Theo was, literally, running late. He’d been at yet another local Chamber of Commerce meeting. Everybody was angry because they’d got ready for leaving Europe on the 31 October but it hadn’t happened. Worse still, they’d just heard that there was going to be another General Election.
His head was spinning with manifesto commitments, economic growth forecasts and whether Brexit would ever actually happen.
He was looking forward to telling Ernie all about it as he turned the corner and reached their favourite lamp post.
What he saw stopped him dead in his tracks.
Ernie lay with his chin slumped on the pavement. His sad, brown eyes focused on something in the distance that only he could see. Theo knew some predictions of life after Brexit had made unhappy reading, but even they weren’t as miserable as Ernie looked now.
Theo couldn’t remember his little friend look so glum before. ‘Whatever could be the matter with the lad?’ he asked himself.
He decided to tread carefully - and not just because of the nearby dog poo a naughty owner had failed to clean up.
“Hello Ernie, isn’t it a lovely evening for this time of the year?” he asked brightly.
“Is it?” Ernie replied, raising his eyes to meet Theo’s but keeping his chin firmly on the floor.
“Well, I think so,” Theo answered, “it’s a bit chilly but the sky’s clear and blue!”
“Hhmm,” Ernie murmured.
Theo realised this approach to cheering Ernie up wasn’t going to work.
He decided to take the bull by the horns.
“What’s up Ernie?” he asked quietly, “I’ve not seen you this sad since….” for once Theo was struggling to find the words “…well, I can’t remember when,” he concluded.
“Well you see, Tom’s gone away and Jess is very sad,” Ernie explained.
Theo nodded, buying time to process what his little friend had said.
He knew Jess was one of Ernie’s humans. He also remembered overhearing Jess’s mum telling a friend that Jess’s boyfriend, Tom, who was in the RAF, was on tour abroad.
“Well, she will be, won’t she Ernie?” Theo said quietly. “Remember how sad you were when your humans went to see your brother in Singapore,” he added.
“Yes, but I went to stay with my brother Erik, didn’t I?” Ernie replied.
Theo also remembered hearing that Jess and her friend, Steph, were going on holiday to see Jess’s brother in Singapore and Steph’s sister in Dubai whilst Tom was away on tour.
“Well, Jess is going to see her brother too whilst Tom is away,” Theo said cheerfully.
“Yes, but Tom won’t be home when Jess gets back like my humans were when I came home from Erik’s.” Ernie explained sadly.
Theo realised he needed more time to work out how to pull Ernie out of his doldrums.
He slowly sat down and scratched his chin.
Fortunately, the cool breeze stopped his brain overheating as all his cortical neurons searched desperately for a new approach.
He could see Ernie was looking anxiously to him for an answer. He didn’t have to wait long.
“Ernie, can I ask you something?”
“Of course you can, Theo,” Ernie said.
“Jess is very sad that Tom has gone away, isn’t she?” Theo asked
“I have never seen her so sad,” Ernie replied.
“So, what do you think Jess needs from everybody right now?”
“For us to go and bring Tom back,” Ernie said brightening up, “shall we Theo? It’ll be an adventure!!”
“We can’t do that Ernie,” Theo explained, “Tom has to do his job and, anyway, he is living a long, long way away”
“Even further away than my brother Erik lives from me?” Ernie asked.
“Yes, even further than that,” Theo said, trying to stifle a chuckle. “So, since we can’t go to get Tom, I’ll ask you again. What do you Jess needs from us all?”
“She needs cheering up. Like she did when she was poorly,” Ernie said. “I was only a puppy then but I used to make her laugh. Mind you, I was silly in those days so it wasn’t very hard.”
Theo decided not comment on whether Ernie had become more sensible with age.
“Exactly Ernie,” he said, “Jess needs everyone to cheer her up and take her mind off Tom not being here!”
“But how can I do that now I’m grown up and sensible?” Ernie asked in a very serious voice.
Theo was a very honest dog. However, even he realised that sometimes the right thing to say wasn’t always strictly true.
“Ernie, I know you are very grown up and sensible but I bet if you try very hard you can make Jess smile,” he explained.
Ernie’s face changed. He was obviously thinking hard himself now.
“I know what I could do!!” he cried.
“What’s that?” Theo asked feeling the sad atmosphere beginning to lift.
“I could get Jess to write a letter to Tom from me. That would keep us busy,” he said excitedly. “She says it’s very hot where Tom’s living. I could send him my tips on how to keep cool. What do you think Theo?”
“Well, yes you could do that but what makes you think that would cheer Jess up?” Theo asked dubiously.
“Well, when Jess told me it’s hot where Tom is, I told her to tell him how I keep cool,” Ernie explained. “She thought that was very funny but I bet she hasn’t told Tom,” he added
“Ernie, I know what you do when it is hot,” Theo said laughing. “You can’t tell Tom to sit on a cool mat and chew ice cubes.”
“Why not? You’ve just said I’ve got to cheer Jess up,” Ernie said with a perfectly straight face, his tail wagging, “and we can cool Tom down into the bargain.”
Theo didn’t know what to say.
Did he go along with Ernie’s patent madness? Or should he tell him how silly his idea was and risk sending him back into the doldrums.
He wondered how Jess would react to Ernie’s suggestion? Would she refuse to write all this nonsense in a letter to Tom? Ernie would be crestfallen if she did.
Maybe he could have a word with Jess. Tell her to go along with writing Ernie’s letter but never post it. ‘Yes, that’ll do the trick’ he said to himself.
So, in the space of five minutes, as well as having told a fib himself, Theo was planning to tell someone else to tell a fib too. He took a deep breath and spoke.
“Yes, you are right Ernie,” he said. “Get Jess to write to Tom. Tell her I’ll help if she wants me to,” he added, through gritted teeth.
“Oh, thanks so much Theo,” Ernie cried, “I knew you’d sort it out. I am so lucky you’re my best friend.”
“You’re welcome Ernie,” Theo replied, “I don’t like you being sad!”
As soon as Theo finished speaking, Ernie galloped off.
“Yeo Theo, gotta go…find Jess and get writing that letter,” he said his floppy ears flapping in the wind.
“Yes, see you soon Ern,” Theo shouted after his rapidly disappearing, but now very happy, friend before heading homewards himself.
‘Now,’ he said to himself, ‘I wonder if that church I pass on the way back will still be open. I think a bit of confessing and seeking forgiveness is in order.’