Mid-scribble, mid-siesta, mid-spaghetti hoop, the children each heard the letterbox flap and the drop of a large, loud letter on to the floor of the hallway, slapping its arrival unscrupulously. Each continued except the sleeper, hot and dazed from the day’s heat, firm in his waking, fearless in his summoning. Four clattering paws chased the noise upstairs without so much as a sniff at the unexpected missive. Two arched ears and one wet nose sought spaces between the bars of the cot, licking and twisting, eliciting giggles and poky fingers.
The child in the high chair was lifted, wiped, placed and instructed. The child at the table was warned, invited, warned again and removed. The letter remained on the floor where it lay, still and secretive about its contents. The adult wiped another nose, lifted itself upstairs hip by painful hip and took the youngest, shooed the dog and opened the latest fragrant package. Deftly it was dealt with, then daylight was invited back into the room with a sweep of the bright curtain. Hip by painful hip back down the stairs, calling to the older ones, warning, insisting, warning again.
Half a cup of tea later the letter still sat undisturbed and one of them, perhaps the scribbler, took a pen delicately, deliberately, indelibly and tried to write on the dog. The dog would have none of it. Faithfully, identifying itself in the same pack, under the same leader, it refused to squeal, chasing its tail for a moment and then dragging some paper near instead. It wasn’t the dog’s idea. It wasn’t the scribbler’s idea either, I imagine. Instead, the pen, left unlidded, unprotected, unseen, was picked up by another, chewed over and smelled and tasted, and then used for all its worth on the wall, on the letter and on one half of a pair of shoes. This other, bored and distracted by noises coming from another place, left the pen, still unlidded, and found other amusement more fitting to its age and boundaries.
The dog, as far as I know, was the one who picked up the pen next. It did not like the smell, but it wanted to show how well it could retrieve, and now was as good a moment as any. The kitchen had always been a good starting point at moments like this. A cup of tea had been abandoned. Curiously two eager eyes scouted the room. One long pink tongue stretched out and licked at the edge of the cup, hoping for a taste of something sweet, and two front legs sprung up suddenly at the rush of not-quite-hot but still-remarkably-wet down the side of the dresser, down the front of the fur, down on to the floor and the pen, which spun once, and the decorated letter, which was being held by a small one, and down the small one, who screamed. A clatter of china and a scattering of claws and the child needed lifting carefully, dropping the letter.