I drove the car in the front gate, brought it to a halt in its customary place beside the house and turned off the engine. But I continued to sit there in the car; my hands braced against the wheel, my head tilted back against the headrest, my eyes closed. Every limb on my body felt heavy with exhaustion and my jaws were still locked. I could feel a headache coming on.
It had been another horrendous day in work. As the downsizing escalated, the atmosphere was becoming more and more poisonous. Everybody feared that they would be next for the chop, so they tried to highlight the weaknesses of the people around them in the hope that doing so would deflect attention away from them. Not that people in there ever needed much reason to make life miserable for their colleagues.
Finally, I pulled myself together and got out of the car. I took my laptop from the backseat and walked though the spitting rain and wind to the back door.
As soon as I opened the door, my dog’s head and ears jerked up and his tail began to pound the couch where he was curled up. But not for long, because he had hurled himself off and scampered over to my feet before I had managed to close the door behind me. His nails thundered on the wooden floor and his entire body wriggled as he did his welcome dance.
He jumped up and put his two front paws on my legs. He could only reach to just above my knees, but it meant I could pat him on the head without bending down. “Hello, hello, hello!” I said to him, and he whined in excitement in reply.
I put down my laptop bag and hunkered down to a fairer height for him. He squirmed against my legs as I tousled the hair on his back. Then he slid downwards until he was lying on his back, his four paws in the air. He twisted and turned from side to side when I rubbed his stomach.
I saw a pair of human legs standing beside us and looked up to see my partner, Colm, watching us bemused. “The kettle has boiled,” he said. “I heard your car drive in so I switched it on. Tea or coffee?” “Tea, please,” I replied.
I stood up to go and hang up my coat. My dog was upright again in a flash and trotted out to the coatrack ahead of me. He had calmed down slightly, but his tail was still wagging hard.
Back in the kitchen, I sat down at the table and watched as Colm filled the teapot and placed it on the hob.
“So, how was your day?” he asked, still with his back to me. My dog arrived back at my feet, his teddy in his mouth. He dropped it on my feet and stepped back to watch expectantly, panting slightly.
“Ahhhh,” I said, “fuck it. It’s over for another day. Let’s concentrate on happier things.”
And I threw the teddy for my dog.