"Magnus"

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksiesilk Classic Group


Magnus was the dog I had always wanted from being a very small boy. He had been a special present from Dad as a reward for my passing the entrance exam into my senior school. He’d got his name because Dad had called me “a proper little Magnus Magnusson” of Mastermind fame for scoring so well. From the moment we first set eyes on each other, we were absolutely inseparable. Except at nights, that was. Mum fought an ongoing battle to keep Magnus downstairs at nights despite my attempts to smuggle him up to my room if he was unable to make it by himself. We both finally conceded defeat and Magnus resigned himself to nights spent curled up on the hearthrug, although Dad had a pretty good suspicion the dog would graduate into his armchair shortly after he had gone up to bed. 

He was eight years old; Dad had died five years previously and as now I was moving away to university Mum had said I must find Magnus another home. She was not prepared to keep him on her own when I was away and, besides which, she couldn’t be expected to give him all the exercise he needed. I tried to dissuade her, even suggesting I’d feel better knowing she had Magnus to look after her while I was away but she knew that was a hollow attempt on my part to make her change her mind.

 It seemed hard but I knew in my heart of hearts she was right. It was neither fair on her nor on Magnus himself – not when he’d been used to accompanying me twice a day on five-mile runs. So I had had to set my mind to finding him the finest possible alternative home. My best mate Clive was the obvious first choice. He’d known Magnus from being a pup and Magnus had been on camping holidays with the two of us. Clive lived on the other side of town from us and had a job in his dad’s firm so he wasn’t going away to uni- like me. I knew his dad liked dogs but wasn’t so sure how Clive’s mum would feel, so I’d decided to take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and walk Magnus round there to face them with the proposition.

We’d arrived just as Clive and his dad drove in. They had both made a big fuss of him and Magnus lapped it up. We went in the back way and Clive’s mum was in the kitchen making a start on the evening meal. Eventually I managed to broach the subject of why I was there with Magnus and explained that he needed somewhere to live while I was away. I remember laying great stress on the fact that I’d be able to have him back in the vacs and that university terms weren’t very long – much shorter than school terms. Clive’s father was quite amenable until his wife pointed out with some justification that both of them would be out at work all week and that it meant Magnus would be left alone with her. She had gone on to say that she agreed with my mother; he was too much of a handful, what with everything else. Clive did his best for me, saying he’d exercise him each morning before work and then take him again at night. Finally, it was his old man who said they could take Magnus to work each day; that he could have a pen built for him under cover in the workshop yard at the back of the offices and that Clive could give him a run in the lunch hour as well as all the other walks he’d spoken of.

I was very grateful and so when finally Clive’s mum reluctantly agreed on the basis of a fortnight’s trial, I had to agree to leave Magnus there and then so there would be sufficient time for him to settle in before I would go up to university.

When I’d got home my mum had been very much relieved to be rid of the dog but the house seemed depressingly empty without him, I thought. The terracotta coloured hearthrug I remember my grandmother making - seemingly forever, throughout my childhood - looked naked without Magnus sprawled in ungainly fashion across it. Coming downstairs, my having changed into running gear, and not having him trotting excitedly to the kitchen door expecting to accompany me as my pacemaker almost brought a lump to my throat. It was a particularly leaden solo run that first night without him and there was far less spring in my step somehow. 

So, approximately an hour and a half later, upon my return, you can imagine the sheer incredulity and utter disbelief I experienced upon opening the door and seeing Magnus installed in his customary position on Granny’s old threadbare woollen hearthrug. Mum was on the ‘phone as I entered the house and it quickly became apparent she was talking to Clive. She handed me the receiver and I got the whole sorry saga of how Magnus had bolted for home at the first opportunity of slipping out of their back door.

It was a risky trip too, for a dog, with a very busy and dangerous dual carriageway to negotiate that separated the different parts of town in which we both lived. Clive’s father had said he could borrow the car and consequently he’d be round in half an hour to collect Magnus. I gave the dog lots of hugs as we waited for the car and told him he was lucky he had got such a good new home to go to. It was hard to say goodbye again so soon and I watched him looking through the back window of the car at me as Clive drove away, a confused and agitated expression on his face.

That night, I’m almost ashamed to say that, at practically nineteen, I cried myself to sleep. The following morning I had another soulless run, went into town with Mum to get some stuff for uni-, spent much of the afternoon on the internet and then made a life-changing decision not to take an evening run. Somehow all the fun had gone out of it without my running companion.

It was about seven o’clock when Magnus barked outside the back door. It appeared that Clive’s mother had just slipped out to the dustbin and that Magnus had leapt at the opportunity to escape. Both Clive and his father were on search patrol when I rang to say he’d found his way back to his old home. They duly arrived to find him ensconced once more on the hearthrug and we deliberated at length on what measures could be taken to curb his homing instincts. It was a perilous route for any dog to traverse between our two houses. Clive’s dad finally suggested a pen be built in their garden with access to their old summerhouse in the event of bad weather. It sounded a good idea and once more a fond parting was made as Magnus was led off with the two of them.

Two days after the new pen had been made Clive took Magnus on his lead for a run in the park near where they lived. Suddenly, and quite out of character, the dog slipped his collar and like a greyhound released at a racing track tore off across the park heading for home.

I’d been out with a couple of girlfriends all afternoon. We were all going to different universities and so in a way we were saying farewell, I suppose. When I got back, Mum was on the ‘phone so I went straight upstairs to change for my run. I opened my bedroom door and there, to my utter amazement, was Magnus curled up on my duvet. He’d made a sort of nest right in the middle. He looked up as I entered and beat a tattoo of welcome with his tail on my bed.

I scolded him for absconding from Clive’s yet again and his ears went down and his tail wagging became less enthusiastic, more placatory. He knew I was not pleased with him. I went downstairs just as Mum was hanging up. She’d been gossiping to my aunt. As I picked up the ‘phone to dial Clive’s number I asked her how long Magnus had been home. She looked at me vacantly before she said she’d never seen him. I told her he was on my bed at that moment and she expressed total amazement and wondered how on earth he’d been able to get up there without her seeing him.

Clive sounded very solemn when he heard it was me on the other end of the telephone and began to apologise profusely. He started to explain about Magnus’s escaping and I interrupted him and told him I knew all about it.

“You know? But how?” He was flabbergasted but without pausing he continued with his apology. “I’m so sorry, mate. There was nothing I could do to stop him. He dived straight across the dual carriageway right under a truck.”

“Phew!” I whistled. “What a lucky escape!”

There was a deathly silence from the other end.

“There was no chance whatsoever of escaping, mate,” Clive announced grimly. “That’s what I was trying to tell you. But at least it was instant. He never knew what hit him.”

I froze. What on earth was Clive talking about? The dog was on my bed at this very moment.

Suddenly my blood ran cold. I dropped the ‘phone and tore up the stairs to my room. Throwing open the bedroom door I gazed in total disbelief at my empty bed.

I moved towards the Magnus-like indentation in my duvet and, touching it, experienced the eerie warmth of where he had been lying apparently only moments before . . . .


Submitted: October 05, 2019

© Copyright 2022 Nder. All rights reserved.

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