Everyone agreed that James and Millicent Harrington in number twenty seven were a lovely couple. Their house was always clean and well-kept and their dogs were the same. All twenty of them. The high wire fence around their back yard stopped the dogs from getting out into the neighbourhood, which was also clean and well-kept, and at night the dogs retired to their kennels and hardly barked at all. The situation of their house, in an awkward block at the end of Primrose Lane, meant they had no immediate neighbours to disturb other than the frogs and small animals that lived in the scrub by Whipple Creek, which gave the quiet little suburb its name.
The Harringtons were middle aged and their dogs were the centre of their lives. They had spaniels and retrievers, poodles and terriers, two Labradors and a tiny mongrel named Elmer. Most of the dogs were pure-bred and would undoubtedly have placed in dog shows. Indeed, the Harringtons had blue ribbons from the old days, when they used to travel around the country with their original show dogs. Occasionally friends and neighbours were invited in for tea and had the chance to view these awards, along with a surprising number of trophies and plaques from dog shows past. Some of the smaller dogs were also allowed into the house during these visits, though it was clear from the number of toys and unavoidable claw and tooth marks on the furniture that many more were allowed in when there were no visitors.
No one was ever taken out to see the kennels, however. James admitted that he was very proud of the structure, which was built better than some houses and covered two-thirds of the spacious back yard, but it was a matter of safety — just in case, you know. It was clear that the Harringtons were what everyone smilingly referred to as “dog people”. They had no children, nor seemed interested in having them. Indeed, the few people who took their children on visits to number twenty seven noted that the Harringtons actually seemed to dislike children, though they were polite and hid the fact as best they could. Well, that was fair enough, the people of Whipple Creek decided, not everyone had to like children, or even be nice to them.
They were a lovely couple, that was the consensus, and they truly loved their dogs, so when they were killed by a drunk driver on the highway while returning home from Church, it was with heavy hearts that that the neighbours watched as Animal Control handlers arrived to round up the dogs and take them away in vans.
Two secrets came to light, which provided fuel for chatter for years to come. The Harringtons had not been childless after all, and not all of the kennels were occupied by dogs.
Ian Rochford is an occasional TV writer (ostensibly of comedy) who recently rediscovered the pleasures of writing short stories (i.e., unemployed). Now plundering his fading memory for all the good ideas that came and went unrecorded, which probably accounts for the maddening inconsistency of his output.
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