A Tale of Two Franks
by, 08-09-2011 at 08:33 PM (812 Views)
When we moved into our house, we discovered to our delight that the close – a dead end road with no through traffic - had quite a community of old folks living in it. It was very friendly, and, as my wife and I don’t drive, we would regularly see the other residents wandering round to the shops or walking the dogs. We soon got to know all of them, in particular Old Frank who lived over the road.
He was an irascible, bluff character who had served in the Fleet Air Arm in WW2. He would often regale me with tales from the war, or his years in the local tool making industry afterwards. He often repeated himself, but I didn’t mind.
He lived with his son whom he referred to as ”The Kid”, though by this time he was in his middle fifties. Old Frank’s wife had sadly died twenty years before, and I think this must have brought on depression because the house they kept was in such a bad condition.
We sometimes had to go over to help Old Frank with something, and because they had two undisciplined spaniels and a poor or non-existent cleaning routine, there was a very strong smell and sticky carpets.
So one day I got back from work, and our doddery next door neighbour caught me at the gate to tell me that the two Franks had both had to go into hospital with heart problems. He added that they had asked him to look after the dogs.
As nice and willing as he is, our neighbour was clearly in no condition to look after two difficult spaniels, so my wife and I agreed to do it instead. We were also used to their home, and just made sure that we cleaned the soles of our wellies when we got back from feeding them.
My wife, with her usual determination, then began to try to do some cleaning in the kitchen and downstairs bathroom whilst they were in hospital, and I tended to the dogs.
All went well for a couple of days, and I went with another neighbour to see them. The two Franks were in with some heart problems, and expected to be a few days at least. They were cheerful enough. Just as I was leaving, Old frank told me where to find the tablets I was to give to the older dog Blackie. He too had heart problems, and they were for that. I said I’d give them to him that night, and we went home. I visited the dogs when I got back. I found the tablets and gave them to Blackie in some food.
The next morning Lucky, Old Frank’s other dog who was blind and a bit deaf, (it’s true), was sitting in Blackie’s spot. I thought it odd, Blackie being so dominant, but then I found Blackie under a chair and as stiff as a board. He must have died in the night and Lucky had claimed his spot. It was a sad moment.
Normally I would have told the two Franks then and there, but we found ourselves in a bit of a dilemma. They were in with heart problems of an unspecified nature. Would the bad news adversely affect them and their recovery? We didn’t know, and so we decided not to tell them until we had been given the ok by the nursing staff.
I asked our doddery neighbour to drive Blackie’s corpse up to the vet, and when I went to see them, I didn’t mention his demise. It was of course typical that he should die whilst we were looking after him.
My wife and I discussed various schemes such as blu-tacking the corpse the window as they arrived home from hospital and then claiming he had died of excitement, but we didn’t think we’d get away with it.
So after a couple of days I checked with the nurse who said they were coming out in a few days and that it would be ok to tell them. I told them both and left them to their grief at the hospital. It was all very sad, and, I thought, the end of the matter.
The next day my wife got a phone call from Old Frank in the hospital. “We’re having Blackie back!” he shouted. (He was a bit loud and deaf). At first my wife couldn’t understand what he was on about, but it transpired that Old Frank had phoned the vet and arranged for the dead dog to be taken out of cold storage the next day – when they were coming home. Blackie was to be buried in the garden, which was right and proper.
There was of course another problem: neither of them was allowed to dig the hole. I volunteered, and it duly threw it down with rain. I was working that day, and promised to come after work to bury the dog. At work I had visions of not digging the hole wide enough and having to stand on the still frozen corpse to make it go in, or the hole filling up with water and the corpse floating to the top and having to be pierced with the fork to make it sink.
I got home and went over to their house to dig the pit. Luckily, I judged it right, and we placed Blackie, wrapped in a tartan blanket, in the very soggy hole. It didn’t fill with water and make the corpse float all over the place as I imagined, but just lay there, wetly, as I filled it in.
That night we laughed about the gruesome aspects of the whole thing, (well what can you do?), but at least, we said, it would be easier for Old Fred to walk just one dog.
A few weeks later, Old Frank caught my wife at the gate. We’re having two new spaniel pups at the weekend, he said. Lucky will train them up.
“Lucky?” I said later, as my wife described the conversation. “He’s deaf and blind!” So it was that the two Franks bought their next two spaniel pups. Of course Lucky did not train them up. They tormented him by pulling his long ears, but perhaps he liked the company. He lasted six more months.
Old Frank died a few years later, leaving “The Kid” with his two spaniels whom he walks every day on The Green. The spaniels are quite bonkers.