs won't stay still long enough for her to count them.

Anyway, he gives me one tablet - one! - that looks like it wouldn't sedate a squirrel, let alone calm down a herd of enthusiastic dogs.

So, we're doing the rounds of the neighbours, family and friends, taking any drugs they're not using. Painkillers, sedatives, anti-psychotics - we're not fussy. We accept them all gratefully. We'll mash them up and put them in with the food, with a few spoons of Benylin, for taste.

We keep most of the Benylin for ourselves, for Halloween night itself. It goes down very well with gin, by the way. A Hendrick's and Benylin - why wouldn't you?

Anyway. We're all set. The neighbours and family have been brilliant. We've enough drugs to floor the cast of 101 Dalmatians.

But we're careful. We won't be giving the dogs any old thing. We want happy dogs, not catatonic dogs. We had a major scare a few years back when one of the neighbours, a desperate oul' hippie called Zeus - a nice enough chap, but Jesus. Anyway, Zeus gave us a SuperValu bag full of mushrooms.

- Picked them myself, he told me. - On Fairyhouse Racecourse.

- And they'll do the trick, Zeus, yeah?

- Ah, man, he said. - I'm Exhibit A.

So, fair enough. I brought the mushrooms home and we fed them to the dogs, by the handful. The dogs are never that keen on vegetables, or anything that didn't once have legs on it. But they loved these yokes. They golloped them up, and not a squeak out of them for half an hour or so.

But then. Have you ever heard a gang of dogs singing Love Will Tear Us Apart? That was what we thought we heard. We ran out the back and the dogs - well, they weren't dogs anymore.

They were swimming, or trying to. Or they were flapping their front paws, trying to take off. They were talking Chinese to each other, or it might have been Cork. Anyway, whatever it was, there wasn't one of them behaving like a dog, barking at the sky, pawing at the ground. The weirdest thing: they weren't wagging their tails.

I legged it down to Zeus.

- They were for you, man, he said. -Not the f***in' dogs.

- Oh.

We'd left a few of the mushrooms in the bag, so myself and the wife took them, and we went outside and joined the dogs. And we came back in in plenty of time for Christmas.

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