Get Your Laugh­ing Tackle Around this

The Victoria Standard - - Food/ Calendar - GEORGE SMITH

“What’s your dog’s name?” he asked, hav­ing or­dered a large scotch and a gin and tonic. “Oh, and a pint of lager, please,” he added.

“Just Mutt,” I replied and put the pint down in front of him.

“Jus­mutt. That’s an odd name.” He turned to­ward the ta­ble where his wife was sit­ting and called, “Hey dar­ling, the dog is called Jus­mutt!” She gri­maced. “What an odd name.” I was about to ex­plain, when a group of guys from the pi­rate ra­dio sta­tion came in. The ship, which housed an il­le­gal ra­dio sta­tion, was an­chored just out­side ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters. When the crew and disc jock­eys came ashore, we would end up with them spend­ing the evening.

Mutt was a pa­jama case that bore a strik­ing re­sem­blance to a small, cute, cud­dly dog. I found him aban­doned in the laun­dry room, and af­ter some fu­tile en­quiries as to his own­er­ship, I had in­stalled him in the cor­ner of the bar. He was given his own food and wa­ter bowls and even a col­lar with his name on it. He quickly gained celebrity sta­tus with a his­tory of ad­ven­ture and hero­ism. Renowned as a vi­cious guard dog as well as the pro­tec­tor of the small and the in­no­cent, he was on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, in need of re­trieval from the arms of a child or the clutches of the ine­bri­ated.

One morn­ing when I came in, he was gone. No one could shed light on his where­abouts. Cus­tomers were asked if they had seen him. So­nia the wait­ress, who was par­tic­u­larly fond of him, put a note in the win­dow of the post of­fice of­fer­ing a £50 re­ward for his safe re­turn. Af­ter a few days, his bowls and bas­ket were re­moved, and when cus­tomers asked af­ter him, they were told he was chas­ing sticks in the sky.

It was about three weeks later when Larry the pot­washer came run­ning into the bar, bub­bling over with ex­cite­ment. Stand­ing there in his wet and per­ma­nently-stained long white coat, he could hardly con­tain him­self. “They’ve got Mutt!” he blurted out. “Who’s got Mutt?” I asked. “Those guys on the ra­dio! They want money for him or they will find out if he can swim! They said it on the ra­dio just now!” He was try­ing to con­trol his ex­cite­ment.

By now, more of the staff were stand­ing at the bar. It was de­cided to raise the ran­som since we not only wanted Mutt back, but the money was to go to the hos­pi­tal char­ity.

A col­lec­tion box was placed in the staff room and an­other one on the bar. In no time, funds were raised to lib­er­ate Mutt from his in­car­cer­a­tion and to save him from Davey Jones’ locker. The ra­dio sta­tion ac­knowl­edged our gen­eros­ity and promised to re­turn Mutt un­harmed.

Un­for­tu­nately, Mutt was not re­turned, and no amount of ques­tion­ing helped us un­der­stand his fate.

We had all about given up hope when I opened an en­ve­lope post­marked from Paris. In­side was a pho­to­graph of Mutt in front of The Eif­fel Tower. On the re­verse was writ­ten, “Hav­ing a great time. Mutt.”

About a week later, an­other pho­to­graph of Mutt ar­rived – in front of The Ber­lin Wall. His trav­els then took him to The Vat­i­can, Moscow, Tokyo, and Cal­cutta. Of­ten the feet of a hu­man trav­el­ing com­pan­ion could be seen in the photo, and in one, a group of small chil­dren were bend­ing down to stroke him.

Af­ter sev­eral months, the time be­tween the en­velopes started to get longer, un­til no more ap­peared. It was per­haps a year since Mutt’s ini­tial dis­ap­pear­ance when a par­cel ar­rived with the by now fa­mil­iar hand­writ­ing on the front. A penknife slid across the bar to­ward me, and in ut­ter si­lence, I opened the par­cel. I lifted the lid off the card­board shoe­box, and curled up in tis­sue pa­per, was Mutt.

A col­lec­tive shout filled the bar, and some­one said, “Look there’s an en­ve­lope”. I read the con­tents aloud: “Dear Friends, I have now fin­ished my ex­ten­sive trav­els and have re­turned to you. I do hope that you did not miss me too much and that you en­joyed the pho­tos I sent. Now that I am back, where are the treats?


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