I had seen the dog limping around the village a few days before the evening it called at my door. It was a surprise but then again it wasn’t. When I answered, it was sitting some paces from the step, watching with black eyes. Perhaps I should have been amazed it managed to reach the bell. Perhaps I should have wondered at the directness of its stare. Perhaps it was expecting a different reaction, a more appropriate one, a yelp, or swearing, or beseeching.
I lent back inside to get my coat and it said, you won’t need a coat. So I followed, coatless, as it limped this way and that, and led me down an old dirt track until we reached the river that had grown so lethargic over summer it could barely be called a river anymore. The smell of stagnant water hung thick around us as if the air itself had decomposed. I waited. The dog waited. Then, nodding at an unseen, unheard signal, it picked up a stick and tossed it into the shallow water. Obediently, I fetched, my socks and shoes made sodden and the hems of my jeans stained, and the water, when I reached into it to retrieve the stick, was warm like a second helping of soup.
The disappointment I felt on returning to the bank and finding myself alone was acute.
I went home and watched The X Factor without actually watching it all.