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Perception

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a psychological  novel by 
Alex K Delph

Set in Dublin   2021
About two dogs, and the people  around them
With the spotlight riveted on being an  outsider
In this jaw-dropper  Alex K Delph explores the physical solitude of Londoner, George Wilson, and the stark psychological aloneness of Sandymount-born Clara Browne, amidst the sinister presence of Ben McDuff whose darkness threatens them all

PICS
Doberman, Joshua Daniel
German Shepherd,  Sofia Guaico

©Copyright

 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or be transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owners, 'dogs in dublin'  eMagazine and author Alex K Delph.

 

All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Please note:  Alex K Delph
writes fiction for
adults.
'dogs in dublin' eMagazine
publishes 'Perception' on a 
designated
adult fiction page.

 

Chapter 4

 

On a Thursday morning Paul Browne usually plays nine holes with Mark Finn.  Although twenty years his junior, Mark who practices as a psychotherapist in Rathfarnham, generally walks to the club for his regular morning golf slot with Paul.  They were paired together in a Christmas club tournament some years previous when they won a turkey.  This lunch time, the 12th of March 2020, the bar is decidedly less noisy than usual.  Talk of the corona virus is whipping the world into a frenzy of fear.  As he waits for Mark to return from the Gents, Paul wonders if this will be his last lunch in the golf club bar for a while.  How he hates it when his very convivial routine is interrupted!

 

Driving up this morning from Ranelagh in his spanking new silver Mini electric he simply had to turn off the radio.  The uneasiness he was feeling reminded him of another such morning.  Three years before when he decided to talk to Mark about what was happening to Clara.  In the silence of the car he recalls the secluded corner of the bar in the golf club where they were both seated on high stools neglecting the hot plates of food set down in front of them.

‘These things can and do happen but I’m not saying it has happened to Clara’ Mark replied candidly to Paul’s summary of what Clara had told him two years earlier.  It had taken this long for the sharp, street-wise Paul to reach this point where he could attempt to speak knowledgeably of it.

‘I know the man’ Paul added.  ‘I used to handle his firm’s accounts in Watson & Watson’.  ‘I also know Clara.  Fragile she may be but fanciful she is not’.

Mark looked at him hard in the face, knife and fork frozen in mid-air. 

‘Does Clara know you are talking to me?’

‘Of course not!  God knows I’ve tried to handle it myself since she told me.  But I have to talk to someone I trust now, someone who knows something about these things.  You see I have good reason to believe that the man is an obsessive at best’! Paul exclaimed.

‘OK’.  Mark carefully put down his fork on the heavy wooden counter.  The sound of the contact seemed to resonate in the air between both men.  He inhaled deeply before uttering ‘Then, tell me more’.

‘It all began four years ago.  She met him while horse riding in Brennanstown.  She used to ride horses regularly then.  Something happened between them’.

‘What do you mean?’ queried Mark politely

‘She was captivated by him’ Paul answered soberly looking away.

‘A fortnight later they both met again in the same place.  This time they chatted easily together as though life-long friends.  The man confided that he was travelling to Milan for a professional conference next week.  ‘I’ll think of you when I’m there’ he told Clara.  Of course she was flattered by his attentions.  ‘He was so convincing’ she admitted’’.  Mark focused his full attention on the face of the man sitting next to him.  Paul shifted himself on the hard stool emanating the discomfort of someone about to deliver the unbelievable.

‘It was some weeks afterwards when she gradually became aware of a very faint tapping sensation in her right ear.  At first, she dismissed it.  However, as the days passed, it assiduously gathered momentum, so much so that it became difficult to ignore.  Clara acknowledges that she had no idea what was going on but she wasn’t afraid.  Then, one Sunday afternoon when she was alone, working on her photography in a small room at the back of the house, she had a powerful sense of the violence of the tapping sensation breaking through.  She squarely describes it as an overwhelming sexual experience during which she heard a voice urging ‘help me’.  Paul paused for a moment looking directly into the eyes of his friend.   ‘She marvelled at his mastery of the female anatomy’ he continued.  ‘Liberated and renewed by the vibrant positivity of the connection she was somehow incredulously experiencing.   After the orgasm she heard the words ‘I love you, Clara.  This is the only way I can show it’.  She instantly knew that the voice was his’.

‘When did you start noticing things being different’ Mark carefully posed the question as he played with a stray pea on his plate?’

‘Clara and I are legally married but we live separately as family in my house’ Paul explained.  Mark absorbed this information like a sponge.  ‘The first I knew of it was when she told me in 2015’ he confirmed sombrely.

*****

On the 12th March 2020, Mark had no sooner sat down than Paul blurted out

‘I’m worried about Clara.  That dog will be the death of her’. 

Mark picks up his toasted ham and cheese sandwich somewhat dubiously, having expected the usual hot plate.  ‘The chef got flaky about the virus and didn’t show for work this morning’ explained the bar man as he walked away.

‘At least the dog is better than that sick bastard’ replied Mark mercilessly.  He instantly regretted his out-of-character outburst, registering the surprise on Paul’s face.  The words were spat out without him wanting them to be said, especially not so emphatically.  He never spoke about Clara to Paul except to politely ask after her since she became his client three years ago.

Clara started to come to his practice a few months after Paul first told him.  That day he had offered his services but insisted that Clara would need to want to address the matter herself before it could be remotely beneficial.  Essentially Paul had some work to do.  Mark was instantly aware of the challenge presented by him getting involved in his friend’s situation but in truth he was professionally fascinated by what he was told.  Furthermore, a cold wave broke within, forcing him to acknowledge that most of his colleagues would simply dismiss it as the ravings of a middle-age woman and treat her for ‘delusions’ with horrendous consequences all round.  He had already heard enough to cause him to think otherwise.    

 

In 1987 Mark went to Tibet after completing his Masters in Trinity.  He surprised himself by staying for almost three years, so emersed was he in eastern thinking.   While life was ‘primitive’ there by Western standards, there was a distinct wholesomeness about it that he still misses.  A sense of what really matters every day.  He acknowledges now that the experience was the bed rock of his prestigious career as a psychotherapist, lecturer and author.  Having written doctorates on the sheer power of the mind, Mark simply had to explore this one.

 

*****

 

George Wilson puts down his Smart phone on the small portable dining table.  Thursday 25th March 2021.  A month to the extended deadline set by Richard his publisher for the first draft.  He lifts his flat white coffee to take a sip.  Hugo is lazily watching another dog at the other side of the outdoor café in Wilde & Green from under the table. A man is getting up to leave.  He carefully puts his Irish Times into his black leather shoulder bag and pushes in his chair.  As he turns around to walk out, George instantly identifies him as the man who lives in the Georgian house in Ranelagh.  He has seen him many times go in and out.  Mostly alone but occasionally with the woman that he is following.  The man stops to banter with two elderly women seated in front of George.  After a while he looks at his watch and leaves in a flourish with both women bidding him a hearty farewell.

One of the women takes a look at George.  He seamlessly picks up his phone, pretending to be absorbed by the screen.  Hugo loses interest in the other dog and places his head on his master’s boot and closes his eyes.

‘Now, that man is a saint if ever there was one’, the woman who looked around said to the other.

‘Remember how courteous he always was to us when we worked in the little canteen in Watson & Watson’.

‘Always so grateful for the least thing we did for him’ the other woman agreed.

‘I don’t know what came over him to marry that bitch’ the woman who looked around continued.

‘A woman with a keen eye for the men if you know what I mean.  Old Watson was quite taken by her too'. 

'How I loathe these women who know how to cast a spell’ quipped the other woman as she crinkled up her face.

‘She’s a full of herself, glam puss who doesn’t care a straw for him’ the woman looks around again before continuing in a loud whisper.

‘Recently, I have seen her with my own two eyes having coffee with other men, not just once but many times.  Bold as you like.  No effort to hide it.  Poor Paul.  Behind his back.  What a cunning cheat she is.  He deserves so much better’.

‘Not alone is she fluting around with other men as if that wasn’t bad enough but she has forced a dog on Paul.  Not just any old dog mind you.  An Alsatian’! replied the other woman leaning further in the hope of hearing more gossip.

‘Remember how Paul used to cringe when I’d forget myself and start rambling on about my old mutt at the time, dear old Teddy.  She has made him nothing short of a prisoner in his own house and that’s not all’ continued the woman looking over her shoulder now at George.  Satisfied that he is still engrossed in his screen she delivers the latest in the quietest of whispers

‘My friend Ellen who lives in Sandymount Green and who knows a thing or two about her says that she ‘stepped out’ of her family about six weeks ago.  Of course she still visits her mother in the thankless way she has been doing but according to Ellen it’s official.  Strange as it might seem, it appears that Paul was central to the event’?

The other woman sits back in her chair as would a high court judge as she passes her verdict

‘I never heard the like of it.  ‘Stepped out’ of a family!  Officially.  I bet she put him up to it’!

 

*****

 

Edwin is tethered by the black cast iron fireplace in the study.  The fire is throwing out too much heat for him so he moves his blanket as far away from it as he can before lying down to chew his Yaker.  Clara picks up her wine glass and takes a sip of the cool chardonnay.

‘ You’ll never guess who I bumped into in Milltown this afternoon Clara’ said Paul putting down his knife and fork having finished his main course.

Clara looked at him for some sort of clue but said nothing so he continued

‘Remember Biddy Kane and Molly Scanlon from Watson & Watson’?

‘You mean the pair generally referred to as ‘the terrible twins’ she replied

‘Ah, they were alright, a bit nosey but harmless’ Paul affirmed as he poured himself a generous glass of merlot.  He couldn’t understand Clara’s preference for white wine.

‘I don’t know about that’ responded Clara.  ‘One of them had a tongue that I can only describe as deadly’.

‘That’s not fair Clara’ replied Paul.  ‘I used to chat with them and found them pleasant types I must say.’

‘Whatever you say Paul’ Clara concluded.

One by one the things that she used to think she enjoyed doing with Paul stopped being fun.  So much so that now the only thing they do together is eat.  Even that is becoming tiresome at times.  She hates it when he dismisses her assessment of people.  He says that she’s too hard on them.  Perhaps she is.  When she feels this way she reminds herself of the witness Paul has been to her.  How important that is.  How ground breaking.  Essentially, he has given her the chance to have a ‘happy childhood’.  For the first time in her life she has experienced genuine support.  It is making a big difference. 

Instead of playing nine holes on a Thursday, prohibited by a multitude of restrictions, Paul and Mark now meet for lunch outside in Wilde and Green.

‘Mark had to cry-off so I lunched alone’ Paul broke into her thoughts.  ‘It seems his wife was in contact with a friend whose son tested positive for the virus yesterday, the 24th of March.  Now, he has to self-isolate again’. 

‘As you well know, I’m a big believer in social distancing and rigorous hand-washing.  Frankly, the dossier of rules that are in place or on the way remind me of the Stasi’ Clara responds passionately.  She shakes herself before lifting the wine glass to her lips.  She takes another sip then says encouragingly

‘Tell me about the book you are reading on the aftermath of the war’.

Chapter 5  in April  edition

Chapter 1, 2 & 3
published in December 21, January 22 & February 22 editions
Find now on 'Perception' Page