BEAU’S BARK BAGS AN UNLIKELY INTRUDER

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Beau lifts his nose to the wind. It carries the scent of rain. In that instant, he is no longer Beau, pampered pooch of New Farm but his far distant ancestor the wolf. An instinct honed by ancient DNA warns him, a storm approaches

The sound of my voice breaks his concentration, transporting him instantly, from the tundra of his long-dead ancestors to the considerably more mundane environment of Lower Bowen Trc.

“Hurry up Beau. The storm is on its way.” He finishes his pee, rakes the ground and tosses a defiant bark at the darkening night sky. We hurriedly make our way home. Once there I quickly manoeuvre freshly potted plants into the centre of the courtyard – allowing them the full advantage of promised rain – Then tidy away the garden utensils and detritus of an enjoyable afternoon spent repotting.

Downstairs, secured against inclement weather, we make our upstairs to prepare for bed. Teeth cleaned, Beau on his blanket at the bottom of the bed, I plump the pillows and settle into a satisfying read with Nancy Mitford’s “Love in  Cold Climate”.

It’s not long before the book slips from my fingers and Morpheus lays claim to consciousness. Bedside lamp off, I surrender completely to his enticements. As I drift towards the shadows of sleep, I hear the distant thunder grow closer and the rain begins to beat a steady tattoo. The best lullaby of all is the sound of rain on the roof.

Suddenly, I’m woken by the crack of thunder and Beau’s ferocious barking. I sit bolt upright, alarmed and disorientated. Have I been asleep minutes or hours? I see Beau, a silhouette against the sudden flash of lightening. He stands alert, his small body rigid with fear – or braced for challenge. “Hush Beau.” I whisper urgently. He ignores me and leaps from the bed, heading for the door , his barking growing more frenzied and insistent. Is the storm the cause for his alarm or is there someone downstairs? Possibly an intruder!

By now the storm is fully apon us. The wind and thunder providing a deafening crescendo but not as deafening as Beau’s shrill barking.

“Beau enough,” I shout with bravado from the top of the stairs. Should there be intruders, I want them to know we’re alert to their presence and not in the least afraid. Who am I kidding?

My body is tingling with coursing adrenaline. Beau is at the French doors looking out into the courtyard. I take small comfort in the thought, at least they’re outside and not in the house with us.

I come to stand beside Beau. Both of us peer through the shutters into the driving rain. Suddenly a flash of lightening shatters the darkness. It is in that instant, I see something! There, underneath the vibernum tree. I’m sure a figure crouches under it’s dripping branches but, in a moment the image is gone, engulfed once again by complete darkness.

An idea penetrates my fear-addled brain. I reach for the light switch. My intention to flood the courtyard with light, thus exposing the intruder. I flick the switch. Nothing! Has the power been deliberately cut? No, I admonish myself. More likely a power failure due to the ferocity of the storm.

Beau has stopped barking but continues to emit a low rumbling growl. His focus of attention is still in the courtyard. The fury of the storm is almost spent. The rain is easing.

Should I ring the local constabulary to report an intruder in the garden? Before I can reach for my mobile phone, I notice the pilot lights for the television and sound system flickering to life. The power is being restored and suddenly the courtyard is illuminated. Finally the intruder is revealed!

“Searle’s Premium Potting Mix” I read in confused disbelief. A nanosecond of utter incomprehension. It’s then I fully realize the extent of my hysteria. My sinister intruder is no more than an empty potting mix bag, blown by the storm into the lower branches of the vibernum tree. Its resemblance to the human form exaggerated, when viewed through fear, darkness and driving rain.

I look accusingly at the now silent Beau. He affects nonchalance by scratching an ear. Do I detect a hint of embarrassment with the avoidance of my eye? After all it was he who sounded the alarm: cried wolf as it were. Before I can comment, he has bounded up the stairs, leaving me to follow.

I settle back into the pillows, reach for my book and console myself with the thought: Thank God I hadn’t involved the local constabulary. It would have been all to embarrassing.

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