David Pipe, author, writer novelist, Sacrificing Starlight, Henry's Tale - UK, Germany


Chapter 1

‘’enry, come on, ’enryyyy!’

‘Go on, ’enry mate, yer missus is cawl-in.’

‘But we haven’t finished burying the bone, Bully.’

‘Don’t you worry yer fine ’ead about that, ’enry, I’ll finish up ’ere and then we can dig it out agenn ter-morrer.’

‘But what if Ben the boxer comes sniffing around? He’s wandering around at all times of night.’

‘I’ll make sure it’s still ’ere for breakfast, my son.’

‘But won’t your mama worry about you if you don’t go home, Bully?’

‘I ain’t seen her for two weeks, ’enry, they just picked up sticks and went, like. Gone on their ’ols I expect.’

‘You mean they’ve gone on holiday and they didn’t take you with them?’

‘That’s about the size of it, ’enry.’

‘But who could do such a thing?’

‘’enryyy! Come ’ere this minute!’

‘You’re a real litt-awl joker you are, my son; you get off to your mama or she’ll be blowin’ a fuse, she will.’

‘But where do you sleep, Bully? And how do you get the tins open? You can’t hold a tin opener in your claws.’

Bully chuckled. ‘Mama’s callin’, ’enry, you get off ’ome now.’

Henry dropped his tail between his legs and sloped off towards the broken board in the fence. Halfway down the hill he looked back and watched as Bully curled himself up in a cardboard box.

He eased himself through the ragged planks and dawdled down the path to the end of the park. At the corner he peeked through a loose slat one more time. Bully hadn’t moved. A deep draught of air came out of his small body as if it was his last. He was already in trouble but he desperately wanted to run back and curl up beside his new friend.

‘’enry, where the ’ell ’ve you been?’ Jenny snatched Henry by the scruff of his neck and clipped the lead to his collar. As she struggled under the weight of her Salvatore Ferragamo Salome zigzag capsule top handle bag, Henry darted towards the fence and cocked his leg. At that very moment Jenny yanked the lead and a stream of dark yellow pee, which was meant for the rotting fence post, flew in an arc and dribbled down her glossy Chanel shopping bag. Heaving him up by the collar until he dangled in front of her purple face she hissed into his bulging eyes. ‘One drop! If one drop of your evil smelling pee has touched my new outfit you will not see termorrer mawnin.’ A moment later, with a crash and clatter, a pigeon burst out of the trees and before she could close her mouth it crapped on her red Jason Wu day dress. ‘Shit! Shit! Shit! I’m gonna kill the next wild ani-mawl I see.’

Battling with her shopping bags and Henry’s lead she inadvertently spread the creamy, grey excrement over the front of the garment while Henry discretely dribbled some wee over her Sophia Webster Ellen, Walk the Walk, flat sandals. Sitting quietly at her feet, he smiled as the oily liquid dribbled from the shiny surface and ran between her toes.

Effing and blinding, Jenny dragged Henry along the footpath to the wooden gate, lifted the latch and tugged him through the opening. When she pulled him down Park Drive, Henry pulled back. One violent tug on the lead shot him over the low hedge and onto the concrete garden path of number twenty-three. Before she could fumble her key into the lock the front door sprang open and Henry jumped into the outstretched arms of a pot-bellied man in a Liverpool football shirt.

‘And how’s my boy today?’

As Alan turned Henry to tickle his stomach a spurt of wee shot down the back of Jenny’s ruined Jason Wu work of art. Struggling with excitement he peeked over Alan’s shoulder, wagging his tail as Jenny stormed into the house.

‘Dah-lin’, your favourite litt-awl Border terrier has cost me half the afternoon and my favourite Jason Wu piece. I can’t even pop into the chemist for two seconds without he runs off to play. This time he disappeared round the back of the garages into the park. When he decided to come back, he peed on my Chanel bag and as I tried to escape his attack this effing eagle crashed out of the trees and crapped all over my dress. Your tea isn’t ready and now we have to rush to get to the pictures on time. You wanna dog, you look after him yourself. I hate being in the country. I never wanted to come here. We was in Ken-sin-tern, Al. Ken-sin-tern. Wiv all those wonderful peep-awl. Now what the ’ell are we doing out here in the sticks?’

‘Well, Watford’s hardly what I’d call country, Jen. There’s loads of pubs, and good music at the weekend. And anyway, Kensington’s full of Arabs running around in their long dresses.’

‘Exactly, Al! And what have those people got?’

‘You mean apart from sand up their noses?’

‘Come on, Al, you know what I mean. They’ve got that one thing that makes life really worth living.’

‘What’s that then, Jen; culture, compassion?’

‘Money, Al, and they ain’t too short. And they buy, buy, buy for their women, all of them. I made ooooodles in the boo-teak. They even make that Ecclescake bloke look small and cheap. ’

‘Yeah, well that’s not too difficult is it, Jen?’

‘But out here there’s all these wild ani-mawls running around. And there ain’t no real culture, Al, like really smart discos an’ all. And the only fing I can do here is take your mutt to that stoopid dog bitch. That ain’t what I married you for, Al.’

Avoiding the spittle flying out with Jenny’s anger Henry slunk off down the hall and dropped into his basket. Following him she rushed into the kitchen, scraped half the contents of a gold-coloured tin into a Princess Diana porcelain bowl and kicked it across the kitchen to the back door.

Henry stretched his front legs into the Cat position, drew them back and arched his spine.

‘That’s my boy; always do your yoga before you eat.’

‘Don’t you make him any softer than he is, Al. I don’t know where this is all going to end. He’s bad enough without you encouraging him.’

Avoiding Jenny’s gaze, Henry sidled around the kitchen to the bowl where he sniffed all over the dish. ‘Fillet steak with chanterelles; my favourite.’

Kneeling, Alan stroked Henry’s back. ‘Now that’s what a hungry Border terrier needs after a hard day out in the field. You enjoy your tea while I get changed.’


‘Not now, ’enry, I’m busy and we’re late.’

‘But, Mama, Bully’s people have gone on holiday and left him at home and he’s got nothing to eat and he has to sleep on a cardboard box in the park at night.’

‘Bully? Who the ’ell’s Bully?’

‘You know, silly, Bully, my new friend, the British bulldog from number fifteen.’

For several moments Jenny didn’t move then her knife and fork clattered onto the tabletop as she clapped her hands over her mouth.

‘How many times do I have to tell you them fightin’ breeds are dangerous? If he gets you by the neck you’re finished, my boy, and then there’ll be no more steak dinners for you.’

‘Ah, Mama, he’s nice; he wouldn’t hurt a fly.’

‘You stay away from him. Don’t let me catch you near him again or it’s dried food for a week.’

When Alan returned to the table Jenny stood and tucked his Lionel Messi shirt into his jeans and sat down again.

Alan moved behind her chair and pulled it back out. ‘Now what’s all this about dried food, not for my Henry eh, my boy.’

‘He’s been seeing that monster from number fifteen. Those bulldogs can’t be trusted.’

‘Bully’s fine. And he’s from your part of the world, an Essex bulldog. Essex dogs and bitches are the salt of the earth. You should know, Jen, you’re from Colchester.’

‘Wivern-oh, Alan, not Colchester, Wivern-oh.’

‘Papa, Mr and Mrs Johnson have gone on holiday and left Bully and he’s got no food and nowhere to sleep. Can he stay here until they come back, please, Papa, please?’

‘Over my dead body, Al, I’ve got enough to do wiv you two and now you want me to take in that fat old fleabag. No way; an’ in any case, we don’t want no Essex low-life here.’

Henry lay down and made his saddest face. And to show his displeasure, as Jenny shovelled the last of her beef pie into her mouth, he let out the smelliest fart he could manage. With one paw folded over his snout he watched Alan out of his right eye.

‘How would you feel if Henry got lost and had to live in the open, Jen? Wouldn’t you like to think that someone would offer him shelter, that he was safe?’

A brief smile flitted through the contours of Jenny’s remodelled lips. ‘No, and that’s final. It’s the Johnsons’ problem. I’m not running an animal shelter and that’s it.’

Without waiting for Alan to finish eating, Jenny clattered the dishes into the sink and rushed up the stairs.

Alan loaded them into the dishwasher, took out the rest of the tin of Hunts’ Fillet Steak with Chanterelles from the fridge, emptied it into a plastic sandwich bag and slipped it behind the waste bin. Then he bent down and stroked Henry’s flanks.

‘OK, Henry?’

‘Thank you, Papa.’

Seconds later, Jenny rushed down the stairs pulling her Vivienne Westwood Orange Bluegrass top over her Dolce and Gabbana white shorts and pushed her Donna Karan sunglasses into her hair. ‘Ready? And you behave yourself, young man. I want to find you in bed when we get back. Did you hear what I said?’

‘Yes, Mama.’

Even though Alan was right behind her Jenny slammed the front door in his face and stormed down the path. Taking more time than was wise, Alan bent down, unbolted the cat flap and stroked Henry’s ears. He smiled; a slow smile full of love for his little friend. ‘Be careful, Henry, don’t leave it until it gets dark.’

‘OK, Papa, have a nice time.’

Alan flipped his FC Barcelona cap from the hook in the hall, took a deep breath, and followed Jenny to the car.