It is clear that exorcising the dog won’t wait till after the wedding. Indeed I had a brief word about his problem with Father J and I didn’t get the impression that the priest relished getting his bell, book and candle out, wedding or no wedding. He was fretting about the vows and whether daughter three would ‘obey’ her Alex.
Fat chance, I thought; and anyway whether she does or not will not depend on what Our Mother the Church tells her.
It came to a head on Saturday when I went to Rye. Rye is one of my favourite places. I discovered it through the Mapp & Lucia books and then got to love the place anyway. It gets more and more precious, every retail outlet is either a second-hand bookshop or organic tearooms, but it’s still wonderful.
The painter Edward Burra, a hero of mine, lived there all his life. He wrote, “Ducky little Tinkerbell towne is like an itsy bitsy morgue quayte DEAD.’ (Orthography was not a passion for him.) Its centre was given over to ‘gyfterie and other forms of perversion’. But he never left; and I can see why.
I went by myself as the better half was away. She had been urgently summoned to Paris in connection with some important research that she is involved with into the effect on the taste of risotto of being liberally sprinkled with gold leaf.
I thought of taking the dog with me to Rye. Then I imagined a lovely country pub, a pie and a pint for my lunch, and in my mind’s eye I saw the notice on the pub wall:
No Fat People
Please Drink in Moderation
Foreigners admitted at Management’s Discretion
May contain Nuts
The dog is not welcome in Rye anyway since he once ran onto the village cricket pitch there during a match and shat on the wicket. Unfortunately it was just where the visiting team’s off-spinner was pitching the ball. Even after the dog’s deposit had been cleared away the residue still gave the bowler unpredictable turn and the home team lost. There was discussion at Council level of a dog exclusion order. It never came to anything but he is still given a wide berth in Mermaid Street.
So I left him behind.
It was a lovely late-Summer day. The sun shone mildly on fields and trees that, after all the rain, were still as green as Spring. The Marsh Train stopped to gather its strength by a field of young horses. They were gambolling as only young horses can. I watched them through the window and considered their future: French gastronomy perhaps; pulling the coffin at a mobster’s funeral with a silly black plume on the head; the moral cesspit of the Turf. There was no point upsetting them, but I thought it:
You’re living in a foals’ paradise!
I never got to the pub, as I received an angry text from the better half. She had learnt from her iPhone that there was thunder in London, thunder brought out the worst in the dog, and I was to go back at once. She had had to break off in mid-research and was not pleased.
The thunder was over when I got home but the consequences were there to see. The dog had eaten the television. And shat.
It may be remembered that thunder had earlier brought on the dog’s alcoholism, from which he had at length recovered, but this was of a different order. He stared at me, the remains of a mangled SCART plug hanging from his foul lips and said in an unnaturally deep voice, I am the Eater of Televisions and Destroyer of Worlds.
I looked at him straight. That was harder than one might expect. His irises were crimson and you could descry scenes reflected in them of abomination and filth: music, men dancing with women, people making free with the private parts of goats, and so on – or possibly not; it’s hard to tell with his cataracts.
Is that you talking, I asked him, or has your body been taken over by forces stronger than your own?
I am Lord Satan, he replied.
Well in that case you won’t want taking out again, I said, putting back his lead and plastic bag, and I cleared away his mess. He was reluctant to part with the SCART plug.
I affected nonchalance but I was uneasy nonetheless. What would the better half say if she came back from Paris girlishly enthusiastic to share her scientific discoveries and found the family home transformed into an outpost of Hell?
Something had to be done, but what? I locked the dog in and walked up to the presbytery. Surely Father J would have something to suggest? There was a notice on the door:
At tambourine practice. Back some time, whatever. God bless!
Isn’t that just the Church of England of today for you, I thought angrily, as I stumped back to the house. Through the living room door I could hear the dog chanting to himself in his new basso profundo:
Biscuits! Virgins! Cheese! Sodomy! Shitting on the hall floor!
There was only thing left that I could do. If anyone could help it was my doughty zombie-fighting Uncle Edgerton. I went straight to the bathroom, squeezed a little shaving foam onto the palm of my hand and wrote on the shaving mirror:
Do you know anything about exorcisms at all?
We would see what we would see.