Published at
Cover Library Novels Global Fiction
Table of contentsNext

Mucky Pups

The Hounds of Love

Peter Miller
Smaller text sizeDefault text sizeBigger text size Add to my bookshelf epub mobi Permalink Ebook MapGlasgow

Stewpot head-butted the doorbell. He did it in slow motion. He hair-butted it really. There was no sound. Misjudging the distance, he ended up bent over at a right-angle, staring at the fag-butt floor. It took him a few seconds to cotton on.

“Coins,” he said, scanning the ground.

In the meantime, Mitch bumped him from behind and his head rammed into the button. The cushioning of his curls delayed the doorbell, but didn’t stop it letting rip a bestial buzz, like a bee crossed with a cow. Mitch grabbed Stewpot round the waist and managed to pull him back an inch, letting the silence bloom for a few seconds before ramming Stewpot’s head back into the button.


They repeated the process a dozen times or more, with Stewpot’s drunken moans and Mitch’s grunts of effort combing with the buzzer to make an abominable tape loop.







“I haven’t got the key,” said Stewpot.

“Stop twatting about, of course you’ve got it.”

“I haven’t, you know. Search me.” He pulled his pockets inside out. A manky tissue tumbled to the floor, a chuggie wrapper clung perilously to one pocket, its gum come home, albeit flavourless and deformed. He grinned as more coins pirouetted to a halt, half-heartedly glinting in the streetlight. Mitch knew what that grin meant.

“No,” Mitch said.

“Do you want to see an elephant?” asked Stewpot, undeterred.

“No, you’ve already done that twice tonight.”

“But we can’t get kicked out if we’re already out, can we? Besides, we didn’t get kicked out. We got a warning.”

“We would’ve got kicked out if that bloke hadn’t stuck up for us,” said Mitch.

“Who, Finnegan Wakeman?” said Stewpot.

Mitch laughed.

“Finnegan fucking Wakeman!” said Stewpot. “Keyboard wizard! What was he talking to you about? He had you cornered for ages!”

“He was all right, you’re just jaundiced. He was talking about books and how much he likes James Joyce. He goes on all that Bloomsday bollocks. He said that when they’d first started putting their Yes tribute group together and were looking for a name, he’d suggested Yes I Said Yes I Said Yes as a tribute to Molly Bloom, but the others thought he was mental. He says they only let him stay in the group because he’s a keyboard wizard and he could do all that prog-rock stuff no problem. They all had boring ideas for names like Topographic Oceans and, check this, Tomato! Fucking Tomato! In the end they’d settled on Resounding Yes. He reckons they’ve got a really good following, a kind of leftover prog-rock barmy army. All those long haired blokes follow them around, they even go through when they play in Edinburgh. He says it reminds him of when Marillion started.”

“Fucking hell. What a fucking birthday, watching a fucking Yes tribute group in a cloud of patchouli oil and dope smoke. Those women looked like witches, especially that one you were dancing with. She looked like she was made out of wholemeal spaghetti. What were you talking to her for?”

“I was telling her about Mungo. She says she used to have the same thing he’s got, she was being all understanding and that. She says Mungo’ll get better. She says she’s a good example, that she could hardly move a year ago and now she was out dancing, that she follows Resounding Yes all round Glasgow, all these pubs. She says I should tell Mungo, that it’ll cheer him up, give him a bit of encouragement. I think it’d give him a relapse, to be honest.”

“Tell him she was really beautiful and dead into the Stone Roses.”

“Hmm. Put your pockets back in. It’s not your birthday anymore,” said Mitch, shoving his watch under Stewpot’s nose. Stewpot tried to focus on it.

“It’s getting on a bit,” he said alarmed. “If we’re going to see Mungo tomorrow we’ll have to get up early so we can catch a train at a reasonable hour.” He seemed very pleased with himself for having such a sensible thought despite the effects of all the alcohol he’d poured down his gullet in the name of celebration.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. We’ve got to get in first, otherwise we won’t be able to get up at all because we won’t have been to bed.” One sensible statement deserves another. “Ring the bell.”

“No,” said Stewpot with statesman-like finality.

“Why not?”

“Neighbours. They hate me already. Better not wake them up.”

“But we’ve already been ringing the bell.”



“When you were shafting me from behind?”


“I wondered what that noise was...” said Stewpot, scratching the top of his head.

“Pick your money up,” said Mitch and applied buttock pressure to the buzzer. It was probably going to be a long wait; best to be comfortable.

Fifteen minutes of non-stop buzzing and one numb bum later, a pink dressing gown opened the door. The bleached mop on top of it mumbled something unfriendly but let them in all the same. She shuffled off saying “fuck, fuck, fuck” with every flop of her slippers. She looked like she’d had a real fright. Not bloody surprising with that arsehole boyfriend of hers, thought Stewpot.

“Thanks,” said Mitch.

“Yeah, thanks,” said Stewpot, “you’re a pal.”

They trudged upstairs, chastened. The only person they liked in the building had got up to let them in. Stewpot made a mental note to suck up to her a bit more.

Stewpot tried to focus his eyes on the countless toys and children’s trinkets that filled all available shelf space in his bedsit. He bent over and ran his finger over the plastic covers of the long-playing records leaning neatly against the wall. They made a noise like a lolly stick between the spokes of a pushbike. He wanted to put some music on, but he was drunk, so he didn’t know what to put on. He feebly punched his inflatable giraffe and looked up at the enormous poster of Leif Garrett grinning cheesily down at him. At that moment, Stewpot hated Leif Garrett’s guts. His health and happiness was like fingernails dragged down a blackboard to Stewpot. He rubbed the end of his nose, making a squelching sound that Mister Billington Fox, his dog, bounded over from his recently replenished bowl to investigate. As far as Mister Billington Fox was concerned, night time was the right time. He was such a rock ’n’ roll hound, but Stewpot was drunk, the walls were wobbling. They wobbled for real when Mitch accidentally slammed the door when he got back from the bog. His entrance was a cause for celebration for Mister Billington Fox, just as it had been a few minutes ago when they arrived. Stewpot had slid sideways and was now heaped up on the floor, being sniffed and snouted, pawed and pleaded with. Mitch selected a record, Smiley Smile by the Beach Boys, and stuck it on. He watched the label spin round as “Heroes and Villains” tinkled out of the speakers. He listened to it intently, as if he wanted to know the answer to some kind of puzzle. When “Vegetables” chomped in, his attention was drawn to a shuffling sound behind him. Stewpot had apparently passed out on the floor and Mister Billington Fox was vigorously shagging his head. The mass of curls bounce-bounce-bouncing down the road beside him must have been tugging at his heart strings for years, but now he’d finally got his chance to get stuck in. His frantic motion suggesting that he knew this would be his first and last chance. Mitch shot across the room like Tarzan after a tiger, and belted Mister Billington Fox with a cushion. He then threw the cushion after him, hoping it would be an acceptable substitute. It was. This gave him a chance to haul Stewpot into semi-consciousness and get him onto the bed. Unaware of his near-miss, Stewpot sang along with the Beach Boys, his voice more wistful and vulnerable than it would ever be with his faculties intact,

Sure would like to have a little pad in Hawaii...

Mitch thought about the lyrics. But there wasn’t much to the song really. There were hardly any words, just some humming. So he fell asleep.

Next morning, Mitch went downstairs for a shower. The bathroom was disgusting, but at least he wouldn’t feel grubby all day, it was worth the effort. He got downstairs without any problems. But now he had two flights of stairs to negotiate without rousing any of the assorted headcases and misfits that lived behind those once white doors... No movement from the foul-mouthed Australian couple whose arguments often spilled over onto the landing, and always ended with a long lingering shower together, soap suds and sponges cementing the fragile peace for another week or so. He wouldn’t have minded sharing a shower with her himself. She smiled at him most of the time, so he thought he might be in with a chance if it wasn’t for that wanker of a boyfriend. She let them in last night, Mitch remembered. Jesus, they must have been drunk... Hadn’t he been snogging with some funny-looking woman earlier on? Perhaps not, but he’d definitely been talking to some ropey looking characters. How had they ended up at a Resounding Yes gig? There’s really not much to do mid-week. It’s best to have birthdays at the weekend, he decided, even though it’s cheating.

He was beginning to feel a bit cocky as he started up the last flight of stairs. Suddenly a door flew open and a primeval squeal dislodged a bit of plaster from the ceiling. It was the Loony Woman, an ageing casualty of city life. This morning she was treating the household to a spirited rendition of her peculiar folk song:

“There’s some men in their motor cars!

They’re underneath the window in their motor cars!”

Mitch wheezed a sigh of relief. She wasn’t on the warpath. Another of her inexplicable chants was “Spray your body!” Perhaps she imagined that her own overpowering body odour belonged to somebody else. Somebody who followed her everywhere, somebody who never moved from her elbow. No one would ever know what she thought, unless they learn how to do psychiatric autopsies. Mitch wished her good morning as if he had just bumped into a favourite toothy nun, and slipped quickly into Stewpot’s room.

“There you go, boy,” Stewpot chimed, handing Mitch a cracked and grubby mug filled to the brim with murky tea.

“Thanks, arsehole,” Mitch said.

“Arsehole?” asked Stewpot sounding like Heidi looking for a lost lamb, “Why do you want to go and call me that, you ugly bugger? I’ve made you a nice cup of tea!”

“Sorry, it just slipped out. I was thinking about the landlord.”

Stewpot’s rubbery features clouded over. “Fucking arsehole. His pal’ll be around soon for the rent, the wee shitbag. We’d better be on our way before he comes. I’ll go for a quick shower.”

“Spray your body!” chirped Mitch.

Stewpot repeated “spray your body” five or six times at the top of his voice as he bounded back up the stairs after his shower, causing Mister Billington Fox to emit his first consumptive bark of the day. But the Loony Woman didn’t stir. Stewpot shivered slightly as he rummaged around looking for the hairdryer. A talking Reverend Ian Paisley doll was perched happily on top of it. Stewpot flung the doll across the room, just missing Mister Billington Fox. It landed next to his David Trimble spacehopper. “FENIAN!” bellowed the doll in a tinny voice unsuited to bellowing. Stewpot answered back and Mister Billington Fox sniffed it. Stewpot bent down to plug the hair dryer in. He switched it on at the socket. Christmas tree lights draped around the room began to flash on and off.

“Bollocks to Christmas,” muttered Stewpot under his breath and flicked the correct switch this time. The machine whined like a plastic pig having its throat slit. He started to dry his seaweed curls, looking like a drunken sailor in a deserted discotheque, the flashing lights illuminating his facial contortions and static-fried hair.

Moments later his magnificent surplus of curly locks was ready to face its adoring public. Looking like one of the Jackson Five dressed up from a Tony Jacklin jumble sale, he winked at himself in the mirror, did a bit of Elvis karate and sexily beckoned Mister Billington Fox and Mitch to follow him out of the door.

“Be careful,” thought Mitch, but decided against telling Stewpot about getting his head shagged by the dog last night. It all seemed unreal in the half-light of his hangover.

Mitch and Stewpot trundled downstairs, making as much noise as they could to get on the neighbours’ nerves. Stewpot heaved the heavy door open and Mister Billington Fox catapulted out, desperate to relieve himself. The boys stood in silence, squinting in the dingy autumnal sunshine.

Torrential traffic swarmed all the way down the road in both directions, to the city centre and towards the coast. Trees coughed and shed their leaves like globules of blood-spotted phlegm. Birds spluttered from one precarious branch to another, accompanying themselves with shrill and frantic whistles.

An old woman shuffled her shopping trolley up the slope and waited for three leather jacketed youths to slither out before heaving her way into Penny Pinchers. The twenty-four hour supermarket, whose bright yellow front divorced it from the soot-stained tenement that housed it, sold brightly coloured packets that were the opposite of the lives of its customers. They were all too fucked up on drugs or old age to make it a bit further up the street to the Pronto Superstore, smoother on the senses and finances.

Mister Billington Fox looked at Stewpot and Mitch mournfully as he crouched down to make his daily contribution to the dogmuck mountain that had gradually replaced the flower beds.

Ten minutes later he was still giving them the same desolate stare as his morning dump began to contort itself into monstrous proportions. A fog started to form on Stewpot’s fatherly face.

“Fuck!” he groaned

“Jesus!” Mitch whistled, neither in admiration nor despair, before indicating down the road with a jerk of his head. They moved a safe distance away.

“Don’t want to be implicated in the Titanic doggy-doo scandal now, do we?” blurted Mitch. Stewpot’s face dissolved into a daft grin.

“No way, boy!”

Just as Mitch was lighting up his first cigarette of the morning, Mister Billington Fox came bounding happily over, wagging his tail like a Union Jack at the Queen’s Silver Jubilee street party. He was clearly pleased with himself for having heaved out such a magnificent turd. Mitch just looked at Stewpot and said that it was about time he weaned Mister Billington Fox off sweets and chocolates and gave him nutritional dog food like Woofy Boy. In the television advertisement, a tumbling troupe of computer enhanced hounds performed a song as dance routine to rival anything in My Fair Lady or Jesus Christ Superstar.

Stewpot hailed a taxi and they all tumbled in. The driver turned out to be the biggest dog lover in Scotland. He hadn’t seen what Mister Billington Fox had just lovingly sculpted to welcome the residents of 117 Tundra Terrace to the outside world.

“So where might you be wanting to go, sir?” he asked the bushy tailed king of coquetry in a kind voice. Mister Billington Fox thumped the taxi floor with his tail and cocked his head on one side with all the adorable aplomb of Shirley Temple. The driver laughed like a first time grandparent with a new baby in his arms. Mitch let the pantomime continue for a little longer before timidly suggesting that Mister Billington Fox wanted to go to Central Station. The driver, still chuckling to himself, turned the meter on (“No doggy discount?” inquired Stewpot) and hurled the taxi into the stampeding traffic. Mister Billington Fox snuggled up to Stewpot and settled down, a look of smug satisfaction skipping around his snout.

Ten minutes later they arrived at the station. Stewpot and Mitch both looked at Mister Billington Fox.

“Come on, cough up!” said Stewpot to the dog.

“Ha ha ha ha ha ha!” boomed the driver, “like a Saint Bernard dog handing round the brandy, eh? Like a bloody great Saint Bernard! Ha ha ha ha ha!” the diesel engine ticking impatiently in the background. Mitch gave the hysterical heap of a man a crumpled fiver and waited patiently for him to recover from his laughing fit and give him the change. The radiant driver delivered an emotional farewell to his four-legged friend. Such was his admiration for the fluffy fella that he didn’t even notice that he hadn’t been given a tip.

Stewpot and Mitch stood in the ticket queue looking at all the leaflets. Scotrail were offering cheap day returns to Oban.

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside,” sang Mitch.

Sang Mitch.

“What a fuckin’ swizz!” spat Stewpot.

“You know your trouble? You’re jaundiced,” stated Mitch flatly.

“Look! Half a bloody hour in Oban! Some special offer. I’d sooner go and feed the bloody ducks in the bastard park.”

He was right. A grand total of thirty-five minutes to enjoy the charms of Oban. About enough time to have a quick rummage through the rubbish bins on the platform.

It was their turn at the ticket window. They were going to Troon to see Mungo, an old friend who was recovering from a long bout of illness. Mitch had decided to go and see him, now that he had been chucked out of hospital, and Stewpot had been roped in, “to see if we can give him a relapse!” as he put it. They were really tickled by this idea.

They headed for their platform, tickets in hand, Stewpot doing the Travolta strut as he dodged in and out of what he called “business bastards”. Mister Billington Fox went wild and woofed, pulling on his lead like Moby Dick with a harpoon up his backside. Mitch laughed. They were on their way.

Mister Billington Fox was once a helpless little puppy, all waggy tail and pissing on the carpet. Stewpot now considers him to have Lassie-like powers and unflinching loyalty. The part about loyalty is true, as Mitch found out one day when he tried to get Stewpot in a headlock. Mister Billington Fox bit him fair and square on the thigh, about an inch from his knob. The special powers are a product of Stewpot’s over-active imagination. Not all dogs wait until they’re told before crossing the road, but it’s not that unusual either.

Stewpot’s father, a spirited Tom Jones impersonator from Ireland, had been given the puppy by someone at the biscuit factory where he worked. Gerry and his wife, Elaine, were staunch Catholics. They showed their gratitude to God by single-handedly repopulating the Fife town where they lived and worked. Nine months after their wedding day, plop! Out popped daughter number one, quickly followed the next year by another, and another, and so on. Six daughters, all healthy and happy. By a freak of genetics, the seventh child was a boy. Welcome to Fife, Stewpot! (or Stuart, as his mother insists on calling him). He soon lost his special status as youngest child, another girl being born a year later. But he never lost his privileged position as the only boy, and he never lacked female attention. Girls always wanted to mother him, and he always enjoyed their kindness.

Every mother in the world will tell you that the saddest thing in life is when your children fly the nest. Gerry and Elaine had put the day off for many years by having a large family. But the day had come, and Elaine was sad. Gerry was only too pleased to accept the offer of a puppy. He thought it would mend his wife’s broken heart, and he was almost right. He thought it would give him a bloody good excuse to go for long walks around the town or across the golf course, and he was right.

Now the puppy was installed in the house. The entire family, husbands, boyfriends, nephews and nieces, were summoned to the small house on Garibaldi Close to choose a name for the new arrival.

The scene was an update of a wedding photo that occupied pride of place on the mantelpiece. Taken some time in the early seventies, it showed the bride in a breathtaking mini-skirt, and the groom in a purple blazer and lilac slacks. Both are smiling, both are very happy. The rest of the family are gathered round, stray Bay City Rollers and the girls from Rock Follies, the cast of Get on Board With The Double Deckers scurrying around at their feet. The vicar smiled placidly, his buck teeth and angelic demeanour combining to visibly frighten some of the children. He has got what looks like the remnants of an egg sandwich all down the front of his cassock.

Stewpot is just visible in the bottom left hand corner, with a tremulous face like Oliver Twist asking for more food. His soon to be legendary curls are hardly noticeable. They are left in the shade by the high quota of early seventies hair disasters on display. All human folly is here. There are enormous sideburns, monumental quiffs and even a yeti-tastic leftover hippy, not unlike Finnegan Wakeman, come to think of it. The women look as if an addictive new form of make-up is being pumped into Scotland to make sure nobody rebels against the government. Fife’s finest hairdressers had kept themselves busy concocting a wide range of helmet heads and comical peacockery.

The dog naming ceremony involved a simple lucky dip. Each person wrote their favourite name for the dog on a slip of paper. They were put in a school pumps bag that hadn’t been used for years, and shaken about. The odour of plimsolls and memory of school PE lessons filled the room as the drama unfolded. The smallest child present (apart from the sleeping baby), Henderson, who was four years old, was invited to pick the name out of the hat. He unfolded the paper and looked sheepish. He tried to read it out, but couldn’t, so he buried his face in his mother’s ample bosom. Gerry himself took over, booming good-naturedly,

“And the winner is... Mister... Billington Fox?”

He looked directly at Stewpot. It wasn’t the first time he had been knocked for six by his son’s bizarre behaviour, but even so he was unsure what to say or do.

“That’s right, old chap! Mister Billington Fox it is!” cried Stewpot in triumph. The tiny Mister Billington Fox thanked Stewpot for his new name by peeing on his favourite multi-coloured jumper.

The train jolted to a sudden halt in Troon station, throwing Mister Billington Fox off balance. He had behaved like a distinguished senator for the entire journey, looking at the passing fence posts. The boys shuffled out onto the platform. His tumble had snapped Mister Billington Fox back to his usual self. He barked shrilly and leapt about like a drunken kangaroo at a kookaburra’s wedding reception. Mitch tried to walk away, not wishing to be associated with such an embarrassing outburst, but the whirling dog dervish followed him, jumping up, trying to grab his arm. His good behaviour on the train had been a fiendish plan to lull the boys into a false sense of security.

Table of contentsNext
Table of related information
Copyright ©Peter Miller, 2002
By the same author RSS
Date of publicationJuly 2001
Collection RSSGlobal Fiction
Readers' Opinions RSS
Your opinion
How to add an image to this work

Besides sending your opinion about this work, you can add a photo (or more than one) to this page in three simple steps:

  1. Find a photo related with this text at Flickr and, there, add the following tag: (machine tag)

    To tag photos you must be a member of Flickr (don’t worry, the basic service is free).

    Choose photos taken by yourself or from The Commons. You may need special privileges to tag photos if they are not your own. If the photo wasn’t taken by you and it is not from The Commons, please ask permission to the author or check that the license authorizes this use.

  2. Once tagged, check that the new tag is publicly available (it may take some minutes) clicking the following link till your photo is shown: show photos ...

  3. Once your photo is shown, you can add it to this page:

Even though does not display the identity of the person who added a photo, this action is not anonymous (tags are linked to the user who added them at Flickr). reserves the right to remove inappropriate photos. If you find a photo that does not really illustrate the work or whose license does not allow its use, let us know.

If you added a photo (for example, testing this service) that is not really related with this work, you can remove it deleting the machine tag at Flickr (step 1). Verify that the removal is already public (step 2) and then press the button at step 3 to update this page. shows 10 photos per work maximum. Idea, design & development: Xavier Badosa (1995–2018)