"Erm..." I hesitated and then sighed heavily.
"There it is again!" Edward looked at me, frowning. "It's not - it isn't coming from you, is it Jazz?"
I looked up at him. "It is!" he barked. "It is coming from you! Whatever are you doing?! You're not channelling the spirit of some ghastly hell-cat, are you darling?!"
"Actually, Ed., I'm not that well these days. Very poorly indeed, if I'm honest." I took a deep breath. "I've got cancer, Ed. I'm dying."
"No!" gasped the Rottweiler. "No, no, no! I mean, I know that you've been losing a lot of weight lately - I thought you were trying to set a good example to dear Angus..."
I smiled sadly. "Well, what are you waiting for?!" continued Edward, his lip trembling, "You've got to get yourself to a hospital! Get it out; get it out of you now!"
"I can't." I replied. "It's too late. There's nothing anyone can do."
Eddie was temporarily rendered speechless - quite a feat for any dog, as Ed generally always had some (usually scathing) comment to make.
"How long?" he whispered after a while. "Have they said?"
"Um, about two months..." I began.
"Two months!" spluttered Eddie, "Two months! J*s*s, Jasper, you've known about this for two months?! Why the h*ll didn't you come and scratch at my door - or at least leave a weemail on my fence?!"
"Ed - no - "
"I mean, I don't know what I could have done, but I'd have tried to do something for you!"
"Eddie, no, it's - "
"Angus's human companion is a nurse - we could have got you - "
Finally, I succeeded in silencing him again. "You don't understand." I barked, as gently as I could. "I didn't find out about it two months ago. I've been ill since at least the summer. I mean to bark that the date given for my death was two months ago. I'm on borrowed time."
Eddie sat down suddenly on the pavement, the ghost of the word "No" formed on his lips.
"It's alright, Ed." I smiled. "It's really alright. I'm not in pain, just tired all the time. And I'm ready."
"But J*s*s Chr*st, Jazz," whimpered Edward, looking stricken, "You're younger than me!"
"Yeah," I replied, with a shrug and a sad philosophical smile, "Mad old world, isn't it?"
"Is there anything I can do?"
"Ah, you're a good man, Eddie." I smiled. "You just look after Angus, old son." My friend nodded. "And let him have the odd pudding now and again, eh?!"
Eddie strained to poke his large snout through the posts of my fence and planted a gentle kiss on my snout.
"See you around, dearheart." he smiled and, with that, he turned and ran back to his own house without glancing back.
I am growing increasingly tired. I can still get up and down my stairs unaided, although sometimes I do require a little assistance to jump into bed or my car. Do you recall the time of my partner's Jane Austen play? (If not, see here: Jane Austen). The piece closed with the letter written by Cassandra Austen to a niece, describing the last moments of her beloved younger sister. At the time (2007) I could not understand why anyone should wish for such things...
'When I asked her if there was anything she wanted, her answer was she wanted nothing but death, and some of her words were: "God grant me patience, pray for me, oh, pray for me!" Her voice was affected, but as long as she spoke she was intelligible...'
Now, I believe I understand what Jane Austen meant...
But be of stout heart, dear reader, for I am not afraid.