Dyke Duffy is stalking me. Now before you get too terribly worried about my safety, I do have to confess that Dyke Duffy is a dog. He's a small, mangy, ugly little bollox of a creature, who looks quite a lot like a used dust mop. But where Dyke is concerned appearances are deceiving. He could, and would, take the nose right off your face if you got close enough to let him. He's the property, for lack of a better word, of my friend Nicky Duffy's brother Georgie, who has a similar disposition but as far as I know has never actually bitten anyone. Yet.
Dyke and I have had our run-ins since I came to live here in Killarmon after defecting from Los Angeles six years ago. I have a dog of my own, Beavis, and Dyke has nearly done in her nerves and mine by leaping out at us a time or two from around a corner and snarling in that sinister and threatening way he has about him, like a little hairy mugger. But this is a small town, and this is Ireland, so Dyke is allowed free run of the place and has so far escaped a ride in the dogcatcher's van. He's one of the things you learn to live with here in Killarmon, like the faint odor of rotting fish that comes off the Quay when the wind is wrong. But this latest episode is just too damned much, I mean- a stalker is a stalker, be he man or beast. And I'm not exaggerating, the bloody little monster is actually stalking me. It's weird and disturbing and nerve-wracking, and I don't know how I'm going to get him to stop.
Georgie Duffy works in the radiator factory on the Murrough, and for years now while he's at work, Dyke will wander the town, frightening children and elderly ladies. Twice a day he'll go to the factory gate to meet George, at lunchtime and in the evening at quitting time. At lunchtime Dyke follows Georgie to the Anchor Tavern and waits outside the door until he's finished with his dinner and then Dyke is off terrorizing Killarmon again until it's time to collect Georgie after work. Well, this was true until about a week and a half ago
It's one o'clock, and I'm closing up the laundry where I work , going down the street to meet my friend Leanne for lunch in Hannah's. As I'm walking down Bridge Street I see Dyke Duffy leave his post in front of the Anchor and begin to cross the street. A few seconds later I realize with a start that he's trotting along beside me, so I kind of jump out of his way, expecting him to snarl and snap at my ankles like he usually does, but he just looks up at me. I pick up my pace thinking I can leave him behind, but he trots even faster to keep up. He follows me all the way up the street to Hannah's and when I go in, he sits himself down by the door.
Leanne isn't in yet, so I nab a table and wait for her. I can see people coming in, looking down with puzzled faces, so I know he's still out there.
When Leanne comes in a few minutes later, she sits down and says, "Samantha, isn't that your man's- George Duffy's- dog out there?"
"Yes, it is, he followed me here from Bridge Street."
"He followed you? Why?"
"God, I don't know, Leanne, how am I supposed to read a dog's mind, let alone Dyke Duffy's!"
When we leave Hannah's, sure enough, there he still is, waiting, and he follows as we walk back down Main Street. Leanne and I are giggling, looking behind us every few seconds at the mad little bastard, and after a couple of minutes we're both almost choking with laughter. I leave her at the corner by Phil O'Shea's pub as she's headed back to the school to work.
When I go into the laundry he sets up his watch by the door, and stays there all afternoon. My boss, Helen (who lives next door to the shop) is as puzzled as myself over this odd behavior.
"What do you suppose has got into the auld devil's head?" she says.
"I don't know, but if he doesn't bugger off soon, his brains will be what's coming out of his head," I answer.
Every single customer that comes in through the door asks me about him, and when Helen's kids get home from school he becomes a real exhibit, they keep looking through the window and peeking out the front door to see if he's still there. For the first hour it's quite funny, the next hour it's still mildly amusing, but by quitting time I'm fed up and I hope he'll piss off and go looking for Georgie.
But he doesn't. Instead he follows me home. I keep turning around and shouting "Go home, Dyke!" which soon turns into- "Feck off, you little bastard!" but it does no good, my screams fall on deaf ears where Dyke is concerned. I'm sure getting strange looks from the other people on the street, though.
At home I leave him sitting at the front door, with one last, "Dyke! Feck off home, will you!" and go inside. After I change my clothes, I let Beavis out the back, put some chicken in the oven for dinner, and sit down in front of the telly to relax.
When my boyfriend Danny Murphy (who lives in the flat next door) comes in from his day at work on the bin lorry he says to me, "Georgie Duffy's ugly little bollox of a dog is sittin' outside by the front door."
So I tell him the whole story and he laughs himself sick.
"It's your animal magnetism, Sam," he jokes.
For the next hour he sets up a Dyke-watch, he keeps looking out the front door and informing me "Still there." At 7:00 I figure Georgie must be worried sick about him so I decide I have to take him home.
" What do I do, Dan? Should I put the lead on him or what?" I ask.
"How brave are you feelin' tonight?" is his answer.
I decide to forgo trying to get a lead on Dyke and just start walking toward Georgie's, hoping he'll follow me. He does.
George Duffy is surprised to see me, to say the least, as I've never in my whole six years in Killarmon had occasion to knock his door.
"I have your dog, Georgie." I inform him. "He seems to be rather taken with me for some reason."
"Hey, I wondered where the little shite got off to, he's been missing since dinnertime," he says.
So I fill George in on the rather bizarre afternoon I've had with Dyke and he's as puzzled as I am. And when he tries to call Dyke in the house he won't come, Georgie has to actually pick him up and carry him in, snarling the whole time. Dyke, that is, not Georgie.
I think this is an end to it, so imagine my surprise the next morning when Dan comes back a minute after leaving for work and says to me, " There's a present waitin' for you outside." The little bastard is back out there, sitting by the front door.
He follows Beavis and I as we go for our morning walk (Beavis is terrified, just waiting for him to jump her), waits for me while I get ready for work and follows me there. I go in and he sets up watch by the front door, again. Another morning of explaining him to the customers, and this time it is definitely not funny. At lunchtime I go across to the Anchor to find Georgie.
"He's sitting there again, Georgie, can't you do anything about him?"
"I tried to get him to come over here just now, but the little fecker went for me," he says. "Just leave him and he'll get fed up soon enough."
This turns out not to be true, and for the next week and a half he follows me everywhere, sits in front of the laundry all day, sits in front of my house, and follows me down the street, in and out of the shops. Nothing we do will discourage him. George finally manages to grab him and put him in the house, but he starts to piss on everything and chew up the carpet so he puts him out again. I'm apparently stuck with him until he either goes off me or I kill him. The whole town is getting such a kick out of it, Samantha and her stalker dog. When I walk down the street with him at my heels I get disapproving looks from old ladies who I'm sure are wondering why I don't ever wash my dog. Not only is Dyke awful looking, but if you get close enough you can catch a faint whiff of something quite unpleasant coming off him. Yesterday he snatched a Dairy Milk from some little girl's hand and I had to fork over 50p to replace it, you can imagine I had some choice words for him after that.
I'm dreading the weekend again, I know he'll follow me all around the town and plant himself at the door of wherever I go, and although it may sound silly it's quite stressful. It's weird and embarrassing and nerve wracking, and I really just want it to stop. Last night it was lashing rain and I felt so sorry for the little sod that I let him into the foyer to sleep. I know that if he's still hanging around when it starts to turn really cold I'm going to end up feeling even sorrier for him, but I cannot, just can not bring him into my flat. How bloody long can he keep this up?
The Dyke Duffy problem has been solved, although it nearly ended in tragedy. Saturday proved to be even more stressful than I had thought it would be.
Danny leaves about 10am to have his breakfast in Hannah's, then pops his head back in and announces, "Still out there" which is superfluous by now because I bloody well know he'll still be out there. When I leave around 10:30 t o run my errands and go up to my friend Philippa Kennedy's he naturally follows behind me, trotting purposefully along like a small hairy bodyguard.
I keep up a running one-way dialogue with him all the way to Main Street.
"I don't know what your bloody problem is, Dyke Duffy, or why you're doing this to me, but I want you to know that I'm sick and fecking tired of it, and if it doesn't stop real soon I'm going to get a big bloody stick and bash your little ugly head in, do you hear me?"
I'm getting the same looks from passers-by as old Rose Mulhern, who walks around the town having this type of conversation without even the benefit of a dog for a companion. Whenever I see her I say a silent prayer that I won't end up like her in a few years, and now thanks to Dyke Duffy I'm well on my way.
He follows me into the Newsagents, waits at my side while I buy the paper, then we head on up the street toward Brian O'Reilly's fruit and veg shop. Just in front of Hannah's I meet Leanne and her three-year-old twins, also out doing their Saturday messages.
"Why is that ugly dog here again?" Lucy wants to know.
"Good question, Luce," I tell her.
"What are you going to do with him, Sam?" Leanne asks, she knows the fun has worn off this for me.
"I'm going to kill him, that's what. Or call the dogcatcher on him, I swear I will. I'm going to tell Georgie that he has until Monday to do something with him and then I'm calling Animal Control or whatever you call it here," I say, hard woman that I am.
"I don't think you'd really do that, Sam," she says with a smile.
"You just watch me." I answer.
Meanwhile Dyke has gone to practice what is possibly the most annoying and embarrassing part of his weird behavior. He has taken to going out and sitting in the middle of the street while he's waiting for me, for some inexplicable reason. This is bad enough on Bridge Street but on Main Street on a busy Saturday morning it's a positive hazard. He has traffic backed up, people are honking their horns and shouting, and I could really shoot the little fecker if I had a gun right now.
"Maybe someone will run over him for me and put me out of my misery," I say.
A few moments later someone does just that.
I don't see it happen because I have my back to the street, but I hear the screech of tires and a horrible, pathetic yelp. We run out into the street to him, and I'm hit with a huge tidal wave of guilt because I'm sure I've killed Dyke by uttering that last statement out loud. The fella who hit him was evidently pulling away from the curb and couldn't see him sitting there, he is really upset and keeps saying "I never saw him, I just never saw him."
He's still alive, but his back legs are bloody and don't look quite right at all, his little eyes look absolutely terrified. I immediately start to sob, after all Dyke and I have been through over the last week and a half I can't believe it's ended like this. I reach out to him and he snaps viciously at my hand, evidently the spell I've had over him has been broken along with his legs.
"He'll never let anyone get near him, someone has to find Georgie." Leanne says.
He's bleeding pretty badly, though, and I don't think there's going to be time to run all the way to Georgie's house, that's assuming he's even there, which he probably isn't.
Then Danny appears beside me. He was still eating in Hannah's when the accident happened. I throw my arms around him and bawl even harder.
"We have to do something, I don't want him to die!" I sob. This after insisting for the past few days that this was exactly what I did want.
Danny extracts my arms from around him, stoops down and reaches out, and sure enough, Dyke goes for him. He may be rapidly fading away but his jaw hasn't apparently been affected yet.
"Damn! I need a towel or somethin' to put over his head." Dan says.
So Leanne goes running into Hannah's to fetch something. The twins are still standing on the footpath where they were instructed to remain under pain of death, but when they see her run by them they both start to wail. By now we've attracted the attention of almost everyone in the vicinity, they've all been sucked in by the drama. Leanne comes out a few moments later with some tea towels-
"This is all they have," she tells Dan.
He tries a couple of times to get one of the towels around Dyke's snapping head, on his third try Dyke sneaks in a sucker punch and bites Dan firmly on the right hand.
"Ow! You bloody little bastard! I'll leave you here to die, will I?" he shouts, but then dives back in and gets the towel tightly around his head.
He manages to pick him up and he and I head back toward Church Street to the Vet's. Once the towel is in place Dyke seems to give up and goes limp, I'm hoping he hasn't expired under there.
We crash in to the shop- the surgery is in back and no one seems to be here at the desk, so I start shouting, which revives Dyke and he starts to thrash around like a hooked fish.
Stevie Brennan, one of the three vets, comes out and sizes up the situation in a moment. "Bring him on back," she says.
It isn't until we get him in the surgery and Dan gives him over to Stevie that I notice Danny's hand is bleeding quite a lot, Dyke has actually wounded him deeply.
"Oh my God, Dan- your hand!" I say, and he looks down at it.
"Jaysus, the little fecker took a bite right outta me!" he exclaims.
"You're going to need a tetanus jab." Stevie informs him.
She and her young assistant are coping with Dyke quite capably, they have him pinned down and unable to argue much, so Dan and I retire to the room next door, where another assistant cleans and bandages his hand for him, and gives him a tetanus shot in the hip. I can tell the sight of Dan dropping his trousers is really killing her.
"I hope for George Duffy's sake that dog has had all its jabs or I'm goin' to murder the both of 'em." Dan says.
"There's no rabies in Ireland, anyway," the girl assures him.
"Yeah, well, what else is there?" he demands.
He and I go to sit in the waiting room for what seems like hours, but probably is only 30 or 40 minutes, then Stevie comes in and gives us the progress report.
"Well, he's really all right, he lost a bit of blood but we've stitched him up, and he has a tiny fracture in his leg but it should set up fine. Dyke will live to terrorize Killarmon for another day, at least."
"Until I get the little fecker," Danny says, holding up his bandaged hand.
Then Georgie comes in the door, evidently someone has found him and told him about the accident. He looks actually distraught until he's informed his little pet will be okay, and he goes quickly back to check on him, without a word.
"You're bloody welcome, Georgie!" Danny shouts after him.
Since Dyke's brush with death the mysterious attraction he had for me is gone, and life has returned to normal. I had to play the sympathetic girlfriend to Dan for a while over the bitten hand, which is enough to try the patience of a wooden saint, believe you me. He got a lot of mileage out of those few stitches, whining and moaning like he'd had his bloody leg amputated instead of a little dog bite, he even had me button and unbutton his jeans for him. What he did when he had to use the loo and I wasn't around I don't know, but somehow I can't see him asking the other lads on the bin lorry to provide this service for him.
This morning I was walking Beavis around the old Castle Grounds, it was early and there was still a slight mist around the edges of things, making this look like the Ireland that belongs to the fairies and other hidden folk, the Ireland of the old legends. I could hear but couldn't see the ocean crashing on the rocks down beneath the cliffs and I was standing there reflecting on how much I love this place and what a happy chance it was that brought me here, when I saw a small figure creeping slowly towards me out of the haze. Beavis came to stand close to me, not quite a cower but more of a cautious huddle, and the figure stopped about four feet away and sat on his haunches, contemplating the two of us.
"Well look who it is," I said out loud, "Mr. Nine Lives Duffy himself. Don't tell me you're going to start all this shite up again, are you?"
Dyke merely sat and glared at me as of old, but I thought I saw just the slightest difference in his gaze now. Just a touch less animosity, a tiny fraction of fondness for his brief but exciting obsession.
"It's a fine old line between love and hate, isn't it Dyke?" I asked him, and he cocked his head at me in agreement. Well, that's how I saw it anyway. Just then a larger figure came out of the mist at me, my butcher Derek Dowling on his way to the golf course to play a few early morning rounds.
"Hiya Samantha- who the hell are ya talkin' to anyway?"
"Just having a few words with my old mate Dyke Duffy," I answered.
"Ah, that's all right then. I was afraid you were out here talking to yourself." My favorite thing about Killarmon is that Derek doesn't see anything at all odd about that statement.
"I think that mist is going to burn off and leave us with not a bad day at all," he says.
"Ah sure, what better could you ask for this time of year," I agree, and we've completed the ritual. Derek continues on his way.
I turn back to Dyke, who seems in two minds about whether or not to stop here with us or go on about his lurking. He looks from me to the path a few times, then apparently makes his decision- he turns and trot away, dirty little backside swinging, and a small part of me goes along with him.
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