Most of us are born with the full set of limbs, each with five toes or fingers at the end of each one. Lucky old me, then, as I was born with the full set. So why then, you ask, does the little finger on my left hand resemble something from the bins behind a butcher's shop? Isn't it a bit of a bugger, seeing as you're left-handed as well? Well, I'm certainly glad you asked the question, for it is now time to put the blame squarely on my sister, who seems to have escaped relatively lightly from these stories.
We had a dog at that time. We rescued him from the RSPCA as a six month old pup in 1977, and watched him grow from a nutty little baby into a complete and utter mentallist, stupid enough to wrestle a pitbull while drunk, given half the chance, and if he were alive today, stupid enough to assert that the Australians definitely the better team in the Rugby World Cup. Half labrador, half beagle, half mad, he made our lives hell. And we called him Snoopy. His entire raison d'etre was based on two premises. One: to rip the house to shreds; and two: to escape.
The first he managed in an efficient, workmanlike manner. Left alone in the house for any length of time he would completely destroy of any room you left him in. He had a particular liking for wallpaper, which would be ripped off the walls in great strips, and anything that came through the front door, which would come to a horrible end. He spent one particularly busy Sunday chewing through ever piece of electrical flex in the house, prompting frenzied screams of "Don't touch that switch!" whenever somebody went into a room. Bad Dog.
On one memorable occasion, he nosed his way into my sister's room. The door had a self-closer on it and the poor little mutt was trapped, so he set about tidying the place up in the only way he knew how. Bad Dog. How I laughed. The next day, he found himself in my room and chewed the model glider which I had spent the last three weeks painstakingly preparing for flight, into small chunks of balsa and tissue paper. Bad Dog. How my sister laughed.
Dad decided there would be only one way to calm him down - cut off his bollocks. The hormones rushing round his body would disappear, et voila! Good Dog! My arse. He became a mentallist eunuch dog, even more hell bent on ripping the house into little pieces to get his awful and bloody revenge on those humans who scuppered his chances of getting it on with the lovely Rigsby, bitch of this parish, at number twenty-eight. It would have been like a cocktail sausage in the Channel Tunnel anyway, judging by the stream of randy dogs beating a path to her kennel.
His greatest energies, however, were spent trying to escape from his prison. Open the front door more than a few inches, and the little bastard would be through your legs and high-tailing it up the road before you knew it. The trouble was that once he'd got free, he didn't know what to do with himself, and he'd invariably run around crapping on other people's front lawns before getting bored and sitting politely on the front door step until he was dragged inside and locked under the stairs (err.. poetic licence, we didn't really lock him under the stairs. In was the downstairs toilet).
Daily, and like the very incarnation of Steve McQueen, he'd prowl the house and garden looking for a way out. And get out he did. Often. Once he wriggled through a minute gap in the fence to join me and the school football team halfway through an important match. I had never been so embarrassed in my life, especially as he turned out to be the best player on the pitch. On another occasion, he hurled himself bodily at the front door as the milkman came (as was his habit), only to forget to stop, and find himself in a pool of shattered glass on the doorstep. Bad Dog.
His favourite exit point was the gate across the drive. Often disguising himself as a washer woman, he'd escape right under the noses of the camp guards, and on towards the Swiss border and freedom. Or he'd dig a tunnel. With a good run-up he could vault the thing quite easily, and over the years, we nailed on more and more wood until the gates were over six feet tall, and he'd still scramble over to freedom. And I'll tell you another thing about those gates, he said, getting to the point at last: they bite.
And so came The Fateful Day. A pleasant, sunny one over the village of Twyford, if I'm not mistaken, and we're going out for the day on our bikes. Bless. After breakfasting on the most delicious sausage sandwich Jill and I wheeled our bikes up the drive. She had something girlie, I had my Raleigh Olympus, last seen in these sagas knocking Balders under a bus. I opened the gates, showing correct papers to the camp commandant on the way out. Jill was a little tardy catching up with me, and Snoopy seeing his chance, made a dash for freedom.
"Shut the gate! Shut the gate!" I shouted.
Too late. Bad Dog was already out, and making a dash for it. With a despairing lunge, I caught the mad ball of fur and slobber by the collar, and saved ourselves another enraged visit from Mrs Nutter down the road with Snoop's dog egg in a Waitrose carrier bag.
About five seconds too late, Jill slammed the gate shut, with my finger stuck between gate and gatepost. It didn't so much slam as crunch.
Imagine if you will, dear reader, the scene. Idiot dog, making a dash for freedom, small boy heroically saving the day with right hand, while left hand is becoming somewhat longer and thinner than it used to be, while sister is leaning ever harder against the gate, wondering why the latch isn't quite closing. Imagine also the raging agony.
"Open the gate! Open the gate!" I shouted, rather more urgently than my plea to close it.
"But the dog'll get out! What about Mrs Nutter?"
"Oh, make an emergency call to the Blue Rinse Brigade. Fuck the fucking dog! Open the fucking gate!" And only thirteen years old, too.
She opened the gate. My finger looked like it had been squashed by an anvil in a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Snoop, by this time, was about a hundred yards down the road, laying a dog egg on Mrs Nutter's lawn.
And did I get sympathy? A trip to casualty to reset my obviously shattered finger? My big hairy arse, did I. I got a rocket. The dog escaped. He'd shat on Mrs Nutter's garden, and worst of all, I'd uttered the dreaded f-word within earshot of my parents. To my room. Forever. Bad Kid.
Several days later, with my finger still three times its normal size and various shades of yellow, black and green, looking like a bruised yam my father the doctor told me "Son, you may have broken a small bone in there."
The dog, on the other hand, got a bone, which he buried down the garden as part of an ongoing project to tunnel his way to freedom. If he wasn't already dead, I'd bury the bastard alive.
And just to keep everybody happy, fit the following in as you please: I did something a loser would do. Like cook prawns for Christmas, with a side order of definately unbecoming chutney. He's gonna cry, then I'm gonna cry, then we're all gonna cry. Happy now? Serves you right for being obtuse.
Read the original version of this story at The Scaryduck Archive