When describing Susan the only phrase truly appropriate was house proud. And rightly so - she and Ron had a lovely home, with a garage, a conservatory and a decent sized garden. They had worked hard, raised two children, paid off the mortgage, and Ron was to retire in 5 years. Susan had given up her office job a few years previously and since then spent one day a week as a volunteer in a charity shop. The rest of her time she spent pottering in what she called her perfect world - her home.
All shoes were to be removed at the door, and everyone was issued with slippers. Some visitors got the feeling Susan would prefer them to hover lightly over the surface of her cream carpets rather than walk.
Everything in each room matched. If anyone committed the crime of giving Susan something that didn’t tie in with her strict colour schemes it soon found its way to the charity shop.
Susan had a rigorous weekly schedule of house cleaning and nothing was allowed to get in the way of her routine.
‘Once I’ve done my chores, then I’m free to relax,’ was her motto. But she never really seemed to relax. She rose each morning at seven, showered, ate breakfast and then got stuck into her day’s chores. Ron also rose at seven, showered in another bathroom, made his own breakfast, put his used cereal bowl, cutlery and mug into the dishwasher and then went off to work. Susan would still be hard at work when Ron returned at half past five, pausing only for a short while to prepare and eat a meal, and then getting on with a few more chores before bedtime.
Years of such vigorous housework had given Susan an enviable figure at an age when other women were beginning to sag and spread. It was not just housework that kept Susan fit and slim. She took charge of the garden also. She was very territorial: Ron was not allowed to pull so much as a weed. Not that any weed would dare to put in an appearance in Susan’s garden. The lawns, front and back, were like velvet, and the flower beds had something of interest no matter what time of year.
The son and daughter, who lived and worked in London, would make snide remarks about ‘Hyacinth Bucket’ on their rare visits home. Many people made fun of Susan’s obsessive manner, but then again many people envied the couple their splendid home.
Then Ron’s mother was taken ill and admitted to hospital.
‘She wants us to look after Bouncer,’ announced Ron on returning from his first visit to his mother in hospital.
Susan’s eyes opened wide with horror. ‘Oh, Ron!’ she gasped. ‘Well, we can’t have a dog here. You’ll have to go over to your mother’s house to feed it.’
One week later Ron tripped over one of Bouncer’s toys in his mother’s hall and broke his ankle. So Susan had to step into the breach and drive back and forth to her mother-in-law’s house to deal with the dog.
‘You’ll never guess what I’ve just seen,’ said Ron’s mother’s neighbour Colin to the woman behind the counter in the Post Office.
‘Susan Hillier picking up dog mess. She’s looking after Edith’s dog.’
The entire queue in the Post Office chuckled, tittered, snorted and laughed.
‘I’d have paid good money to see the look on her face while performing that task,’ said George Griffiths.
After a few days Susan conceded that they would have to accommodate the dog at their own home. All the traipsing back and forth to Edith’s house was getting in the way of her housework routine.
Bouncer was a black Labrador. Five years old, and as his name implied, bouncy. He was all legs and tail and slobber, and always under foot. And he soon made his presence felt in Susan’s pristine home. Even though she dried the dog thoroughly after each walk and bathed him twice a week, somehow he still managed to bring mud into the house. She was forever wiping muddy bits off her walls and dealing with grubby patches on the carpet.
Susan heard a crash and went to investigate. Bouncer had knocked over an indoor plant, spilling compost all over the carpet in the sitting room.
‘Now look what you’ve done, you stupid dog!’ she snapped.
Bouncer cowered anxiously in the corner. Susan bundled him out into the garden while she dealt with the mess in the sitting room.
Ron hobbled in to see what all the kerfuffle was about.
‘That dog has got to go!’ huffed Susan as she swept soggy compost into a dustpan.
‘I’m sorry, dear,’ said Ron calmly. ‘But you know there’s only me and my sister, and she lives in a tiny flat. She couldn’t possibly have Bouncer. Hopefully Mum will be out of hospital soon.’
Susan stomped out of the room with her empty pot, mangled plant and dustpan full of compost. She went out to the garden to re-pot the plant. But a horrifying sight met her gaze when she opened the back door. Bouncer had dug a hole in one of the flower beds, scattering her petunias this way and that.
At that moment the telephone rang and Ron answered it. It was the hospital, with news that his mother needed an operation and could expect to remain in hospital for quite some time. His heart sank. How was he going to break the news to Susan that Bouncer would be more or less a permanent fixture?
By Karenne Griffin
Last Modified on: 05-11-2015