His Terrier

Donald Shephard

Prunella Princep-Polinar was known all her life as "Prissy" because, frankly, she was very much so. At university, she played field hockey, excelled at mathematics (please do not say "math") and went on to become an actuary; a very good actuary, actually. She lived in splendid organization in a beautiful apartment with her cat, a thoroughbred Maine Coon. They both drank tea with cream and sugar. At thirty-eight, she was resigned to the single life with her cat, of course, for "Of Course" was the name of her cat.

Recently, a middle-aged merchant-mariner, a Mr. Albert Tross, had moved into the next apartment. Each evening, she put out "Of Course" and he called to his terrier to come in. The dog's name was "Knot". Frequently, the air of their shared garden was filled with their mutual calls. Of Course! Knot! Of Course! Knot! Prissy noticed Mr. Tross and, after she heard Verdi's "La donna è mobile" swelling from his window, she became interested enough to smile at him later in the corridor.

One hot summer evening, after his call for Knot to come in, sinister sounds replaced the Verdi arias. There were loud thumpings on their mutual wall. Prissy put Bizet's Carmen on her compact disk player and tried drowning out the thumping sounds with the "Toreador's Song." Could he have a woman over? She asked Of Course. The cat made no reply. "You know how sailors’ are," she continued. Of Course purred. The "Toreador's Song" ended, but the thumping sound continued unabated. Prissy was beside herself and beside Of Course, of course. The man was an animal! How could she live next to such a beast?

She heard the strains of the "Soldiers' Chorus" from "Faust" loudly through the wall, and yet, above that, was that incessant thumping. She countered with the "Anvil Chorus" from "Il Travatore", but neither helped. She was so upset that she rapidly calculated the loss she would take if she sold the apartment. She cranked out the compound interest in no time at all. The mathematics failed to soothe her nerves. A glass of port, poured shakily and downed far too quickly, only increased her agitation.

By ten o'clock, Albert Tross was using the "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves" from Verdi's "Nabucco" to cover the endless thumping. Next door, Prissy was near tears, she blindly countered with Bizet's "La Voilà...L'amour est une oiseau rebelle" from Carmen, but to no avail. She could still hear the constant thump, thump, thump on her wall.

At her wits end, she called her friend and physician, Maggie Gyn-Sling, and mumbled incoherently. "You're hysterical," said Maggie and prescribed two Valium, with instructions to see her in the morning.

"Hysteria! Hysteria!" cried Prissy as she uncharacteristically thumped down the phone. The drumming on the wall reached a crescendo as Prissy, frantic to get to the pharmacists, grabbed her purse and rushed to open the door. Albert was standing there about to knock. "I must apologize, Miss Princep-Polinar," said Mr. Tross. "My dog has a very bad case of mange. His constant thumping is keeping me awake and you too I fear. I have just called my veterinarian who prescribed a Valium. I wonder if you have such a thing. Then, perhaps we may both get some sleep."

"Ah!" she thought, "It was Knot, his terrier!

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