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"Janet raced over to Hamish and picked him up. She held him up to the ball-shaped paper light that hung from the ceiling and examined his belly...."

barking mad
fiction by kevin saidler


Janet MacTavish was lying on her couch watching ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ when her two year old Labrador spoke for the very first time. ‘Do we always have to watch this crap Janet? Isn’t there something else on?’ ‘Oh shut yer face Hamish. I’m watching this,’ replied the sixteen-year old without even thinking.

… is it: A) Bognor Regis, B) Blackpool, C) Skegness or perhaps D) Rome…’

Janet sprung out of the couch into which she collapsed with alarming regularity after an eight-hour shift at Woolworths. ‘What the hell’s going on here? Did you just speak to me Hamish?’ ‘Well, well, well!’ uttered the MacTavish family pet. ‘One of the buggers can actually understand me! After two long years in this house, someone has finally decided to start listening to me! To be honest with you dear. I was beginning to think the whole bloody MacTavish clan was stone-deaf’.

Janet grabbed the remote control, switched the television set off and lit a Marlboro Light that she’d stolen from one of her colleagues at work. She sucked deeply whilst looking intently at the Labrador. ‘Shite. Have I lost it or what?’ she thought.  ‘It must have something to do with all them E’s I’m taking at the weekend’. Hamish tilted his head and stared back at Janet. ‘Oh god,’ she continued. ‘Maybe I’m even becoming like that space cadet Sandy Cummings from next door: an LSD casualty! … unless,’ paused Janet - ‘… some funny so-and-so from work has set me up!’

Hot on the trail of an explanation Janet began to rummage around the living room. She looked behind the curtains, on top of the empty bookshelf and under the coffee table before an irritated Hamish interrupted her. ‘Listen you silly cow. This isn’t Candid bloody Camera. You won’t find a miniature camcorder in the room if that’s what you’re looking for’.

Janet raced over to Hamish and picked him up. She held him up to the ball-shaped paper light that hung from the ceiling and examined his belly. ‘Nothing suspicious there,’ she remarked as she lowered his cuddly frame to eye level. ‘What on earth were you looking for Janet? The bloody battery compartment?’

Janet dropped Hamish and started howling hysterically, ‘Oh my god. Mum. Get in here quickly. You’ve got to see this so you do – HAMISH CAN BLOODY WELL TALK!’

Mrs. MacTavish’s voice soon filled the nicotine-stained living room even though she hadn’t even managed to reach it yet. Wheezing and coughing her way along the junk cluttered hallway of their recently purchased council flat she bellowed: ‘Listen Janet. What’s all this nonsense about the dog talking. Can’t you see I’m busy getting yer Dad’s tea ready? You know what he’s like if his dinner isn’t on the table when he gets home from work’.

Janet bent down to where she had dropped Hamish on the ground whilst tucking her floppy dyed-blonde fringe behind her ear. ‘Now listen Hamish. Just talk to Mum like you spoke to me. Okay?’

Janet MacTavish Senior slouched into the living room without even looking at Hamish. ‘Now listen here Janet. Don’t you think it’s about time you stopped all this drug taking rubbish? You’re obviously losing the plot, aren’t you?’

‘No mum. I swear. This has nothing to do with me taking E an’ all that. Hamish can really talk. Honestly … I know it must sound mad—but please just listen’.

Both faces swung around in Hamish’s direction. ‘Go on Hamish. Say something. Anything. Like … tell Mum that you think ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ is a load of shite,’ encouraged Janet. ‘Listen Janet! If she can finally understand me after two years then I’ve got a lot more important things to tell her than that. For example: why did you have my willy snipped off? Do you realize what that does to a young man…?’

‘Oh Janet. Get that dog to stop barking will you. It’s giving me a headache,’ interrupted Mrs. MacTavish as she rubbed her index and forefinger against her creased forehead. ‘You really have gone mental haven’t you? I mean. There are more drugs inside you than in Boots The bloody Chemists and now you think the fuckin’ dog can talk as well. You know. I actually thought it couldn’t get any worse after I got the bill for your abortion when you were in Malaga. I mean. Most people just send their mum a postcard when they go to the Costa del Sol on holiday but no, you had to...’

‘...But Mum!’ pleaded Janet. ‘Hamish did just talk. Didn’t you hear him? He was moaning about you having had his willy cut off last year.’

‘He barked you mad bitch. That’s all. Woof. Woof. That’s what dogs do,’ growled mother of six, thirty-one year old Janet MacTavish Sr.

Hamish leapt up onto the couch and nestled into the large hollow Janet’s bottom had left behind. And as Mrs. MacTavish slavishly returned to the kitchen to finish preparing her husband Dougall’s fish fingers and baked beans, Hamish lifted his head and sighed. ‘Never mind what yer mum says Janet. Coz, I don’t think you’re barking mad in the slightest.’

Janet MacTavish turned her head away from Hamish and tried to focus on Chris Tarrent’s voice that boomed out of the television. ‘I really need to change dealers so I do.’

(illustration: troy dockins)


Kevin Saidler has lived and studied in London, New York and France, picking up a B.A. and an M.A. along the way. He is originally from the West Highlands and currently lives in Antwerpen. He has spent 2004 randomly photographing the Flemish region where he now lives and the results thereof can be seen on his website: http://www.kevinsaidler.com

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©2004 Kevin Saidler • Smokebox
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