Finsbury Park

Keith had got the dog for protection and a little bit of company. His friends had become less reliable since he’d lost his job at the parks and he’d regularly found himself alone at night. He’d started to drink more and it worried him that his sister said he reminded her of Dad. At least, he thought, he knew that too so he could put up a bit of a fight against the genes. The dog was part of that struggle. If he got a dog, he thought, he’d get out a bit more, go for walks, take a bit of exercise, that sort of thing. But more often, they’d end up sitting together at a table on the pavement outside The Marlborough while he drank a few pints. On the way home, they’d drop in at the Turkish shop to buy some White Ice and normally he took a few swigs before they’d turned the last corner. By then, he’d have to shout at the dog which had become a nuisance. It walked too fast when he wanted to walk slowly and it’d want to stop and sniff and piss when he was in a hurry. He’d had to show it some discipline, show it who was boss, have words. His neighbours had warned him against the breed and perhaps they were right. ‘A quick turn of temper,’ they said, ‘from six months. You look out, Keith.’ But as the dog grew older, Keith didn’t notice it getting angrier; what he did notice was the way in which, when they were out walking together, the dog looked ashamed to be with him. It turned its face towards the traffic or passers-by but it didn’t look at Keith, not even when they were sitting together at the pub. It was as if the dog knew what everyone else was thinking, as if the dog knew it was better than him. If ever Keith caught it, on the rare occasion, taking a glimpse at him, it was always with an air of disdain, from the corner of its eye, the white of its eye, and it was never for more than a second.

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