Something strange happened in the back yard. One day there was Rothwell, the melancholy dog. Then the next day he was gone, and a giant trampoline was in his place.
I had Rothwell pegged as a soulful character. He was dark, shiny and mysterious. Misunderstood by his owners, he chose to wander to our side of the yard and sit next to me on the back step. It was as if he knew I was a little lonely in this strange land and craved someone to talk to. He would rest his snout on my shoulder while I told him all my secrets and scratched behind his ears.
But he turned out to be such a fakety fakeass. He knew a sucker when he saw one and really worked those glossy brown eyes. Before long he had me saving scraps of bacon and stray crusts. He’d appear at the door and wasn’t interested in talking anymore, he’d just sit and stare at us cooking dinner until I cracked.
Then one day we found out his name wasn’t even Rothwell. That was just his owners’ name on the tag. Lazing in bed on a Sunday morning, I heard a singsong voice, “Here Chip! C’mere boy! Here Chippy Chip!”
I leaned out the window to see a small child, and Rothwell with a tennis ball in his mouth. He looked up guiltily.
“Your name is CHIP?” I spluttered, silently.
“Dude, that is the dumbest name ever. I thought you were called Rothwell.”
“Well, just coz it’s on the tag doesn’t mean it’s my name. You thought I was called I AM MICROCHIPPED at first, remember?”
“What about all those times we said, ‘Tally ho, Rothwell old chap!’ and you wagged your tail in what appeared to be recognition?”
“I wag my tail for a lot of reasons.”
Before I had the chance to be resentful and refuse him bacon, he just vanished. A few days later I peered outside, expecting to see him snoozing in the watery sunlight, but instead there was only a gigantic trampoline.
It was black, round and professional-looking. Not like the rusty deathtrap I knew from my childhood. What the hell was going on? Who put that thing there? Where did Rothwell go?
No one in our flat knew who it belonged to, nor had they noticed anyone erecting such a giant piece of equipment in the yard. And no one talked about how the dog disappeared at the exact same time. There was only one reasonable explanation: Our neighbour was Rick Moranis and this was Honey I Turned The Dog Into A Trampoline.
The trampoline has turned out to be way more interesting than “Chip” ever was. And way more popular. No one ever sneaked into a garden in the middle of the night to jump up and down on a dog. Around midnight, students start creeping down from the surrounding flats. The trampoline is hip hop happenin’, like Harold’s coffee shop on Neighbours or the Peach Pit on 90210. All the cool kids are hanging out there.
What they don’t realise is how otherwise quiet the garden is. There’s no noise from the street, and rarely a breeze, so their strange noises and chatter ping off the stone walls and right through my window. You can hear the springs creaking and the Bacardi Breezers sloshing in their bellies. It’s like having my own private soap opera. I just lay there in bed waiting for something to happen.
It starts with the sound of feet slooshing across wet grass and giggles of anticipation, then ooof and boing as they struggle to climb aboard. Then there’s bouncing, lots of laughing and swearing and, “Hey, hey, hey, did you ever do this when you were a kid?”. Then more laughing and swearing as they discover they cannot do this anymore.
The most strange and entertaining thing is how the trampoline has the power to turn minds back a decade. It’s gossipy and manic like a primary school playground, with added drink and darkness. The conversations are short and breathless. School sucks. Boys are evil. My mum’s a dragon.
“Laura is so not invited to my 21st party,” said a girl the other night to her friend. Bounce bounce bounce.
“Laura. Nobody likes Laura.” Bounce bounce.
“She thinks we all like her. But I mean, look at her hair.“
One night, when it was still warm, I was drifting in and out of sleep. The moon was full and guy and girl talked and talked and talked. Shy giggles from her, a horrible nerdy huhhuhhuhhuh laugh from him. An hour later I woke again and heard him finally say, “So, I think you’re really nice,” and she said “You too”. Then trampoline springs creaked and static crackled in her hair.
And that is when I hid under my pillow. I like my soap operas with a PG rating.
(Still no idea where Rothwell went.)