MCQUIGGAN S – STEPHEN MCQUIGGAN

ARCH BISHOP

There was a hole in the fence that echoed the rent in Bishop’s soul. He inspected it closely, noticing that it had been chewed through, but he refused to accept that the dog, his dog, would resort to such desperate measures. Someone must have cut it, or gotten their own mangy mutt to tear it apart. Bishop’s dog had everything here it could ever need –why would it want to escape?

It all amounted to the same thing in the end – the dog was gone.

Bishop had already lost so much, he wasn’t sure he could cope without it. Sandra was gone too, along with the television and the stereo and most of the furniture. In rare moments of self reflection Bishop might even concede she had taken his heart as well.

But he had held onto the dog, the one she sneered was nothing more than a furry bandage over the seeping wound of their marriage. He had given her everything and let her go, but he had held onto the dog. It was all he had and now it had deserted him too. You gave a bit of independence to those you loved and what did they do? They abandoned you.

Bishop headed out into the streets to search; the pup couldn’t have gotten far. ‘Tell me this,’ he demanded of the first man he met, ‘have you seen a wee dog about?’

The man smiled as if that were in some way helpful: ‘What kind is it?’

Bishop frowned. ‘The kind with four fucking legs and a tail.’

The man backed away a little. ‘I just meant…well, y’know, there are lots of different kinds.’

‘Are you shitting me? Me, who’s just lost his wee dog and is fucking distraught? Is that the type of heartless prick you are?  Do pricks like you come in different kinds too, eh?’

‘Calm down,’ calm down,’ spluttered the man, wiping Bishop’s hot spittle from his face; ‘I meant, is it an Alsatian or a Labrador or a Shih Tzu or –’

‘A shits who! Are you taking the pish now? I ask you for your help and –’

‘No, no, it’s the name of a kind of dog.’

‘My dog’s name is Kevin.’

‘I meant the breed.’

‘Breed?’ Bishop’s voice dropped an octave. ‘You into screwing dogs, you dirty bastard?’

‘Surely you’ve heard of breeds of dogs.’

‘You seem to know an awful lot about it. Maybe you’re one of them dognappers, cruising round until you spot a beauty like my wee Kevin, then bang!’ Bishop smacked his hands together, ‘you grab him and flog him to the nearest Chinky restaurant, or just use him in one of your sick dog orgies. I should carry the fucking head off you, right here and now.’  

When Bishop’s rage cleared the man was barely visible, a distant figure running full pelt toward the end of the street. He told himself to calm down, but the truth was he was getting frantic; he missed Kevin more than he cared to admit. Kevin was his friend. Not a mate who couldn’t be trusted but a loyal, tell all your worries to, friend. Kevin had never left his side from the day Bishop had bought him off Paddy Showaddywaddy down the market.

He soon tired of asking people if they’d seen a dog; ignorant bastards, piss takers all. There were some girls outside the pharmacy he thought about quizzing but changed his mind. Although there was a distinct nip in the air the girls were practically naked, flaunting their flesh, daring you to look. They would probably accuse him of staring at their tits if he spoke to them. Sandra used to accuse him of eyeing up young girls all the time, then take the hump and moan that he never looked at her like that. Honestly, how could you ever fathom a woman? They liked to label men as dogs, but at least dogs were fucking honest.

Bishop decided he needed a new approach – perhaps a poster was the way forward. That, however, threw up a whole new set of problems; he didn’t have a photo of Kevin for a start. He had never gotten to grips with the camera on his phone. The buttons were too small. Just thinking about how small and fiddly they were made Bishop seethe. The useless piece of shit phone made him feel like the moron his teachers always implied he was.

He could always draw a portrait of Kevin. He was great at Art, always had been since he was no age. If Sandra hadn’t held him back with her negativity he could have been a world famous painter by now, just like that crazy Prickasso dude. In hindsight, maybe he shouldn’t have set fire to that snooty cow Sally Jennet’s hair in Art class either. They kicked him out of school after that instead of her – when it was her who had rejected him in front of all his friends.

Friends.

Kevin.

Bishop felt tears smudge his eyes. Someone might see, and if they did he would be forced to take a brief holiday from what Dr Morris called his ‘placid paradise place’ and teach them to mind their own fucking business. Art was therapy – Dr Morris even said so – so Bishop hurried home and created a poster from scratch, then legged it down to the library before it closed.

According to her name tag the girl on the counter was called Nicole. She didn’t look like a Nicole, she looked like a Sandra; she had the same skinny bitch snootiness complimented by a vague air of church. ‘I want one hundred copies of this,’ said Bishop, slapping down the A4 poster he had laboured over all morning.

‘The photocopier is over there,’ Nicole smiled, pointing to an intimidating piece of sci-fi tech squatting by the newspaper section.

‘Then it won’t take long for you to trot over and fire it up for me, will it?’ Jesus, she was just like his ex wife, full to the brim with backlip and bullshit.

Nicole adjusted the smile on her narrow face as she perused his handiwork. ‘Certainly, Sir.’ Her finger lightly traced the drawing he had lovingly rendered in felt tip. ‘Is this a…cow?’ she asked, her forehead scrunching up so that her eyebrows looked like an Alice band.

What was it with people, had they no fucking heart nowadays?

‘It’s Kevin. He’s a dog,’ said Bishop, tapping the bold black letters above his sketch. ‘How did you get a job in a library if you can’t fucking read?’ Her eyes followed his rapping digit to the printed legend – HAVE YOU SEEN MY WEE DOGG? HIS NAME IS KEVIN – IF I FIND OUT YOU’VE TAKEN HIM I’LL CUT OFF YOUR BALLS/TITS AND FEED THEM TO YOU.

‘I’m so sorry,’ Nicole nee Sandra blushed, ‘my mistake. Of course it’s a dog. I haven’t got my glasses on is all.’

She made her way hastily over to the copier, Bishop trailing behind mentally picturing her in specs and wondering if that would make her even more punchable. Yes, he decided, it most certainly would. ‘You’re lucky you forgot your glasses,’ he told her, as the machine spat out poster after poster.

He spent the rest of the day pasting them up on lampposts and shop windows and, in the case of Dr Morris’s flash new Audi, on the windscreen. Then he went home and brooded, trying not to cry like a sissy boy when he saw Kevin’s squeaky toys lying beside his empty basket. The phone rang, startling him back to anger.

He picked up, barking out his customary disclaimer: ‘I don’t need insurance or new windows. If you are a cold caller I swear I will track you down and disable you in ways that will make your children fear you. What do you want?’

‘Is that Mr. Bishop? I saw your poster and, well, I think I might have your dog.’

‘You have Kevin? What have you done to him? If it’s money you’re after –’

‘No, no, nothing like that. I found him in my garden this morning and –’

‘Have you been feeding him?’

‘Yes, I have as a matter of fact. He looked so hungry, poor thing.’

‘And what exactly did you give him?’

‘Well, let’s see, he had some leftover chicken and –’

‘You give him chocolate? Chocolate is poison to dogs. Kevin would eat it though, he’s not the brightest. I’m not saying he’s retarded or anything, he’s just…Listen, I find out you’ve been slipping him chocolate I’ll hurt you inventively.’

‘You are a very angry man, Mr. Bishop.’

‘No, I’m just arch. There’s a difference, even Dr. Morris says so.’

‘Quite. Perhaps you could give me a time and a place where we could meet?’

‘Like a date? You’re using my dog to blackmail me into a date?’

‘No, so that I can give you him back.’

‘Fuck that, just tell me where you live and I’ll come round straight away. He better be clean, I’ll be checking.’

The address was on the outskirts of town so Bishop took the car. He hadn’t thought of looking this far out; it hadn’t occurred to him that Kevin might hanker after the countryside. The house was easy enough to find, although it lay hidden at the end of a small twisty lane. Brambles scrabbled at the paintwork as he manoeuvred the car between thick hedgerows; his mood was sour, and his placid paradise place distant, by the time he pounded on the front door. Only the thought of his imminent reunion with his dog kept him from kicking the damn thing out of its frame.

‘Kevin,’ he growled at the young boy who answered.

‘No, I’m Robert,’ smiled the boy.

‘You a little smartarse too, eh? You think I drove halfway out to the back of beyond for some of your backlip?’ The boy stared at him agog, paralysed by this display of rage. ‘I’m here to pick up Kevin, my dog.’

‘Oh,’ the boy’s face brightened, ‘he’s not here. A woman picked him up earlier. She saw the posters I made.’

‘Skinny bitch with specs?’ asked Bishop, ever so quietly. ‘Looks like she’d shit little cold black pellets?’ He felt his heart lurch into high gear. ‘You gave my dog to that thieving pious bitch?’

‘My dad did,’ said Robert, trying to close the door on the red faced man.

‘Well, fancy that,’ said Bishop, his voice now a whisper, placing his boot over the threshold. ‘Not your fault though. Tell your bastard father I’ll be having a word with him later, okay?’ The boy nodded, close to tears. ‘You have yourself a good day Robert,’ Bishop said, pausing as he turned. ‘Oh, one more thing,’ he laughed. ‘You didn’t really believe I was going to let you off so easy, did you?’

He punched the kid so hard he felt his nose crunch and shift beneath his knuckles. The boy was down and out in a soundless heartbeat. There was barely any blood. It was quick and clean; the way things should be but very rarely were. Bishop took this as a sign his luck was finally on the turn.

He would sort out Sandra and her catechism cunt soon, but first he would have to deal with the child at his feet. Then he would go home to sleep. Rage was so exhausting. Sleep alone; but not for long. Soon Kevin would be back again and Bishop could relax properly once more.

There was an annoying whimpering coming from the bedroom at the bottom of the hall. Bishop paused on his way to the bathroom, listening to its pitiful register, feeling his anger rise. He kicked the bedroom door open and glared in at his new pup. It was tethered to the wall, trembling pathetically in a pool of its own piss. It had strained so hard against its collar it had left a nasty circular red welt around its scrawny throat. Kevin had never been like this, Kevin had…

Kevin was gone, Bishop reminded himself; Kevin had run home back to the bitch (Sandra had never been in heat for me) and it was time to move on. New dog, new start.

‘Shush,’ he said, in his newly acquired soothing voice, ‘it’s all gonna be okay.’ The dog shook as he came over, mewling as he stroked its back; it had gotten all tangled up in some old clothes; it looked almost comically human.

Bishop felt the old anger rising, and counted to ten, as he noticed the small turd on the floor. ‘Oh dear,’ he tutted; he would have to be patient, it was only a pup after all, but still, pups had to learn.

‘Naughty boy, Robert, naughty boy.’ He pressed its nose down hard into the soft mound of shit.

‘No, no,’ it screamed; hell, sometimes it even sounded human.





Stephen McQuiggan was the original author of the bible; he vowed never to write again after the publishers removed the dinosaurs and the spectacular alien abduction ending from the final edit. His other, lesser known, novels are A Pig’s View Of Heaven and Trip A Dwarf.

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