While walking the dog one morning it occurred to me how much he resembled my late Uncle Silas. They shared the same eyes, the same coloured beard, and more extraordinary still, both of them dribbled when turning their head to the right. In my Uncle’s case this unfortunate lapse of good manners was an ill fated by product of a crippling stroke. Yet Ferret, as my wife insisted on calling the hapless animal in her aversion to living fur, seemed a picture of good health at the time. Though for a moment I confess to contemplating a visit to the vet to make sure.
Strange, this unreasoned antiphony by so many of the fairer sex when confronted by the hairier creatures of the world. I recall attending a Retreat some years ago where I came across a voluble monk, who despite vows of the strictest silence proved distinctly loquacious on the subject. His beliefs were sufficiently bizarre to remain indelibly imprinted on my memory to this day. Brother Sagacious was convinced it was Lucifer himself who had brought about this state of affairs by brutally raping the Virgin Eve in the guise of a horned and hairy goat. According to Brother Sagacious, the Dark One committed this act of defilement long before returning to the Garden of Eden to perform his more famous encore in the role of serpent. And it was this same violation that instilled in Eve’s descendants their subconscious distaste for hairy quadrupeds, a distaste that in extreme cases manifests in flaunting their dead skins and sometimes even heads in bodily adornment.
When not fulfilling his more important holy duties, Brother Sagacious held the position of keeper of the Abbey Apiary, a post that gave stewardship over not only the bees and their renowned lavender honey, but the entire production of the Abbey’s justly famed Extra Strong Mead. It was this latter obligation that many of his fellow brethren held accountable for some of the more unusual and bizarre credos that plagued the mind of Brother Sagacious from time to time. Even so, I am obliged to acknowledge that even my own dear wife derives considerable pleasure from parading herself in a somewhat mangy mink on every suitable occasion. A coat that in healthier times graced the more lithesome figure of her Great Aunt Lucretia, while at the same time never bestowing the slightest act of graciousness on poor Ferret.
But whatever the cause, I admit to an ever growing sense of guilt at her behaviour. And though, like most of his tribe, Ferret displays no outward signs of ill will, there are times when I am sure I detect a momentary flicker of disappointment in the depths of those liquid brown eyes. For some while the thought of wounding the susceptibilities of such a gentle creature caused me considerable concern and I wracked my mind in hopes of finding a political solution which would assuage the hurt feelings of one party without giving cause for any unnecessary outrage in the other. Then, as so often happens in such dilemmas, the problem solved itself. While casually discarding the core of a Cox’s Orange Pippin, I discovered to my considerable surprise that Ferret was a closet vegetarian.
My wife shared an equal delight where apples were concerned, usually consuming a good pound a day from the large selection available from the orchard. She was also a gardener of noteworthy enthusiasm, though singularly lacking in application. To let her delicate administrations loose on an herbaceous border for the merest minutes, was to invite a carnage of indescribable desolation. Finally persuaded to accept the role of distant admirer, she soon lost interest in the practical technicalities, content to sit back and appreciate the labours of others as one would a fine painting or piece of sculpture.
With her mind now committed to higher levels it proved an easy task to convince her that the humble apple core had recently been proven to have lethal properties for slugs and other assorted garden pests. An inborn desire to help swiftly overcame a fastidious nature and in no time she was hurling apple cores in every direction she suspected such vermin might lurk. Meanwhile the ever attentive Ferret marked the fall of each delicacy and with commendable restraint waited patiently until his unknowing benefactress had returned to the house before claiming his rewards.
In happier days before his stroke, Uncle Silas had been an eminent High Court Judge, noted for the novel methods he employed when faced with finding difficult solutions for cases of a particularly sensitive nature. Observing Ferret munching on a freshly retrieved apple core, his eyes half closed in heavenly ecstasy, I like to think he would have approved.