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Thursday, 2 May 2019


Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. Sometimes, I get mad as hell! & @JoeCushnan

In our Belfast neighbourhood, watching a puppy drown was not on most people’s lists of things to witness unless your name was Sammy. He was a swaggering oaf, like Pooh, of very little brain, a bully who was no stranger to the police or magistrates. He was unpredictable and devoid of conscience and common sense. It was the early 1960s and a group of kids my age, around six or seven, would play outside a lot. Next to our house, there was a field that became a football pitch, a playground and a space to chase and tumble, whatever amused us at any given moment. 

One day a kid brought over a new puppy, about six inches long and no more than a couple of weeks old. We were all fascinated by this little creature and had hours of fun watching it jump around. We took turns holding it, trying not to drop it as it attempted to wriggle free. We loved its little baby barking.

Sammy turned up one day. He was a teenager and he towered over us. He spotted the pup and barged his way into our group. He grabbed the dog and held it up high like a trophy. We shouted at him to leave it and us alone. He growled back like the angry monster he was. We were helpless, as was the little pup. Having made whatever point he wanted to make, he threw the dog on the ground and stomped away laughing. “I’m coming back for that runt,” he yelled. The pup was unhurt. We were shaken but tried our best to console our little friend.

After a short while, we saw Sammy walking up the street towards us. He was carrying a big bottle of lemonade. As he approached, we gathered round the pup like a human shield but we knew that this nutter would scatter us before long. And that is exactly what happened. We backed away a few yards leaving the pup alone. Sammy unscrewed the bottle cap and took a swig. Then he grabbed the dog and started pouring the lemonade all over its little face. The pup was powerless, trying to breath, trying to yelp but after a few moments we could see that its wriggling and jerking had stopped. Sammy threw the bottle away and once again held the dog up high before tossing it into a hedge. He ran at us snarling and howling like a pantomime villain and we ran away in different directions.

When we felt brave enough, we met up again in the field. Sammy was nowhere to be seen. The pup was lying on top of the hedge. Dead. We looked at each other wondering who would have the courage to pick it up. It was one thing to play with a live animal and quite another to handle a dead body. But one of us did. We dug a hole in the top corner of the field and buried it. The boy who owned the pup told his Dad and whatever happened after that barking mad Sammy never bothered us again.

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