Trouble in Paradise


1. An Old Woman's Dog

If you had told me before I moved in that my neighbour, a stout old lady who liked to spend her days knitting, would get up at six every morning to walk her dog, while still wearing her slippers, I would have called you crazy. But, of course, that is exactly what she did. And that dog, that snappy little ball of fur, would bark right outside of my door. I am in no way a morning person, staying up for hours on end at night to read while under my bed covers. But that obnoxious noise which sliced through my ears like a knife through butter was the thing to wake me from my slumber.

We were very different, she and I. Where she liked gardening, I liked staying inside and reading about gardens. Where she liked walking her dog, I couldn't afford a dog, and so I read about them. Some day, maybe, I would be able to get a dog, but they were expensive. I imagined the leash twirling around my legs as the dog sprinted about, chasing God knows what around a park. Perhaps flower petals would get stuck in his fur, mud dried fast to his paws, footprints trailing on the carpet. That would annoy my neighbour, almost as much as her dog annoys me.

This morning, as with every morning, the dog was barking loudly again. And, my neighbour's front door slammed, knocking a painting from my bookshelf and a tennis ball from my chest of drawers. Dust swirled up from the carpet, which I had neglected to vacuum for the last week, and I felt the light from my torn curtains sting my eyes. My hair stuck up on end, desperately in need of a good brush. I heard the slight bang of my letter box closing. I imagined my neighbour's frosty blue eyes peering through the little rectangle while her dog nipped at my welcome mat. The dog began barking louder at the bang, his pale fur probably blowing up with every movement of his mouth, foamy slobber dripping from his muzzle. Then, I heard a crash. I thought that maybe the dog had just knocked over a box or someone upstairs had bashed into something and spilt its contents over the floor. However, when the dog began whining, I forced myself to get up, tug on a pair of socks and confront the woman about the noise. I flattened my hair as best I could with my hands.

Once I had pulled the door open, I saw no sight of my neighbour. Her dog was still making a sound like a creaking door. I peered down the stairs to see my skateboard laying there, upside down and propped up against the bottom step. That was weird; I usually left my board outside of my door... I began to start moving down the stairs. The dog hopped across, its tail whipping around and its ears low. He then looked to the side, then back at me, and sprinted out of sight. I moved faster. A coat came into my line of vision. It was purple and thick, laying in a heap. If a coat was left there, obstructing the stairs or door, it would be taken away. That was another thing which was strange to me. My skateboard was out of place and there was an obstruction. The dog then started howling. I sped up even more before the reason for his noise came into sight. An old lady laid on the ground, her leg twisted like a diseased branch on a tree. She was the source of the crashing noise. I placed my hands on her shoulder and I shook her lightly. When she did nothing, I knocked on the nearest door and demanded to use their phone. However, a girl in a pair of shorts and a vest with messy hair and eyes like a panda must have looked odd. The owner of the phone looked me over strangely then handed me my phone. I explained the situation while dialling 999. The woman on the other side spoke to me calmly, speaking with a soft voice as if nothing was wrong. Once I had hung up, the person took their phone back and shut the door. I went back to my neighbour's side.

Sirens blared, drawing the other inhabitants of the apartment complex out to the lobby. The dog still ran around people's ankles, yapping occasionally. The woman was beginning to come round, her eyes fluttering to reveal pale blue orbs. And, as the paramedics lifted her and her broken leg onto a stretcher, she reached her arm out to me. Her frail looking body shook as she let out a cough. The fall had clearly knocked the air from her lungs and she had been unconscious for quite a while. Clearly, her heart was also beating weakly. Her chest rose in rapid movements as she breathed. And then, she whispered a short sentence;

"If I don't make it, take care of my dog."

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