a tale in weekly parts
“So, what you’re saying to me,” Madge said to Xander over dinner, “is that some of what you have is new, and the rest is just releasing parts of the brain that millennia of civilisation have pushed into the background.”
“That’s right, Mum,” Xander replied, “that’s mainly things that are instinctive, and that some people still have: clairvoyants, mind-readers and people like that.”
“And the dogs have that, too; right?”
“Right. Most animals still have all their instincts. Look at how the dogs sit by the door and wait just minutes before Dad gets home. They know when he’s due, but they also know when he’s on his way, not just at his due time, but if he’s early or late, too. They sense danger well before it happens, as well.”
“But all dogs do that,” Al said.
“That’s right, so there was no need to work on any of that. What Jarvis did to Chav and Ixus was to push their evolution forward to give them more advanced telepathy.”
“So can you talk to them?” Madge asked Xander.
“And they can talk to you?”
“And to each other.”
“How come I can’t do that?” Al asked.
“Cos you’re not a bloomin’ dog, are you?” Madge replied.
“It’s complicated,” Xander said, “people communicate telepathically on a particular wavelength, and dogs on a different one.”
“Not with you,” Madge confessed.
“Okay. We have WiFi and 4G signals in the house, but they don’t interfere with each other. Different wavelengths.”
“So what you’re saying,” Al suggested, “is that I can only do this thinking stuff between a few people, and the dogs only between themselves.”
“That’s right, Dad. And for a tablet to do 4G as well as WiFi, it needs—”
“Another chip. Got you.”
“And that’s where the bitek part comes in. Kr’veth’neq’is and I have bitek stuff; another chip if you like; that lets us do that.”
“So,” Madge asked, “the dogs can’t talk to you, but you can talk to them.”
“Provided I’m listening on their frequency, we can communicate normally. Just like a tablet can do 4G and WiFi.”
“But not at the same time.”
“That’s just down to multi-tasking. If you google something while you’re talking on the phone, it’s doing both.”
“Here’s a question,” Al said, “When they talk to you, do they use pictures or words? I’ve often wondered that.”
“I don’t know how they think, Dad. This telepathy; Mindspeak, one guy called it; doesn’t use anything like that. Whatever it uses arrives in my brain, and my brain sorts out what it means. I hear words, because that’s what I expect. What the dogs hear from me, I have no idea.”
Xander started laughing.
“What’s so funny?” Al asked.
Xander laughed louder. Tears started to roll down his face.
“What?” Madge said, joining Xander in laughing.
Xander composed himself. “Chav just asked me what words are. What’s so funny is, as far as I’m concerned, he asked me in words. I answered in words, and he thanked me… in words.”
Madge sat quietly, a sombre expression on her face. “I envy you two kids,” she said at last, “fancy being able to talk to the dogs. Does it work with any other animals?”
“I don’t know, Mum. I’ll have to ask Albert, when he comes back.”
“But what about me? I know I wouldn’t be able to talk to the dogs, but could I do it with people, like your dad does?”
“Fat lot of bloody good it’s done me,” Al complained, “Only people I can talk to are Albert and the kids, and they’re never here!”
“That’s something else I’ll have to ask Albert, Mum.”
“How long did you say they were going to be gone?” Al asked.
“About a month.”
“Right. I’ve got a plan.”
“What’s that, Dad?”
“A plan? It’s a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something, but that’s not important right now. First, I want to get the grass cut behind the leylandii, then when you’ve done that, we’ll create a hard standing for the shepherd’s hut, and a nice path running up to it. I know you lot can get there without your feet needing to touch the ground, but I can’t, and neither can your mother—”
“Or the dogs,” Madge added.
“That’s right,” Al said, “and at times it’s bloody treacherous walking through that lot.”
“Good idea, Dad. You want me to give you a hand?”
“No, lad. I want you to do it.”
“And what’ll you do while I’m doing all that?”
“You’re forgetting, Son; while you’re gallivanting around, I have a full-time job. Somebody’s got to keep a roof over our heads and pay the bills.”
“I’ve got a full-time job, too,” Madge said.
“That’s not a proper job. You just sit around talking all day.”
“Of course I do. I’m a counsellor. What do you expect me to do – carry bricks? Drive a truck? Muck out the horses?”
“You know what I mean, Mother,” Al said defensively.
“I know exactly what you mean, Aloysius Grahamson. You mean that my job isn’t as important, as valuable as your bean-counting. Tell me one thing: how many lives have you saved this year?”
“What’s that got to do wi’ owt?”
“None. My job isn’t about saving lives, it’s about saving money.”
“Yeah; saving money so a few rich men can get even richer. I regularly help people turn their lives around.”
“You never talk about it.”
“Two reasons for that. One: you’re always too busy patting yourself on the back for getting one over on somebody, and two: client confidentiality.”
“How am I supposed to respect what you do, if you never tell me about it?”
“Dad, Mum. Let it go,” Xander said, “you both do valuable work. Can’t you just respect each other? Just once?”
Xander’s interruption had stunned the two to silence.
“I’m going out to cut the grass,” he said, “Coming, dogs?”
The two dogs stood, front- and back-stretched in perfect synchrony, and trotted off behind Xander.
“It’s dark out there,” Al shouted after him.
“Not half as dark as it is in here sometimes,” he replied, bitterly.