Wednesday 22 November 2023

The Pet Blessing by Paul Goodwin, breve

 There was astonishment when Madam Latex turned up at the pet blessing with Dr Wallace on a lead. The neighbours had been gathered on The Green crunching crisps and peanuts, avoiding Mrs Jones’s cake, and complaining about the potholes in the road. Meanwhile, the Rev. Davies had been struggling to assemble five yapping dogs, a tortoise, a miaowing cat, and a hamster in a cage into a line so he could deliver the blessing to each in turn. Mrs Clegg had been hassling him with her opinion that her dog, Ebeneezer, was as righteous as a monk. Someone even claimed the vicar had muttered an expletive.

The hubbub stopped. Everyone froze and gawped, first at the Madam in her most shiny black costume and then at the doctor on all fours in a furry suit covering half of his head. He rubbed himself against the Madam’s bare ankles. His blinks of satisfaction were made enormous by his thick glasses.

‘What are you all staring at,’ the Madam shouted. She tossed her luxurious black hair across her shoulder and glared with dark eyes.

No one answered. The Madam shook the lead. ‘This is my pet, and I want him blessed.’

The doctor produced a respectable imitation of a bark. It set the other dogs off, and the Rev. Davies’s line returned to chaos.

‘Forget the potholes,’ whispered Mrs Ellis, ‘that woman’s been the biggest problem on this estate for a long time, but I can’t believe Dr Wallace…’

‘Are you sure you want him blessed,’ asked the vicar, ‘or is this some sort of practical joke?’

‘No joke at all,’ the Madam replied. ‘He’s God’s creature, and he has the right to be blessed.’

The hapless vicar turned to the crowd as if seeking advice, but none was forthcoming. ‘Very well,’ he said, ‘we’re lining up over here.’

Now, the crowd’s opinion was evident. An angry muttering surfaced and got louder. ‘No way,’ one man bawled, struggling to hold onto a yelping Irish Wolfhound. ‘This is a mockery. It’s sacrilege.’

The vicar fidgeted with his own dog collar, then stroked his beard. ‘Well, what the hell else am I supposed to do?’ he shouted, showing hitherto unseen petulance. ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to mention hell.’

‘Send those idiots away,’ yelled the man, ‘they’re turning us all into a laughingstock.’

‘I won’t go,’ said the Madam, jolting the lead. ‘And I warn you he might bite if he doesn’t get his way.’ The doctor gave a supportive growl.

‘If you bless him, then I’m going home,’ said the man. ‘This is ridiculous.’

The crowd murmured in agreement.

The vicar chose to stand firm. He resented the challenge to his authority, and secretly, he was frightened of the Madam. ‘I will not deny anyone a blessing,’ he shouted. He cleared his throat and looked at the doctor. ‘Or any creature,’ he added.

People started to move towards the exit gate. Someone emptied the peanuts and crisps into a bin. Coffee was tossed out of plastic cups into the hedge, and Mrs Jones returned her uneaten cake into a tin and held it to her breast as if it was precious. Then, all as one, the crowd marched off, the dogs straining on leads and the tortoise and hamster cage nestling under a rotund man’s armpits. The cat escaped from its owner’s arms and disappeared up a tree.

‘Call yourself a vicar. You’re a disgrace,’ shouted one man.

‘I’ll be writing to the bishop about this travesty,’ said Mrs Ellis, standing with her face only an inch from the vicar’s.

She stormed off, and the vicar turned to Madam. The doctor was lying across her feet with his tongue out as he panted.

‘I don’t understand,’ said the vicar.

‘The doctor is now retired,’ said the Madam, ‘so he can be anything he likes. Life is short enough. He’s not hurting anyone -as long as he pays me enough. So let’s get on with the blessing.’

The vicar realised he was already holding the prayer book. But he seemed to be reflecting on what the Madam had said. He stared at the disappearing crowd. Some stood in groups at the end of driveways waving their arms or pointing as if to protest some profound injustice. He breathed in the sweet smell of trodden, damp grass and resolved to get the blessing over as soon as possible.

‘What is your er dog now called?’


‘A bit unoriginal,’ thought the vicar as his voice took on a high-pitched tone. ‘Rover, may you be blessed in the Name of….’ he gabbled.

Rover was now on his knees, his tongue was still out, and he had a look of delight on his face. The Madam stroked his bald head.

A week later, a stern letter from the bishop arrived on the vicar’s doormat, demanding a meeting and an explanation. The vicar lingered by his front door for a while, holding the opened letter by his side and staring into the middle distance. Then he crumpled it into a ball and kicked it past the open kitchen door. That would have made a great goal, he reflected.

‘Haven’t you heard?’ Mrs Ellis was on the phone to Mrs Clegg. ‘It’s shocking and disgraceful.’

‘Vicar Davies has not only resigned from his post. He’s dyed his beard blue, had a tattoo on his forehead and joined a punk band.’


About the author

Paul Goodwin lives in Somerset, England, where he spends time contemplating the challenges of his 45-degree sloping garden, running between injuries and writing. His stories have been published in Literally Stories, CommuterLit and LitBreak magazines, and his books include Something Doesn’t Add Up (Profile) and Forewarned (Biteback Publications). 

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