The dogs of door

Chapter Three

Nudge did not appear the next day, which was Sunday, 12th October 1969.  Neither did she show up at college on the Monday. No-one knew where she was but Geraldine Garter said that was perfectly normal. No-one ever knew where Nudge was, even when she was there. 
     Nathaniel was curious, then concerned, then indifferent, then terrified. He needed to find out what had happened to her. His parents had a telephone but hers did not.  He knew where she lived, he’d just spent the whole of Saturday – his dearth day – in a shed in her back garden.  They’d slinked into her garden via Cluck Lane, a footpath that ran the length of the backs of Bohemia Way, but he hadn’t been inside her house since she was a wicked child and he was a precautious brat. What he didn’t know was her name – her real name – the one her parents would use.
     Everyone called her Nudge. Nudge McBudge. As a child she’d said her name was Nudge, all their gang had called her Nudge, and these days everyone knew her as Nudge. They’d gone to different schools, because he was a Catholic, and her family were Protestant, which was one category worse than satanic, but now that they were attending the same sixth form, he sometimes saw her in the common room.  He’d never heard her non-Catholic, and hence non-sacred, Christian name.  At least, if he had, he couldn’t remember it.  What he could remember was that Nudge’s dad had been a boxer and had a nose that looked and sounded like a snorkel, and that his mother never wore stockings and had a temper that was two parts wolfhound and one part pheasant. She could fly off the handle, loop the loop, re-grab the handle, and hit you with it. Her husband was by far the meekest of the pair. Mrs McBudge not only wore the trousers; she made them out of wire wool. 
     Nathaniel was deeply deterred from knocking on the door of 44 Bohemia Way, despite being achingly aware that, in his nineteenth year, it was absurd that he should fear the wrath of Mrs McBudge or the twitchy fist of her husband, but fear it he did.  Connor McBudge had hit a man who had never recovered it was said, and his wife had been pregnancied out of her religion and knew she was serpenting her way to hell, didn’t give a damn, and was happy to take whoever she could with her. That’s what Father Fraudulent had said. 
     The door knocker was fashioned as a ring in the mouth of the head of a bulldog that had done a bout of nine rounds and was game for nine more. When Nathaniel reluctantly rapped it, a real Boxer hound howled in reply from the bowels of Hades. 
     Brutus. He’d forgotten about Brutus. 
     “Be quiet!” yelled a baritone banshee. “Be quiet, I tell yers.” That was the wail of Deirdre. Deirdre! That was Nudge’s mother’s name. Maybe her daughter was called Deirdre too?  People often called their children after themselves, just to create familial confusion.
     Brutus barked again, in perfect iambic pentameter. 
     “Shut your fecking face, you stupid beast!” 
     “And - Bru - tus - is - an - hon – our – a - ble - beast,” barked Brutus.
     “Shut yer fecking slavering trap,” shouted Deirdre.
     Nathaniel heard the security chain on the door rattle, and loosened his bowels. The entrance to Irish hell pivoted away and there strained Deirdre McBudge in a mauve and white leaf-patterned frock that looked far too thin to fight off the autumn chill, a cardigan that might have been wool, or twine, or chainmail, open-toed sandals and, of course, no stockings.  Her left thigh bulged as she pinioned Brutus against the hall wall. Her left hand grasped the dog’s collar, her right the demon-hall door. Her Valkyrie hair, brazened ginger, thinner than she would wish, longer than was wise, radiated in wiry thermals, one strand fingering her lips. Her eyes stared; her nostrils flared.
     “It’s Nathaniel. Nathaniel Bateson.”
     “I know who y’are. I know who yer mother is. And yer pa.”
     Something about that remark deeply troubled Nathaniel. He reached for a name, opted for Deirdre, rejected it, gulped, reloaded and stuttered: “Is . . . Nudge . . . in?”
     “And who might she be?”
     “Your daughter.”
     “And would yer not be knowing her name, now, her proper name? The name her mammy gave her?”  It was not a question; it was interrogation, and Nathaniel was duly terrified. Brutus edged three scuffed wallpaper roses past the flexed thigh. Deidre nudged him with a hydraulic knee. Her skirt rode higher, her thigh displayed more muscle. 
     “She wasn’t at College today.”
     “And what business of yers is that?”
     “I saw her on Saturday.”
     “Did yer now?”
     “I was just a tad concerned.”
     “Why?  Why would Mrs Bateson’s best boy be a tad concerned about Mrs McBudge’s wayward daughter?  Just how much of her did yer see on Saturday?”
     “Not much.”
     “Not much?  Well, neither did I.  And I’ve not seen her since.  But that’s not that unusual.  Are yer tellin’ me I should be troubled?”
     Brutus strained.  The thigh flexed.
     “No, I was just . . . concerned.”
     “Yer haven’t told me why.”
     It seemed such a pathetic reason, but there was no other.  “She said she was going to 13A.”
     That was all he needed to say, such was the reputation of 13A.
     “Did she now?”
     “She hinted that she might.”
     “Then why don’t yer go and ask for her there?”
     “I think I might.”
     “Do that.  Tell her to come home, but only if she’s as intact as she was before she went.”
     “I will.”
     Nathaniel waited.  Deirdre McBudge then did the most terrifyingly erotic motion that the nubile Nathaniel had ever seen.  She required both hands in order to unloop and unfasten a necklace chain, so she first straddled Brutus, clamping him below her groin in a collar of flexed thigh.  The dog was now a living magnified effigy of the door knocker, lacking only a ring for its jowls. The closest available circle was Nathaniel’s pelvic cradle. Every organ in that area was both vulnerable and unstable. Involuntary dowsing was now imminent. Meanwhile, having manoeuvred the fine gold chain through her wild once-flaming hair, Deirdre hoisted its hidden pendant from deep within her cleavage. What emerged was a key.  The simplest tubular worn-brass key barely an inch in length, dentured rather than toothed, and entirely unsuited to the delicate chain-linked thread looped through its hoop.  
     Brutus bulged, growled, slavered and dripped, as Deirdre delicately unhitched the chain from itself, then thrust it forwards with such vigour that Nathaniel discovered his arm was already extended before his central nervous command had issued the directive to move.  She sent the key slithering off the chain into his expectant palm. It was light, warm and glistened with miniscule moistness. 
     “Should I give this to her?”
     “Jesus, no. Give it to him.”
     “Tat-head Titus.”
     “Who’s he?”
     “Top floor.  Attic-wanker.  Telescopic Titus. Tell him Deirdre is done with it.”
     The Boxer jockey jerked backwards, yanking the beast beneath her away. The door slammed shut and Nathaniel was left clutching a key to who knows what to be delivered to who knows who.  He couldn’t resist sniffing it, and then tasting it. It tasted of brass; and breast.
     Now he had no option. He must return to 13A Bohemia Way to deliver the designated token. At least he had a valid reason to call. Perhaps he would discover what had happened to Nudge, and why Titus was telescopic. 

To be continued

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s