Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sheila Burnford Quote for the Day (last one): No Little People?

From The Fields of Noon, by Sheila Burnford, 1964.  In "Pas Devant le Chien," Sheila and her daughter inadvertently convinced their dog (really, just don't ask) that there was a little man living inside the workroom heater, and this has turned into a problem--the dog is obsessed, can't sleep, seems to be waiting for whatever he thought they put into the heater to come back out.. 
...This made me think...of a friend who is a retired psychiatrist and has a pack of decidedly neurotic poodles   I rang him up, long distance too, and explained our problem.  Very, very interesting, he said, after a long expensive pause, it was a classic case of Canine Fixation.  The patient's suspense must be relieved....In other words, he explained in bright, kindly tones, murdering little male thermostats meant nothing to a dog, we must install instead a real little tenant in our heater.  He said that he was sorry, sizewise, that he was not able to move in himself, it sounded cosy; but he thought that there must be plenty of tenant material at the Bottom of the Garden if we inquired around, or knocked on the doors of a few toadstools--with this present cold spell as an added inducement there must be many who would be only too delighted to move into a heated apartment.  We might consider Lilliput too.... 
 Spoiler coming--how did they finally solve the problem?  Sheila's daughter disappears in the car for an hour, then returns, "modestly triumphant." 
Ten minutes later he lurched through the doorway, heading blearily for the heater.  I unscrewed the back, and he watched with polite interest.  Then Jonny inserted her hand and slowly drew out a fat, placid hamster, clutching a peanut in its pink hand....The dog was enchanted.  In a quivering ecstasy he watched Jonny open the door of a neat green cage with a kind of treadwheel inside....It curled up in a corner in a snug ball, yawned hugely, and fell asleep.  A minute later there was another cavernous yawn, and the dog slowly folded into a vast inanimate heap under the table.

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