The volcano has erupted. And I'm not talking about my bottom.
The signs were there. I knew it was on the horizon. I mean, we all saw it coming. But I'll admit that the suddenness and vehemence of the blast took me by surprise.
But before I turn to that rather fizzy topic, I must report that my partner has experienced something of an epiphany. She has finally seen BC for the gutless turd that he is. On Friday, she had to go to his workplace, to collect something from one of his colleagues. She was looking particularly beautiful and felt particularly cheerful. He hid from her. She ACTUALLY saw him hiding. Thus, she realised what I have been trying to make her learn for the past few years: her former beloved is a spineless goon. 'Twas a difficult conclusion, but a necessary one. It cost her much heartache and some tears, but she has finally acknowledged that the higher intelligence is mine. Three years have been spent in the learning of this lesson. She is now on the look-out for a new beau. I shall keep a close eye on progress and, naturally, be swift to scupper any progress with a new lad...
But now I turn back to my headline. There have been developments in the workplace. Oh yes. I noticed that things were beginning to simmer on Wednesday. I was in the office before Fizzy and Ewan (dogs of my partner's colleague). As they entered, Ewan was coming to the end of an anecdote. Fizzy, the recipient of this gripping tale, was looking vacant and was wearing a hunted expression. Ewan was speaking as they came through the door:
"...the cheese, so we let him put his trousers back on! Hehehehehehe...!"
Fizzy looked at me and squeaked "Help me...!" in a rather pathetic voice. I winked at her and shook my head.
Then, on Friday, it happened. It had been a relatively quiet morning. After lunch, I was just returning from taking a drink in the kitchen when Fizzy came storming in from the workshop closely followed, again, by Ewan. This time, the look on Fizzy's face was dark and thunderous. If I had been Ewan, I would have noticed these ominous signs and left the lady alone. But he didn't. Settling himself down to bathe his hands, I watched as Fizzy shook with pent-up rage. Then she turned to me and exploded.
"Aaaugh! I can't stand it!" she wailed, "I can't stand another second of it!"
"Another second of what?" I asked, innocently.
"Another second of his puerile nonsense!" snapped Fizzy, jerking her head back at Ewan.
"Shhh, Fizzy!" I hissed, "He will hear you!" But I knew it was already too late. Ewan was keeping up the pretence of thoroughly licking his front paws, but I could tell from his eyes that he was listening.
"I don't care if he does!" yelped Fizzy, "Let him! Do you have any concept of what it is like to put up with him on a 24-hour basis?! He's driving me mad! If it isn't the stupid stories about f***ing cheese..."
"Oi! Watch your language!"
"Oh, shut up Jasper. If it isn't the cheese stories, it's having to explain everything over and over and over again. Even when he's asleep there's no escape, because as soon as he drops off to sleep the bl**dy humming starts. Meaningless, tuneless songs about nothing! I can't stand it! I can't stand it!"
"I know it can be challenging, Fizzy," I began, kindly, but Fizzy was having none of it.
"Why wasn't he drowned or smothered at birth?! He's worthless! He doesn't deserve to live!"
"Fizzy, that's enough!"
"No it isn't!" barked the angry dog, "I can't bear another day living with that!"
She said the word "that" as though she was spitting out a foul and bitter tablet. I glanced over at Ewan, still pretending not to hear and still determinedly licking his paws, and saw that his lip was trembling. I felt a stab of pity for him.
I gently but firmly grasped Fizzy's collar in my mouth and dragged her into the next office. "Jasper, what...?" she spluttered as I pulled her along. I stopped and released her when we were a safe distance away.
"Sit down, madam. You have said enough." I snapped, "Now it is your turn to listen." Fizzy opened her mouth to bark, but then thought better of it when she saw the look on my face. "I know that Ewan is frustrating and stupid. I know how you feel, I really do. But, Fizzy, Ewan cannot help it."
"Of course he can!" grunted back Fizzy.
"No, he cannot." I reiterated, firmly. "I don't know what happened to Ewan. Perhaps he was starved of oxygen when he was born and thus incurred brain-damage. Perhaps he was in an accident or was beaten on the head by the owner that he had before he was adopted by your partner from the rescue home. I simply don't know. But he can't help it. You have not known him as long as I have. He has made some progress since I first met him and he does as well as he can. Believe me, he used to be a lot worse than this. He tries and it is not his fault that his brain doesn't work properly."
Fizzy sighed. I knew she could see the reason in what I barked. I could, of course, have pointed out that she herself had been the runt of her litter (her small stature makes that fact strikingly obvious - she is tiny for a Black Labrador) and raised herself to better things - therefore she should give Ewan more leeway. But I chose not to.
"And, Fizzy, consider." I went on, "It could be far worse. Ewan is not vicious. He is an imbecile, true, but he is kind, playful and affectionate. He loves his friends and likes nothing more than their company. He is gentle, he always tries his best - even if sometimes he doesn't quite get there - and he would willingly and gladly give up his last biscuit in the entire world to help feed a starving kitten. Think about it. You know, deep down, that it's true."
Fizzy looked meek and utterly ashamed of herself.
"I am sorry, Jasper." she said, humbly, "I should not have got angry and said those things. But it's just so difficult sometimes. I don't know what to do."
"There are ways and means, Fizzy, to make life more bearable for yourself and to keep Ewan happy too." I said, smiling and winking gently at her. "Would you allow me to show you how?"
"Of course!" replied Fizzy, with a weak little wag of her tail, "Anything that might help...!"
We trotted back into the other office. Ewan was still licking his now-sodden paws, looking extremely morose. I pitied him.
"Ewan, "I began gently, "Fizzy is very, very sorry for the mean things she said just now."
"Yes, I'm sorry Ewan." said Fizzy, meekly.
"Ewan, would you like to play a game?" I asked. Poor Ewan wouldn't even look at me.
"No, thank you, Jasper." he replied quietly, "I think I'll just lie here for a bit."
"Oh, come on Ewan," I barked, encouragingly, "I know a game that you're REALLY good at. And you ALWAYS beat me. Oh, PLEASE play a game with me...?" A feint glimmer appeared in the dog's eye - he was starting to feel tempted... "Please, Ewan?" I repeated.
"Oh please, Ewan." said Fizzy. Ewan smiled and jumped up.
"Go on then!" he yipped, and Fizzy and I cheered as he got to his feet. "What shall we play?"
"Well, do you remember the game that I invented a few months ago? The one you are always SO good at?"
"Oh! Yes! Erm... what was it called again?"
"It's called 'Ewan Sits...'" I prompted.
"'Ewan Sits' erm... erm..."
"'Ewan Sits in the...'"
"'Ewan Sits in the...' Oooh...Erm..."
"'...the Corn..." A sudden flash of memory spread across Ewan's face and he jumped up and down while he yipped:
"'Ewan Sits in the Corner and Doesn't Annoy Jasper'!"
"Yes!" I cried, "Well done! I knew you'd get it! And you're SO good at it, Ewan. Would you like to show Fizzy how clever you are at it?"
"Yes!" he barked, excitedly, "Yes! Oh yes! Can I, Jasper, can I?" I barely had the time to nod, before Ewan was off to his favourite corner, determined to stay as quiet as possible, although he couldn't stop himself from indulging in a satisfied chuckle every so often. After about twenty minutes he was fast asleep.
"You see?" I grinned, winking at an astonished-looking Fizzy, "He's happy because he believes he's playing a game that he's good at. He won't wake up now until it's time to go home and then you can tell him he's won. He's thrilled and you've had a nice quiet afternoon: everyone's happy. Ways and means, Fizzy, ways and means."
"I don't know what to bark, Jasper." said Fizzy in tones of inexpressible relief. To my surprise, she planted a great big kiss on the side of my snout. Now, that was a prize worth winning.