Cliftonville by night … once upon a time
After the incident at the animal shelter, followed by an after dark foray into a rough part of Margate called Cliftonville where hope was discovered (in certain circumstances) to exist as a kind of moral chameleon driven before the winds of many different sorts of desires, ‘T’ reckoned that it might be a good idea to take a break. The Ossyrian mission had already uncovered a wealth of knowledge regarding the complexities of human behaviour, so much so that each newly discovered ‘fact’ seemed to raise a hundred more questions. That the species possessed what the Director, in his far away office in the diplomatic wing of the Inter-Galactic HDQ, had called vitality seemed, now, like a tame understatement. By Ossyrian standards the people of Earth, even when at rest, seemed…well…to somehow have solved the riddle of perpetual motion!
‘Let’s go up to London and see some of the sights,’ ‘T’ suggested and was met with immediate enthusiastic agreement by the pair of Chihuahuas. Hopping the fast train to St. Pancras Station, the trio happily watched the countryside roll by for an hour and a half before pulling into the busy North London transit hub. A sweaty tube ride several stops south brought them to the historic Westminster area of the city dominated by the great landmarks of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s and the Tower of London. ‘Hey, ‘T’,’ Alfie signalled, ‘can we check out Westminster Abbey? I want to see the place where the Prince and his good looking university sweetheart got married.’ ‘Sure, Alfie, no problem,’ ‘T’ replied, ‘if I’m not mistaken it’s just around that corner.’ But there was a problem; dogs, even cute, unobtrusive Chihuahuas, were not allowed into the historic place of worship. ‘I’m confused,’ an acutely disappointed Alfie grumbled, ‘Do they think that dogs don’t believe in God?’ ‘T’, as mystified as the canines, could think of no reply.
‘You know what, guys?’ Ajax’s irrepressible thought waves always brought a smile to ‘T’s homely face. I’ve got a hankering to ride on the London Eye and get a bird’s eye view of the city.’ ‘Birds??!’ Alfie chimed in, ‘Where?’ He loved chasing birds on the beach back at Margate. But the Eye was also closed to any and all Chihuahuas. ‘Discrimination is just plain wrong, ‘T’,’ his strident thought was laden with hurt agitation. ‘I know, Alfie, I know,’ was all ‘T’ could think of to say. In the end the situation was, however, beautifully salvaged by a leisurely walk along the pavement on the south bank of the Thames followed by burgers and more chips purchased by ‘T’ at an upscale McDonald’s tucked away in one of the many mini-malls that had been converted from Victorian Era dockyards and warehouses, and eaten under a golden afternoon sun on a grass verge overlooking the silty river.
When the relaxed group of one bespectacled middle aged man and two frisky Chihuahuas arrived back in Margate, being late Spring, the sun was still fairly high in the sky. ‘How about one last walk – maybe up to that convenience store on the Canterbury Road where they sell those amazing sesame seed coated candies?’ ‘T’ beamed. ‘YES!!!!!!’ came the instantaneous reply as the Chihuahuas never seemed to tire of walks around town where the near-infinite number of different smells deposited by other dogs on pavement, post, and plant (well, actually, on just about anything and everything) kept them up to date on all of the fascinating happenings in canine society; not part of the study, strictly speaking, but deeply interesting nevertheless.
‘What the…?!!!’ Alfie’s shocked exclamation was followed by a snort as he spit some brownish-green down from his mouth. As was often the case, the wind was blowing briskly in Margate and what had briefly blown straight into the surprised Chihuahua’s open mouth was a living ball of brownish-green down peppered by almost-black spots; something like a rotund avian version of a leopard. The downy ball, crowned with a small beak and two beady eyes, was supported by stalk-like legs with enormous webbed feet. ‘T’ quickly scooped it up and, smiling, proclaimed, ‘It’s a baby seagull…and it must have fallen out of its nest!’
‘Can we put it back?’ Ajax asked, ‘I mean the pavement next to the busy Canterbury Road can’t be a very safe place for a baby seagull.’ ‘I don’t think so,’ ‘T’ beamed, ‘For one thing, we don’t know where its nest is…and if we did its mother probably wouldn’t accept it back.’ ‘But ‘T’,’ Alfie interrupted, ‘we have to do something. We can’t just leave it to die.’ ‘I have an idea,’ ‘T’ signalled enigmatically, ‘Follow me!!’
Five minutes later the trio, with ‘T’ tenderly cupping the contented baby seagull arrived at the train station parking lot where they hailed a taxi. ‘We’re headed to the pet store at Westwood Cross,’ he said to the driver and, with a lazy fart of exhaust, they were on their way. ‘T’ knew that the enormous pet and supply store at the sprawling mall also housed veterinarian offices and was confident that the kindly vets would care for the orphaned seagull chick. When the human, two Chihuahuas, and one baby gull arrived they were indeed advised that they could safely handover the bemused chick and that all would be well.
+ + +
Three days after the incident involving the young gull Ajax noticed that ‘T’ looked a bit pale and had been much more taciturn than was usual. When questioned, ‘T’ heaved a huge sigh and tried to explain. ‘I phoned the vets this morning to see how our orphan bird was doing…and they informed me that it had been euthanized within minutes of being handed over.’ ‘Oh, no….’ Ajax’s thought trailed off. ‘But why?’ ‘No real reason, really,’ ‘T’s clipped response hinted at confusion and more than a little anger. ‘When I asked, all that they were able to say was that the clinic had been exceptionally busy that day and, besides, Margate had lots of gulls…’ Both dogs sat, trembling, on their haunches looking up at the Director in his human disguise. ‘Sometimes hope, though resilient, can also be a fragile thing,’ he sighed again, ‘because, by its very nature, it is as ethereal as a promise…and promises are sometimes broken.’
(to be continued)