Desmond lay back in the armchair in front of the fire in Uncle Edgar’s cottage and contemplated his future. This time last year, it was all mapped out, but things had changed totally since then, unfortunately.
When Uncle Edgar had died and left them the cottage, Desmond and Margaret had fallen in love with it. It was small and had been neglected during the old man’s latter years, but it was situated among a cluster of others beside a shingle beach with magnificent views across the estuary. Margaret was a natural homemaker, and she had such plans to make it a very comfortable and cosy place to live. The plan was that when Desmond retired six months after inheriting the place, they would set to work on it, but as with so many grand plans, it was not to be, as Margaret had become ill and died within a month of his retirement. He had immersed himself in getting used to life alone in the bungalow they had shared for over forty years, and had only recently felt like thinking about the cottage again.
He had been staying there for a week now, trying to get used to what life would be like if he moved there, as Margaret had dreamed. He had spent hours strolling along the beach, collecting driftwood as Uncle Edgar had done. He had even lit a fire on the beach and tried to cook a mackerel a neighbour had given him, but it had tasted awful, smoky and burnt. Uncle Edgar used to make sculptures from odd shaped pieces of driftwood he picked up, and the house was full of them. Margaret had said they would be the first things to go, as she hated them, so the hearth he was now stretched out in front of was piled high with them, and they were blazing beautifully. Beside the fireplace was the one piece that Margaret had liked, as she said it looked like a large dog, lying down but with his head cocked on one side. They had christened this piece ‘The Mongrel’.
The evening was drawing in, but Desmond didn’t put the lights on, he was so comfortable there in front of the crackling fire, which made lovely shadows on the walls of the old cottage. He must make up his mind what to do about the place. He could easily afford to have it done up to his liking, in accordance with Margaret’s wishes, so should he spend the rest of his days pottering round as Uncle Edgar had done?
As he lay there in the armchair, half dozing, he heard the window rattle behind him, and felt a draught as it opened. He heard a man’s voice say “There won’t be anything in there worth pinching so just look for the car keys”. Fully awake now, he struggled to sit upright, and in so doing, the feet of his chair scraped across the wooden floor, making a deep growling sound. At the same time, the draught caused large flickering shadows on the wall which made it look as if the Mongrel was moving. There was a muttered curse from the man now halfway through the window as he heard the noise and saw these shadows. “Bloody Hell Colin” he said to his accomplice “you never said the old boy had a dog”, and they both beat a very hasty retreat.
Desmond smiled as he made the window secure and drew the curtains. He put the light on and sat down in his armchair again. He had made his mind up quite definitely. However much he decorated and altered the cottage, Margaret would never be there with him, but in their bungalow at home, her personal touches were everywhere, and that was where he wanted to be, back with the memories of their very happy life together. Tomorrow he would go into town and consult an estate agent about putting the cottage on the market, and he would return to the bungalow that would always be home.
And The Mongrel would be going home with him.