Kate And My Dog

At 8 a.m. Horace finished gardening and made a drink. At 8.10 a.m. he uncovered the easel at the rear of his cave, moved it nearer the daylight and continued his illustrated translation of the words of the prophet.

At 10 a.m. he had one slice of unleavened bread and half an apple, then knelt to pray.

The shiny surface of the icon briefly showed his reflection and he noticed with mild concern how stressed and haggard he looked. He felt rapidly reassured by his commitment to and connection with the unseen world of the spirit articulated by the prophet.


Horace creaked a little as he struggled back to his feet. He rubbed his aching knees and wondered, for maybe the ten thousandth time, if he should make a more comfortable arrangement in front of the icon.

He turned and gasped with shock as he looked out to the glare of the sun. Could he be still in the land of spirit? Was this a temptation from the devil? If so, it was a very subtle one, since the young girl looked anything but seductive.

She took a few uncertain steps into the cave, nervously twisting her long black hair in one hand.

'Hello?' said Horace. It isn't usually a question, but the tone of Horace's voice was clearly thus. The girl smiled self-consciously and tucked her head down between her rising shoulders. Her hair piled on her shoulders and half concealed her face.

'Are you lost?' Horace asked.
'I suppose so,' she replied. 'I'm Kate.'
'Hello Kate. I'm Horace. Would you like something to eat? It bears a very minor resemblance to bread. Also to granite.'

'Thank you,' said Kate. 'It looks ideal. An ideal partner to apple, I bet.'
Horace looked at Kate. He tried various combinations of furrowed brow, arched eyebrow, sucking of teeth and such like. Kate returned the gestures with interest, substituting a pout for the furrowed brow, since she lacked the necessary years for a convincing wrinkle.

The silence dragged on and on and the orientations of brow and lip seemed to be exhausted. Kate showed no sign of easing Horace's discomfort.

'Funnily enough,' he croaked, then cleared his throat. 'I do have a large tub of apples. The tub is out of sight, as it happens.'
'Hmm,' said Kate.
Kate ate her apples and something-like-bread while Horace stood just outside the cave, seeking inspiration. What on earth was he to do with her? And how best to maintain his timetable of devotions?

Fleetingly he had an image of putting Kate on something called a bus that would take her home, but realised this was a glimpse into the nightmarish parallel world of barbarians...


Horace felt mildly breathless, but was pleased to find himself prepared to continue his illustrations on schedule. Kate sat nearby at her own newly-assembled easel, and proved to be an industrious worker – speedy though somewhat careless. He was aware of Kate's excellent posture, perched on her stool so lightly and free of his habitual hunch, as though with the slightest effort of will she could leave the stool altogether and float peacefully, languidly above it. She was struggling with the colours though ...


Horace gave Kate a few tips on shading one colour into the next to create a blend. He realised he was late for prayers.

He pointed to his ancient mechanical watch and nodded towards the icon. Kate grinned and leapt from her stool with a peerless absence of dignity and bounded towards the icon and knelt, singing merrily.

'Is something wrong,Horace?' Kate asked.
'Oh good. You sighed, that's all.'

Horace mentally recited the articles of his faith but felt irritated by his lack of concentration. He was getting stabbing pains in his knees and wondering what to do about Kate's abundant energy. An idea presented itself the next morning as he woke ...


Horace laughed out loud as he pushed Kate on the swing. She sang tunefully, fitting the tempo to the tide of the swing. He felt sure Kate was an inch taller than the day she'd arrived. It felt a little worrying to realise that had been only two weeks ago. The way she grinned at him whenever there was a chance of using the swing gave him a very warm glow. He'd made a pretty good job of the swing, given the limited materials.

A steady breeze from the South took Kate's hair to one side. The pendulum (which was Kate) added a forwards and backwards trailing effect. Their laughter returned very quietly after its trip to the distant rock face of the higher mountains.

'We're late,' said Horace, as they hurried back to the cave.
'Tut tut!'
They arrived back at the cave in time for prayers, Kate positively glowing after her swing in the sunny but cold air. She produced a handful of nuts and berries for him, and he wondered how she found the time to collect them. she was certainly more adept than him and finding fresh fruit, and he'd better start thinking about preserving some for the winter.

Kate had decorated the swing with woven strands of vines and stalks from the surrounding hillside, Horace wondered why he'd never thought of such details himself.
Horace looked at his reflection as they knelt together to pray. He looked younger, and just a shade fatter. He was comforted by his ability to help Kate with illustrations, because most of the time she seemed to be teaching him things. Still, there's no merit in pride, as the word of the prophet so wisely reminded those that had the sense to read it.


Kate was running up the hill towards the cave and shouting excitedly. Horace couldn’t make out any words, just the high-pitched song of youthful glee. What on earth can she have found on this barren hill, he wondered. There’s our garden and the swing and then miles of heather, poor grass, weedy trees and outcrops of granite. Impassable mountains behind us.

Horace had a shock as Kate came around the path past the huge boulder that he regarded as the end of his, or rather their, garden, and he saw a large dog in pursuit. He reached for his stick then realised Kate was still smiling and holding a stick that the dog was playing at biting.

'And then were three,' Kate grinned. Disarmingly, thought Horace. With a smile that, it probably endangers my legs as well.


‘He’s done it again, Horace,’ said Kate.
‘He’s what?’
‘He keeps trying to lead me towards the desert. Come and see if he does the same for you.’
Horace hesitated and fretted about his timetable.
‘Come on,’ said Kate. ‘we can stop the clock!’
The dog tried to lead Horace, just as he had Kate.

'What do you want boy?' Horace asked the dog. He turned to Kate, puzzled. She spent more time with the dog and clearly knew his ways. Kate just smiled and shrugged.

The dog looked happy, waiting in front of them and panting.
'He's smiling,' Kate explained.
'Hmm,' Horace conceded. 'He's a good natured beast, that's for sure.'
The dog sat and cocked his head on one side. Kate took Horace's hand and led him past the dog to where they could see down the hillside and miles beyond.
'Barren,' said Horace.
'The dog knows something we don't,' said Kate. 'Maybe somebody is injured out there? But then the dog would be impatient, worried...'


‘I dreamed of building a kiln in the desert,’ said Horace, one morning after prayers.
'Where the dog wants to go!' Kate smiled and fancied the adventure. 'We could go and have a look.'
'And it might mean nothing,' frowned Horace.
'Or something!'
'We could make a kiln here, where it's safer,' suggested Horace.
'If there were more trees for firewood! Which there isn't.'


‘I’m a bit concerned about taking you into the desert,’ said Horace, close to his wit's end. 'You are very young for such a barren place.’
Kate whistled as she sewed the sheets together to complete the upper section of the tent. The dog played at chasing invisible friends, or possibly enemies.

Horace declared their load of provisions to be nearly complete.
‘We’ll have to find fresh water every few days,’ he said. He looked at the sky – no signs of bad weather, and some cloud meant the nights wouldn't be quite so cold.

'We can make a note of every place we find water, and if we are really stuck we'll backtrack,' Kate suggested. 'Nothing will go wrong,' she smiled. He seemed such a fusspot in her view, which was strangely amusing.

'Come on then,' Horace sighed, 'we're ready to go.'
The dog barked, sensing imminent adventure, and Kate danced around him with joy.


The water never proved to be an issue at all. Four uneventful days into their journey Horace said, 'This is the place,' and they stopped.
'How do you tell?' asked Kate. 'You fancy a sit down?!'
Horace gave her an old-fashioned look with his old-fashioned face and Kate giggled.
'To be honest, I Don't know how. But here is the spot.'
'There's plenty of dead wood around,' Kate conceded. 'I don't mean you!' she added.
'I never suggested that you might, madam!'
'Miss, if you please!'
'Miss, kindly begin erecting our shelter, if you have nothing better to do,' pleaded Horace.
'Tell you what.'
'I'll tell you what?'
'Tell you what, Horace. I'll pitch the tent!'


The following morning Horace rose to find the prophet had maintained the illusion of the physical world sufficiently for the sun to have circumnavigated the dark side, the dew was evaporating, the clouds promised a bounty of desperately needed rain one day soon, and Kate and the dog were running around the tent apparently seeing which of them could be the most primitive. Too close to call, thought Horace.

After their usual travellers fare of rice and remnants, Horace began collecting together stones to build a kiln. His dream had glossed over the practical details of design, shape and type of stone, mortar and such. Kate was a willing, and much younger, helper, and even the dog had a talent for fetching pieces of dead wood from below the elderly trees.

A mystery tour coach from the parallel world of barbarians came by soon after lunch carrying Dribbler the pasty salesman, Mascot Piranha the mad artist, Ford Perfect (searching for beetle juice), Parry Hotter (brat of school age), Andrew Bolkonski (Russian mafia boss), and sundry others, which will hopefully prove to be a source of nightmares for the copyright lawyers.

Two days later Kate woke to find the world frosty in the extreme. Dog had been sleeping outside, apparently unconcerned by the temperature, but his whiskers had developed icicles. Kate attempted to thaw them out with her hands and accidentally broke a couple, both ice and whisker. It is cold! she thought.

'And on the third day, it froze again, according to the whiskers,' she declared as Horace emerged from the tent.
'The poor dog has icicles.' She pointed.
'It's a fine winter coat he's got though, don't you think?'
'I do. Sometimes.'
Horace attempted to glare in a disapproving way, but found it impossible while smiling.
'We'll complete the kiln today, and maybe have the first test in late afternoon, while the breeze is helping.'
Kate beamed, genuinely pleased.


‘It’s amazing,’ Kate crooned. The kiln was glowing red hot, just from sunlight reflected from the several mirrors, and a fire of dead wood. Horace had shovelled in plenty of dull grey stones and now added a few drops of honey and one of blood from his carefully pricked finger. Even the needle had been sterilised in the kiln.
'Are you sure you've remembered all the details from the dream?' Kate asked.
'Yes. I made notes of all I could remember.'

Horace blocked the air inlet at the base of the kiln and declared the task to be completed as far as he could tell.
'Can we open it soon?' asked Kate.
He shook his head. 'Not until tomorrow morning, for sure. It might even be too hot then.'
Kate looked fleetingly disappointed, then ran off to play with the dog. It seemed one way of passing the time, Horace conceded.


‘Come quick, Horace,’ Kate shouted. He’d learned to spot her varieties of excitement that didn’t indicate danger, and this was of that variety.

Kate was leaning over the opening of the kiln, and peering intently, open-mouthed. Horace looked in and saw tiny silver snakes writhing out of the depths of the kiln into the surface, and the stones appeared now like glass.

‘Can we hold them,’ Kate asked.
'They might bite.'
'The glass balls!'
‘I’d rather wait until the snakes have left,’ Horace advised, as she knew he would.


Kate and the dog followed the snakes , but they moved very slowly, and fanned out into every direction, so they returned to their tent to sleep. Kate was fairly bursting with excitement, as ever, and Horace wondered if he could improvise a swing for her.
'A rope from one of those trees will do, with a knot for a seat!' Kate burbled. 'It's going to take ages for the snakes to get anywhere. I wonder what they eat?' she asked.
Horace filed the question away, then realised he'd run out of memory. He'd realised this the day before, but as he'd run out of memory, he'd already forgotten. How did children come up with so many questions? He might have asked her this already, but he couldn't remem...

'We'll pile the glass balls, which I'm sure were plain rocks, into something obviously man-made. Then if people come this way they maybe won't disturb them.'
'After they've taken the pile apart to look for treasure!'
'We could make a sign saying, “The treasure isn't over there in the mountains, honest” then they'll go to look in the mountains!'

The mountains were duly helpful and echoed Horace's previous words.
'Nice trick,' said Kate.


Horace, Kate and the dog walked on day after day, trusting the dog to lead to something meaningful. The desert was turning green, and plenty of other colours if you looked close enough. They peered into the foliage and saw every bloom or leaf had baby turtles making their first timid steps out into the world.
'This is the snakes work,' Kate whispered.
'Could be.'
We'll be at the mountains soon,' she added.
'You make that sound important,' said Horace, and Kate smiled.



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