Inside a car – Week 13 of the 52 week short story challenge


I woke up when he drew back the curtains and the bright shaft of sunlight hit my eyes.

He turned to me and grinned.

‘Let’s go to the seaside. It’s gorgeous out there.’

I never need to be told twice.

It took him slightly longer to get ready than me but then he has to take his paraphernalia with him; wet suit, surfboard, shoes, towel, shorts. I travel a lot lighter.

Outside the sun is even stronger and after we are seated, he opens the car window for me, knowing how much I like to feel a breeze in my hair.

We live about half a mile from the beach; he has surfed at better places but on a day like this we don’t want to be driving for hours. I can see how happy he is at the thought of being in the water again, and although I’d rather stay dry, I can appreciate his eagerness to get in the sea on such a lovely day.

It’s still early and there are no other cars in the car park when we arrive. Aware of the fact that the fine for not paying the car park fee is pretty steep, he nips out of the car, buys a ticket and displays it on the dashboard.

I sit tight whilst he unloads his kit; I know better than to get in his way.

Making sure that he has everything he needs, he comes back into the car and sits beside me, ruffling my hair and smiling.

‘I won’t be long. See you soon.’

And he is gone.

The window is open a couple of inches, and at first the fresh breeze that blows through it takes the edge off the sweltering sun but as the sun moves up in the sky and the breeze changes direction I start to feel uncomfortable. I wriggle down in my seat in order to avoid the heat but it doesn’t help.

Looking over my shoulder I see that the back seat is still in the shade. It means moving away from my window but he said he wouldn’t be long. I clamber between the two front seats; it’s a tight fit but eventually I am on the back seat and it is much cooler.

Time for a doze. I was up early this morning after all.

I don’t know how long I was asleep but a knocking on the window wakes me and I sit up with a start. It’s really hot in the car now and the sun has moved again so that I am directly in its glare. The front seats are just as bad and I am so thirsty.

I hear the knocking again and look up to see a woman peering in at me, shading her eyes against the strong sun. I don’t make a sound though because I know he will be back very soon and all will be well.

The woman stops knocking but I hear her talking into her phone. The words are indistinct. I squeeze myself into the tiniest patch of shade left in the very back of the car where he usually keeps his surfing gear.

There is a bag of food and drink there and I sort through it looking for anything to slake my thirst. I know that I shouldn’t be doing this but I’m beginning to feel desperate. He isn’t usually gone this long. Something must be wrong.

The woman comes back and she has some other people with her. I look for his face in the crowd but it isn’t there.

There is a woman in a uniform outside the car now. She taps on the window trying to attract my attention but I sit very still and do as I have been told.

A car draws up beside her.

It is a police car. I know this because he has told me all about them when we are out driving. He always drives more slowly when he sees one of these cars.

I can hear the people talking outside the car again.

The man from the police car moves to the passenger window and I shrink back as he smashes his metal stick into it. The glass goes all over the seat and I hope that I won’t be blamed for the mess.

He opens the passenger door and reaches through to open the rear door. I am torn between fright and the relief that I feel from the rush of air that fills the car.

The woman in the uniform climbs into the back seat and sits down. She is smiling so I think that perhaps I may not be in trouble after all.

‘Come here sweetheart. Come and get some fresh air and a drink.’

I am so hot and thirsty that I do as she says. I climb over the back seat and sit beside her. She strokes my hair and helps me down out of the car.

I don’t make a sound; not even when she slips a collar over my head and attaches a lead.

‘Good girl,’ she says, and I follow her to a shady spot where a bowl of water is waiting for me.

I lap at it and wait anxiously while she refills the bowl from a plastic bottle.

The policeman is looking at the parking ticket. He does not look happy.

‘I’ve checked the temperature out here – 27 degrees – according to this ticket she’s been in the car for nearly three hours. ‘

The woman in uniform shakes her head in disgust. The policeman has already asked the people in the crowd if they know who owns the car, but they all came to the car park after us so they wouldn’t have seen him go off with his surfboard.

Then I see him.

He is limping and a man in red shorts is supporting him and carrying the surfboard.

He tries to break into a run when he sees the crowd around the car but he falls over and the policeman rushes to help pick him up.

‘Is she okay? I didn’t mean to be away so long. I twisted my ankle and had to wait for some help.’

The policeman and the woman in uniform still look very stern.

‘She was very hot and thirsty. Have you any idea how hot it was in the car? You parked it in full sunshine. We had to break your window to get her out. Another half an hour and she would probably have been dead.’

‘I’m so sorry. I only meant to have a quick surf before taking her for a walk along the beach.’

The woman in uniform shakes her head again.

‘You should never leave your dog unattended in a car at all. How would you like it if someone put you in a thick fur coat and locked you in a car with little fresh air and nothing to drink?’

He is sitting on the edge of the driver’s seat now with me in his lap.

I lick his face.

It is salty but not the kind that comes from the sea.

The man in the red shorts has strapped up the twisted ankle and although I can see the pain on his face, my man says that he can manage to drive us home.

The policeman takes his details and says that he might be taken to court for animal cruelty.

The woman in the uniform is looking less stern. She has been watching me as I settle happily against him, my paw on his arm. He is mine and he is tethered and safe.

She strokes my head and I smile my doggy smile.

‘She’s had some water. I think we caught her in time.’ She turns to the policeman and shakes her head but this time she is smiling.

‘Do you live far away?’

‘About ten minutes drive.’  I have never seen my man this unhappy and I lick his cheek again. He buries his face in my hair and holds me very tight.

‘Go on. Go home and get some ice on that foot. RICE! Rest, ice, compression and elevation. I can see a little dog who will be very happy to make sure that you keep off that foot.’

The lady in the uniform is still smiling as we drive away. I am in the back seat because of all the glass where I usually sit.

We drive home slowly and he keeps telling me how sorry he is and how he will never do it again.

I know that he won’t and I am happy.

‘Hidden Treasures’

In a fortnight’s time we are having a new kitchen.

This is the first kitchen we have ever had designed and built for us in the twenty-seven years we’ve been together.

The construction of our new kitchen will take ten to fourteen days and we are prepared for the fact that we will have to live on takeaways, bottled water and spend even more time soothing Scoobs.  He likes the builder who will be bashing down walls, inserting an RSJ, stripping the tiles off and skimming the walls, but the idea of strange men making loud noises in the kitchen will undoubtedly cause him to freak out a bit.

We have to prepare for the upheaval.

The flat packed kitchen is being delivered the day before the building work begins and we have been supplied with some string and a blue balloon to tie to the gate and entice the delivery men.

More frightening is the fact that we have to clear a space in the garage to store all the packages.

Gap Boy is disgruntled; he NEEDS ALL the garage for his new motorbike.

Uni Boy will not come home to visit now until the new kitchen is well and truly installed.  Good job too as his room will be used for kitchen storage for a while.

Lovely friends are coming to help us clear out the unnecessary things in our old kitchen; they are far more ruthless and have no attachment to the piles of junk that fill every cupboard and cover the mean worktop space.

Before then however, there’s the desperate need for space in the garage for GB’s bike and an entire fitted kitchen.

Something had to go.

It is almost two years since we cleared out my parents bungalow after my Stepdad died.  Most of the household contents had been redistributed to family and to charity but at the back of the garage there were half a dozen boxes that were still wrapped up in packing tape.

Filled with resolve we decided to tackle the garage today.

Some of the boxes were easy to unpack; glassware and small china ornaments from the days when my Mum ran an antique stall, framed prints that were bought on their holiday travels and books about World War I and II.  I could cope with them but it was the photographs, some framed, some stuck on Christmas and birthday cards, others in SupaSnaps wallets, and a few loose or tucked into books.  It was the photographs that made me sad.

I did my best to divide up the last contents of their lives: charity shop, the tip and ‘put-it-in-this-bag-and-we”ll-look-at-it-later‘. I sat on the tailgate and used the open back of the car to sort out the boxes.

By lunch my heart was heavier than it had been for nearly eighteen months and the sadness of packing up their bungalow came back with a vengeance.

We took a break for lunch, dreading the thought of having to go back out on to the drive and continue with the unpacking.

Lovely Hub was sorting through boxes whilst I was dragging out my bread and cheese for as long as I could.  Not easy to do when you have an adoring but drooling dog on your feet just waiting for the crumbs to fall.

I heard voices. Then someone called out my name.

We are very lucky with our neighbours (apart from the couple that argue vociferously and the man with the drinking problem) and our nearest neighbours are the nicest.  They spend their retirement buying and selling antiques and oddments.

Their attention was caught by my assortment of boxes which were cluttering up the drive. My neighbour T, his nose twitching like a bloodhound, was in the boxes and rummaging before the car door was shut.  His wife apologised and having found out that we were sending the stuff to the charity shop, offered to re-sort it and extract those objects that might fetch us a few pennies at auction.

Before lunch I was sad because it felt like the mementos of my parents lives were just going to end up unloved and on a dusty charity shop shelf for years.  The obvious delight with which T was rummaging and holding up each new find with glee – and I was happy again.

We spent rather a lot of time chatting and putting the world to rights.  So long in fact that Scoob had to have his lead on and sit on the tailgate with me because he was lonely.  This was a bit traumatising for the cyclists, dog walkers and innocent bystanders as his bark was definitely worse than his bite (no biting as he doesn’t and anyway he was attached to me by his lead).

T and Hub sorted everything left over into charity shop and trip to the tip but we spent so long putting the world to rights that it was too late to deliver it – so it all went back into the garage for us to deal with bright and early tomorrow.

GB grumbled because he was hungry, we hadn’t gone shopping or picked up his new bike mirrors from the parcel depot, and because the boxes were too close to  his motorbike. Oh, and because he grumbles a lot anyway.  Hub and I are a great disappointment to him. Tough.

It was all remedied within the hour however, and as I write, GB has gone out on another of his nocturnal meanderings.

No early night for us then.

Thank you B and T for finding the treasures that I had stopped seeing, and for brightening up my day considerably.