Unless you’re lucky enough to be newly in love, under eighteen, or some sort of night worker, there is no dread deeper than the 2am phone call. Good news does not come at 2am. That’s the bad news hour, with conversations that start, ‘I’m sorry,’ or, ‘I don’t want to worry you, but…’
I blinked at the mobile in my hand without even remembering reaching for it. The word DEBBIE shone out in the darkness and some idiotic ringtone split the silence. I pressed the green button, noting the time and feeling an iceberg form in the pit of my stomach. ‘Darcy’s escaped,’ Debbie said.
Fumbling about on the bedside table for the nightlight, not used to the layout of my mother’s spare room, I sent pictures and nick-knacks tumbling to the floor before I found the switch.
‘Okay, that’s not a problem,’ I said.
‘Yes, yes it is a problem. Did you hear me, Darcy’s escaped.’ Darcy, twelve stone of lolloping Great Dane dog and the world’s biggest baby. Untrainable, unpractical, unintelligent, and utterly adorable.
‘Where are you?’
‘On the land, just walking past Kylie’s enclosure. I think she’s asleep, does that mean Darcy hasn’t been past here? Oh, I think I might have woken her up. Hello sweetie.’ I could hear the pig snorting and snuffling in the background and imagined Debbie shining a torch into her face. Yep, that’d wake her up.
‘Darcy!’ she yelled. I did that stupid pull the phone away from my ear and stare at it rudely thing. Then I lifted it back. ‘Can’t you shout quietly?’ I complained. ‘Or at least move the phone when you do.’
‘Sorry. What am I going to do? I can’t see him anywhere. It’s not so bad if he’s contained on our bit, but what if he gets out? You know how soppy he is.’ Actually I was more concerned he might get tangled up in one of the electric fences, or find himself face to face with General Lee the boar, but I kept that to myself.
‘I think he must have gone out the end path. I bet there’s a bitch in season somewhere in Barbrook and he’s gone after her,’ she said. ‘The thing is, I’m not sure I can go out there.’
‘I was in bed. Darcy said he needed to go and it was urgent. I wasn’t expecting to go traipsing through the streets.’ She sighed, ‘I’m only wearing wellies and a coat.’
I started laughing. ‘You’re joking?’ Silence. ‘You’re not joking,’ I laughed even harder. Then I put on a mock stern voice, ‘Mr Dawson, we’ve arrested your wife for streaking through the centre of town.’
‘I’m not streaking, I’m decent. I’m just not fully decent. Besides it’s two in the morning, who’s going to know? Oh damn it, I’m going to have to go and find him, hang on.’ The sound of her footsteps changed to a slap-slap sound. I guessed she was now walking along the pavement.
‘Isn’t it a bit chilly?’ I asked.
‘Shut up. Wait, I think I’ve seen him. Yes, oh no, he’s in the petrol station.’ Then very quietly, almost a whisper, she called, ‘Darcy, here boy.’
‘Where are you?’
‘Sssh. Hiding behind a bush. Darcy, come to mummy.’
‘But the petrol station’s closed.’
‘They don’t turn the lights off, and I bet there’s CCTV or something. Darcy, please, for me, please. Got him.’
‘Simon, it’s two in the morning, I’m nearly naked, walking the streets, freezing cold, with a dog that thinks I’ve come out to play. Do I feel better? Better than what, exactly?’