Excerpt of Ever By My Side by Dr. Nick Trout
(Page 8 of 9)
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To fully appreciate how good we felt that day, you need to know
that we were a generation of kids who loved to visit our local movie
theater every Saturday morning, basking in the opportunity to throw
candy at each other, to stomp our feet to the rhythm of every chase
scene, to watch a cartoon, a serial, and a feature-length movie that
always portrayed kids our age as would-be heroes who got themselves
into, and out of, a tight spot, beating the bad guys and living
to play another day. Well, that par tic u lar afternoon, we walked
away from the Cat Lady's house with a certain swagger, heads held
high and big smiles all around, because for the first time in our lives,
albeit with a quartet of abandoned kittens, and in spite of their uncertain
future, we believed we got to right a wrong, just like our idols
on the big screen.
• • •
Time has a knack for distortion - fogging the images from the
past, making everything feel bigger than it really was, messing with
the collage of mental snapshots pinned to the corkboard of our
memory. So I have to believe the clarity with which I still see what
took place on an empty beach pounded by an angry Irish Sea as
a refl ection of its enduring infl uence on me.
Like most kids, I was blissfully ignorant of my family's financial
and social status. Now I don't want to give the impression we were
Angela's Ashes poor or anything, but I never saw a banana until I
was twelve and thought that trousers were meant to be worn above
the ankles, and vacations were something you did for one day and
always within driving distance.
On this par tic u lar day trip our normal family dynamic was
upset by the addition of my grandma and more important, and to
my dismay, her four-legged escort, the infamous and menacing
Marty. Quite why we had to take the poodle with us on a car ride
to a sleepy seaside town in northern Wales I will never know. What
I do know is the six of us piled into our Morris Minor, Mum and
Dad up front, Grandma in the middle between me and my sister,
Marty perched on her lap. Nobody wore seat belts back then, so for
several hours we were tossed back and forth and side to side on
winding country roads, my father impersonating a British Grand
Prix driver as we sucked down his secondhand cigarette smoke,
wondering who would be first to claim car sickness. All the while
Marty kept vigil, staring me down, defending his personal space, offering
me the occasional snarl and wrinkle of his upper lip, feigning
innocence and doe-eyed stares every time I complained to Grandma.
There's a reason why I have always found poodles to be one of the
smartest breeds of dog.
When we got there we had a picnic on the beach, adults sipping
hot tea from a thermos in plastic cups and commenting on the
gritty sandwiches they had prepared, the ominous-looking clouds,
and the threat of rain. There was the promise of ice cream later, but
first my father had agreed to help Fiona build a sand castle. For
some reason I was more interested in beachcombing, so my mum,
Grandma, Marty, and I set off on a postprandial walk down to the
This was autumn, off-season, chilly, and there were very few
people out and about. The overcast sky blended into the ocean. We
were wrapped up in sweaters and overcoats and the tide was way off
in the distance, forcing us to head out across wet sandy fl ats if we
wanted to get near the waves and the possibility of washed-up
shells. Marty was off leash, having the time of his life, scampering
around, quick and dainty, hopping from one tidal pool to the next.
He didn't even mind that I was holding Grandma's hand.
At the water's edge it all happened so fast. The tide was still
headed out, the surf crashing hard, frothy gray breakers with quite
a pull washing over the sand. This was not swimming weather (in
this part of Britain it rarely ever was). This was not even paddling
weather, the water icy cold to the touch. So you can imagine our
concern when one minute Marty was gaily dancing in and out of
the lapping foam and the next he was gone, disappearing out to sea,
swallowed by a wall of gray water, quickly ten, fifteen yards out and
drifting still further away. He didn't bark - he probably couldn't
from the cold shock stealing his breath - he just tried to paddle,
head up, neck outstretched, looking in my direction.
Excerpted from Ever By My Side
by Dr. Nick Trout. Copyright © 2011 by Dr. Nick Trout.
Excerpted by permission of Broadway Books. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.