She'd got so pissed she'd had to get as stoned again immediately afterwards, to ward off the hangover. Walking home from one of the world's very shittiest parties ever, she realised that she badly wanted to suck someone's nipple, so she chainsmoked until she got to the late night kebab place and bought a Ribena carton, which took the edge off her cravings. And then, home. Incense, mellow music, the perfect bedtime spliff and eventually bed.
She did not know how the dead dog got into her bed, she just knew that it was there, pustulant excrescences oozing slowly into her hair-dusted sheets from each natural orifice, and scattered drops of blood like a Jackson Pollock from hell on the pillow, increasing in concentration near the ugly gash in the dog's head. Stoned and tired at three in the morning, she stood there, by her bed, in utter incomprehension and numbed horror, motionless, for some minutes. The idea of checking the name tag on the dog's collar nagged at her softly as if from the next room, but she could not move her limbs any more than the carcass on the sheets, which was slowly beginning to weave its unique smell into the ragged odour tapestry of tobacco, hash, incense, sweat, perfume and cheap air-freshener.
Eventually, each blind moment crashing into the next, her eye caught the scrap of a piece of paper lying on the floor. A note! A note from the evil miscreants whose perverted idea of a joke this was! A suicide note written by the dog itself! A letter that she had written herself, but had forgotten to post! It occurred to her slowly that she ought to open it, read it, find out what it said, begin to piece together some semblance of coherence in her wildly charging thoughts. The handwriting spread itself across the page like a fat man luxuriating in an armchair slightly too small for him, and was unfamiliar.
"Dear J. Please take good care of him. I apologise in advance for any mess he may make - he is supposed to be housetrained, but."
No signature. No concluding clause in the second sentence. Nothing.
She stood there watching the dog, realising with growing horror that the dog was watching her back, and would be sure to win any staring out contest. No doubt there was a perfectly rational explanation for all this. No doubt. Someone had lugged a dead dog into her bedroom. Perfectly rational. Perfectly. Harry was going to pay for this. It occurred to her momentarily that perhaps he already had. The pang of guilt that struck her almost immediately on thinking this, was followed by another, far stronger, to do with still experiencing pangs of guilt over suspecting him of being a complete waste of space as a human being, which he had, earlier that evening, proved to her conclusively that he was, in a selection of ways.
Where was he, anyway? Ah, yes. The party. He'd fucked off home. She remembered now. "Fuck off home, Harry. Just fuck off home," she had said to him. He had indeed fucked off home, which was, she supposed, at the time, no doubt, a perfectly reasonable response to a perfectly reasonable request. This had been before she had received any intimations of dead dogs invidiously and treacherously insinuating themselves into her bedroom. The whole thing smelled of Harry. Certainly it smelled.
There was no way that the dog was staying in her bed for a single moment longer, uninvited. As she struggled to manhandle it into a series of black plastic bags that seemed to have been designed for items with less claws than dead dogs, she caught, among the several unpleasant smells emanating from it, the unmistakeable odour of whisky. The dog had died pissed.
Before going on to the party, they had sat in the dark cafe until it closed, all evening, saying nothing to each other and talking incessantly. The candle on the table, a block of red wax inserted into a whisky tumbler, had shed precious light onto their table until he had inadvertently put it out by dropping wet matches onto it nervously. He had flirted with the manageress of the cafe, and she had retaliated by flirting with the waiter - each encounter taking on the intensity of a full-blown love affair lasting at least an idyllic summer on a south sea island, with brief snippets of continuance in Paris springtime, Jerusalem winter and London autumn, in the refracting glass of their displaced emotions.
"Get real!" she had shouted at him, regretting it instantly. He hated to pass up the opportunity for pseudo-philosophical banality, perversely making a particular point of irrelevant abstractions at inappropriate moments. Enter stage left, Harry on reality.
"What do you mean by real?" he had begun. "What is real, anyway?"
This is real, she thought. Harry, you are a real idiot.
She remembered that this had been exactly what she had thought of him the first time they had met, almost a year previously. She had been walking home from some party with her friend Jane along a narrow lane leading down to their college building, when she had been somewhat disconcerted to see a dark figure apparently walking perpendicularly up the long wall that followed one side of the road. The figure was holding on to a lamppost for support, and was swearing volubly. Jane seemed to recognise the figure, for she had laughed and said, "Oh look! It's Harry!" Is it, she had thought. Harry. Another one to avoid.
As they approached, the figure turned to regard them with a gaze rendered unsteady partly by his horizontal position and partly by alcohol, of which he reeked. Indeed, the smell of beer had been so strong that she had tended to keep her distance, not so much because it was unpleasant, but because she had been on antibiotics at the time, and felt that inhaling too much of quite such a strong smell would surely go against her doctor's orders.
"Hi Harry," her friend had burbled cheerfully. Jane was the kind of girl who quite clearly spent a great deal of time burbling cheerfully at men who walked perpendicularly up walls in the middle of the night. It did not seem to throw her at all. "How are you? This is my friend Sam."
"Hi Jane. Hi Sam. Nice to meet you." Grasping the lamppost more firmly with the one hand he extended the other for her to shake, and smiled vertically. She was a little unsure whether or not to put her head on one side while talking to him, to make things a little easier, but he seemed perfectly at ease dealing with people while rotated through ninety degrees. "Sorry about the smell. Some arsehole spilt some beer on me." Really, she thought. Had they indeed.
"Listen, Harry," Jane had said, "Have you got the notes from..." and Sam had lost patience with the conversation at this point, since Jane and Harry were now obviously going to talk about work, which she personally had vowed never ever to do in the evenings.
She stood there looking at him, her neck beginning to ache with the effort. He was tall, with a short pretty boy haircut, blond, and was dressed in blue jeans and a blue shirt, which she strongly suspected him of considering himself cool in. Nice body. Pretty face, if slightly disfigured by the kind of arrogant leer that many of the boys she came across seemed to be permanently afflicted by. It was the "Hey, I'm really cool in my jeans," face, which turned into a leer in its battle to completely hide the "Look, I'm really sexually frustrated and quite underconfident, so will you go to bed with me please please please," expression that lurked beneath.
Was Jane really going to talk about work with Harry specifically now, with him walking up the wall like that? Jane was clearly not going to ask him what he was doing. Sam liked Jane, but found that her a little too hooked on trying to appear cool, at all costs, all the time. It was very tiring. It rendered her the kind of girl who would, under normal circumstances, never find out why her friends walked up walls. Since Sam was with her, however, these were not normal circumstances.
"Harry," she had said, butting into the gay and carefree conversation about lecture notes, books and essays at ninety degrees to their normal angle, "What, if I might ask you this, the fuck are you doing?"
"This is the wall of the college with the best ball this summer," he had said. "I'm practising doing this so I can crash it."
"I see." She looked first at him, then at the lamppost, and finally at the wall. It was quite a high wall. The lamppost was at such a distance from it that it was obviously not difficult for someone tall enough to walk up the wall, holding the lamppost. What she failed to see was how someone, even someone tall enough, would get onto the other side of the wall once they had walked up to the top.
The top of the wall could be walked up to. Yes. The lamppost could be held onto. No problem. This was clear enough, even without Harry's kind demonstration. What, however, she demanded, was stage two of the operation? There was nothing else to hold onto, and while the law of gravity might be cheated in situations where lampposts and walls were at a certain distance to one another, she could conceive of no circumstances in which it might be denied, in situations where people holding themselves at ninety degrees to the perpendicular wished to spontaneously rotate themselves back to normal, keeping their feet in position.
"Ah," said Harry. "I've got it all worked out. Watch."
They watched, as he inched his way up the wall, reached the top, wavered for a bit, attempted to climb further up the lamppost than there was wall to support himself with, slipped, smacked himself against the lamppost with that particular sound that lampposts make when healthy young male bodies smack against them, and unceremoniously slid to the ground.
"So long as you have it all worked out, Harry," she muttered, as she helped Jane pick him up, and realised with a sinking feeling that unfortunately, no, he wasn't alright, and that they were going to have to take him home and apply first aid of some sort.
Once they had got him home, and given him some tea and time to calm down and feel better, she and Harry had got chatting. She found, somewhat to her dismay, that they got on. Worse, when he rang the next day, and invited her to have dinner with him, she found herself saying that she would be delighted. The next thing she knew, she cared about him. It was a problem. The man, despite all his redeeming qualities, which she could reel off in a long list, and had spent many a sleepless night exactly so doing, especially recently, remained an idiot.
"There's a what in your bed?" Harry asked blearily. She had phoned him as soon as she had finished dumping the body somewhere, anywhere, that was neither a) in her room, nor b) anywhere she proposed to sleep.
"A dog." She had held herself together until now, but was beginning to slip. She hoped to god that she would not start crying until she had actually accused him point blank. At least he was entirely incapable of lying to her. She knew that very well, because he had tried on several occasions. He always used a particular tone of voice when he was lying. This was because he was stupid. She always knew.
"No," he said. "I didn't put it there. I might have been fucked off with you tonight, but I have better things to do than put dead dogs in people's beds."
He was telling the truth. Shit. Thank god.
"Will you come over?" She was now starting to whimper.
There was a pause. She concentrated all her remaining energy in making sure that the next thing she said was in the small voice which for some reason seemed to ensure that any man who heard it would do as he was told. "Will you come round?"
There was another pause. "I'm on my way," he said. "Are you alright?"
"Yes. I'm fine," she snapped. "I like having strange dogs put in my bed. It gives me pleasure."
She put the phone down, sat on the bed, remembered the dog, got up again, sat in the chair, and burst into tears.
Later, as Harry lay with her between fresh sheets, he reflected on how lucky he was, how beautiful she was, how glad he was that things seemed to be alright between them again, and how difficult it had been to convince his best friend to put the dog there.
"It's my only chance," he had said. He lay back, basking in the warmth of reconciliation and having been proved right, again. He might be an idiot, he thought, but he wasn't stupid.