I hope you enjoy this week’s episode of Queer Tango and it sets your tail wagging. It’s not at all inspired by Ferb and his furry colleagues…honest. As always, please excuse the typos.
Episode 48: Hedges’ Furry Helper
Hedges was known for being as wired and energetic as her hair. She had come from a long line of gardeners and groundswomen who had pruned people’s gardens and the parks in Bumblethorpe since before Squishy Billington even thought of going into making sofas. Admittedly, Hedges didn’t prune a hedge with the speed of her grandmother using sheers but instead favoured electrical trimmers twice her size. She did like a good bit of foliage to sort out but her main business came from the shop and now the expansion in Squishy’s garden centre. She grew all her own produce in her large nursery at the back of her house and Mr Hedges was in charge of that aspect because he loved talking to the flowers. Hedges’ daughter had been meant to carry on the tradition but had decided to be a maid in the older Billington household instead. She had the touch but not the heart.
Hedges Junior was struggling with his coolness, or lack of it, and felt that knowing a good plant or flower was not something Tammy’s middle daughter would fancy in a fella. He was talented with sheers and he didn’t mind being paid to help in Squishy’s garden centre, just not anywhere Tammy’s daughter could spot him. That’s why he continued to ‘help’ Stan. She didn’t like to tell him that Tammy’s daughter was more likely to fancy him if he wore a helmet… at least that’s what Tammy had said in class.
So, Hedges, while juggling the shop, the centre, the gardening business and, yes, the flowers with poetry, had wanted a biddable, quiet helper to take the money off the clients, pick up the odd item that had dropped and open the door for her… and maybe be imposing enough that Trevor would leave her alone so she didn’t have to keep threatening him with her trimmer. She presented these desired skills to Glynnis thinking that she might know someone who could match them as she was really good at business and Mary-Lou was in discussion with Barney at that point over his keenness for corduroy trousers. So, Glynnis showed up with Billington, a golden retriever that she was rehoming because he hadn’t passed as a Guide Dog, he hadn’t passed as an assistance dog but all that training would make him perfect for Hedges and he wouldn’t argue when she was taking ages with a customer.
Hedges had believed her and gladly rehomed the most naughty, overexcitable, loud and frustrating person with fur. She would call him an animal or a dog even but no dog should be that clever and talk back that well.
‘Billington, get your furry backside here,’ she yelled as she wobbled on her ladder with her trimmer. He was bouncing around Janis’ mother’s garden with part of a cardboard box. ‘Billington!’
Janis stuck her head out of the doorway. ‘You calling for me?’
And ‘ooof,’ Janis was tackled backward by the maniac on two paws.
‘Sorry,’ Hedges mumbled and zipped down her ladder one-handed—her dad had been in the fire brigade—and hurried over only to stop and stare at her open van. ‘You…’ He’d pulled all the boxes of flowers over. ‘You…’ and dug out Janis’ mother’s flowerbed that she’d just planted—okay they weren’t growing no matter how much she tried but still. ‘You…’ and he’d peed over the bench. ‘Trevor!’
Billington wasn’t listening because he was too busy licking Janis’ face while pinning her to the floor.
Hedges scurried over and tried to wrestle Billington off a giggling Janis but he was nearly her size and a lump. Yes, a lump of irritating fur.
‘Get off her. You hear me, you’re a Trevor,’ she muttered.
Billington lifted his front left paw and smacked her in the face.
She gripped her nose with a wince as he spun-turned on Janis and faced her. ‘Ow!’
Billington leapt at her, two paws hit her shoulders and she flew onto her back. He sat on her and then barked, continuously.
‘Will you shut up,’ Hedges yelled but Billington licked her and smacked her in the face with his paw again, then continued barking.
Janis giggled to her feet and gave him a pat. ‘Well done, good boy.’
‘What gum did you inhale?’ Hedges mumbled then grunted as Billington punched her again.
‘He’s assisting you,’ Janis said and produced some stinky treat from her overalls—yes, she was still in overalls. ‘He’s calling for help.’
‘I was fine until he floored me,’ she grunted then groaned as Billington hit her in the cheek. ‘It’s assault.’
‘He’s telling you that you’re unwell and to stay there,’ Janis said like she knew about dogs. ‘He’s meant to lie next to you when you have a seizure and call for help.’
‘I’m not having a seizure… am I?’ Hedges checked her legs and arms. ‘I don’t have seizures… I think. I’ll have to ask Mary-Lou.’
Janis raised her eyebrows as Billington left Hedges and jumped up and down in front of her barking. ‘You don’t think Mr Hedges would be better placed to know?’
Hedges laughed. ‘Mr Hedges can’t remember what he went into the kitchen for half the time, I doubt he be much good.’
Janis held out her finger then showed Billington the treat. ‘Sit.’
He sat and wagged his tail.
‘He launches at me when I try it.’ Hedges pulled herself up and groaned. ‘Ow.’
Billington turned and tackled her backward and punched her in the face again then started barking.
‘Oh, maybe it’s when you’re saying ouch that he thinks you’re hurt?’ Janis smiled at Billington and held up the treat. ‘She’s okay, good boy.’
Billington looked like he was smiling. As in a full-on cheeky smile. Then he got up and sat in front of her again like a real dog.
‘You’re very clever,’ Janis told him.
‘Do you want him?’ Hedges mumbled then got up and glared at Billington when he turned. ‘Try it again and I’ll make you look like a poodle.’
Billington lowered his front and lifted his back legs, tail wagging like he was going to charge.
‘I will, I mean it.’ Hedges wagged her finger. ‘A full on poodle shaving around the middle.’
He leapt at her and she dodged. He flew through the doorway and sprinted up the garden towards Mary-Lou.
‘Hide in the van,’ Hedges yelled to Mary-Lou hoping he wouldn’t flatten her because her outfit probably cost more to replace than the van.
‘Billington, hi there, good boy… yes, you’re a handsome boy,’ she cooed to him as he skidded to a halt then charged between her legs as she scruffed up his fur. ‘Oh, I love you too.’ And Mary-Lou made kissing sounds. ‘You’re so handsome.’
‘He’s…’ She glared at him then looked up at Janis. ‘I get assaulted yet he’s a good boy?’
Mary-Lou strolled over with Billington walking proudly at her side. ‘You look kinda… more… flustered than usual?’
Hedges nodded. ‘I’ve never had a dog. I didn’t even have a cat. I had a fish.’ She nodded again. ‘I liked my fish, he lived in his tank and blew bubbles at me.’
Mary-Lou cocked her head. ‘You never had a dog and you thought a golden retriever was a good idea?’
‘I didn’t, Glynnis did.’ She wagged her finger at Billington who was rolling on his back in the flowerbed. ‘She must have been drunk or maybe she turned into Trevor.’ She glared at Billington. ‘You’re a right Trevor.’
He got up and charged at her, again, two paws on her shoulders and ‘oof.’
Janis chuckled. ‘I don’t think he likes being called that.’
‘Nope. He looks kinda offended, honey.’ Mary-Lou whistled and Billington trotted to her and rolled onto his back in front of her. ‘We had a golden retriever when I was a kid.’
‘Do you want him too?’ Hedges pulled herself up and checked her nose hadn’t fallen off.
‘I work in an office, honey,’ Mary-Lou said and threw the shredded piece of cardboard for him. ‘He’d kinda need to shed a whole lot of pounds with all the love he’d get.’ She patted her tummy and Billington trotted off into Janis’ mother’s house. ‘They love their food.’
‘They don’t love being shaved though.’ Hedges picked up her trimmer. ‘Where’s he gone now?’
‘He’s trained to be a Guide Dog and an assistance dog,’ Janis said with a proud smile. ‘He was alerting me that Hedges was on the floor.’
‘Only because he flattened me,’ Hedges muttered.
A distant ‘oi’ floated through the air and Billington trotted out of the house with a sandwich in his mouth and dropped it at Mary-Lou’s feet. Then barked at her, loudly.
She beamed at him. ‘Did you get me food? Oh, you’re so sweet.’
Hedges wandered into the house as Janis and Mary-Lou cooed at him. Yes, she was right, there was Janis’ mother with shock on her face, a plate on the floor and a hand poised as if there had been a sandwich in it.
‘I’m sorry,’ Hedges said placing both hands on her face. ‘I should have hired my fish.’
Janis’ mother burst into laughter. ‘He stole my sandwich.’ She giggled and wiped at her eyes. ‘I would have made him one if he was so hungry.’
Billington trotted in with Janis and Mary-Lou with a proud smile on his face. He really smiled. He also sang and howled when she tried singing. It was worse than her singing. And Miss Thomas hadn’t minded that he’d trodden on her flowers and stole the fluffy bear to cuddle himself—he’d taken it in the van and put it in his basket and slept with it. She’d even given Hedges a tip.
‘I’m glad you find it funny but do you know what he did to poor Gaynor?’ She flapped her hands about. ‘He stalked her and kept barking at her when she tried to cross the road.’
Mary-Lou nodded. ‘She told me when I saw her by The Bee.’ She turned to Janis. ‘Thought she had dark glasses on because she couldn’t see. She had to hold onto his fur for him to guide her across.’ She smiled at Billington as he climbed onto Janis’ mother’s lap and licked her… and he wasn’t small.
Hedges went to pull him off but he thwacked her in the face with his tail. ‘Ow.’
And, yes… she got flattened… again.
Billington barked in her ear until it rattled.
‘Any ideas?’ She whimpered up at Mary-Lou. ‘Please.’
Mary-Lou beamed down at her. ‘Honey, I’m happy to help. Janis, honey, will you fix up the mess?’
‘Will do,’ Janis said and gave Billington a pat.
Mary-Lou nodded to Janis and led Hedges and Billington out of the door. ‘So, honey, we know he didn’t quite make the cut as a service dog.’
‘I think the words the centre used were far less polite when I called.’ Hedges held her trimmer for comfort.
‘Did they give you a report?’ Mary-Lou asked as Billington headed into the flowerbed. ‘Any pointers?’
‘Yes, I have it in my pocket. I was going to insert it in Glynnis’ nostril.’ Hedges pulled out the folded sheet of paper. ‘And the centre said golden retrievers don’t often make the cut and most puppy socialisers won’t have them.’
Mary-Lou scowled. ‘Then they don’t know what heroes they are.’ She tutted and then eyed the report. ‘Can you read it out, I don’t have my glasses and this cute furry guy might take to helping me whether I want it or not.’
Hedges pursed her lips. ‘He doesn’t help me. He doesn’t care if I’m in the road. He just barks like he’s laughing at me.’
Mary-Lou patted her on the shoulder. ‘So, what’s it say about his skills?’
‘He can guide but refused to wear the harness.’ Hedges rolled her eyes. ‘It’s a bit like Mr Hedges and Hedges Junior, give them safety equipment and they whine.’
Mary-Lou chuckled. ‘He’d look cute in a hard hat.’
‘Who? Mr Hedges or Hedges junior?’ Hedges peered up at her.
‘Billington, honey, try not to frizz your hair…’—Mary-Lou studied her hair with the usual curiosity—‘… more.’ She smiled. ‘What’s his food refusal like?’
‘They said he was good at that.’ Hedges shrugged. ‘I don’t know why refusing food is helpful because I’ve tried making him chips and he won’t eat them.’
‘You tried dog food?’ Mary-Lou patted Billington as he returned from shredding the cardboard.
‘I tried that and cat food and hamster food and I even tried feeding him George’s fried fish… not interested.’ She shook her head with a sigh. ‘He’s clearly not into food if he doesn’t want George’s fish.’
‘He didn’t seem that interested in the sandwich either.’ Mary-Lou tapped her lip. ‘You tried fish that hasn’t got grease on it?’
‘No,’ Hedges said. ‘I thought he’d like the biscuit stuff that they had on offer at the shop but how doesn’t he like dog food.’ She glared at him as he jumped into the pond and sat in it. ‘You’re a dog.’
‘I’ll pick him some food and see how he likes that.’ Mary-Lou glanced over her shoulder. ‘What do they say about his recall?’
‘Ha, ha,’ Hedges said and winced as he headed to the bench again. ‘That’s exactly what they put.’
‘Billington, no.’ Mary-Lou sounded like she knew what she was doing and Billington stopped like he agreed. ‘Go pee over there.’ She pointed to a hedge that Trevor still pruned for a neighbour.
Billington trotted over and peed as commanded.
Hedges smiled. ‘Good boy!’
Billington bounced around, twirling as if he was delighted. He trotted up and gazed at her adoringly.
She patted him on the head. ‘Well done.’
He tugged at her sleeve with his teeth.
‘Hey, I said well done… you’re not supposed to attack.’ Hedges tried to pull her arm back.
‘No, honey, he’s showing you something. He’s like a kid. You’re his mom… he’s excited.’ Mary-Lou motioned for her to follow him.
Hedges did so because she couldn’t wrestle herself free and Billington pulled her over to the flowerbed and nosed at some kind of bottle. She frowned and knelt down.
‘That’s why they weren’t growing…’ She got up and scowled. ‘Someone’s been sabotaging them.’
Billington barked and dragged her over to her van and barked at the flowers.
‘These aren’t mine.’ She frowned at the boxes. ‘These are cheap ones… and they were wilting.’
Billington barked then dragged her over to the pond.
‘There’s something in the pond…’ Hedges leaned over and plucked out a ‘property of Bumblethorpe Council’ bag. ‘It’s a bin bag.’
Mary-Lou pursed her lips. ‘And we know who collects the trash.’
Hedges stared down at Billington as he stared up at her. ‘You were trying to tell me?’
He barked like he was answering her. So strange.
‘Trevor?’ She asked then winced.
And she was flattened, again.
‘I think that’s why he is getting mad.’ Mary-Lou chuckled and patted Billington. ‘He’s saying the guy needs Ricky to sell him a car.’
Billington barked and gazed down at Hedges.
‘You are trying to help?’ She asked him.
He slobbered all over her face.
‘So, you do like me then?’ she asked.
He punched her in the face.
‘Is that a yes?’ She asked and glanced at Mary-Lou who was chuckling.
‘He’s trying to give you the paw, honey, you’re supposed to shake it.’ Mary-Lou nodded to her. ‘He wants you to stroke him.’
Hedges smiled up at him and grabbed hold of his shoulders and hugged him instead. ‘Thank you.’
Billington nestled into her neck, then punched her in the face again. Hmm… they were going to have to work on that.
So, the garden was dug up, the flowers trashed—as Mary-Lou would say—Janis’ mother was sandwich-less, the bench got peed on and the pond had golden fur floating in it but Hedges realised she liked her fish but she really liked Billington too, sometimes, and instead of calling him Trevor—because it hurt—she decided that he was the perfect addition to her staff and all her customers seemed to agree that poetry and flowers were better with Hedges’ furry helper.