First there was a dog.
Scruffy and shaggy.
Twigs and leaves and suchlike stuck in its coat.
Big. Really big.
On their stoop. Early in the mornings. Like 5:45 AM.
Sitting with its back to the door. Paying no attention.
Even when they came out to get their newspaper which was sometimes under its tail, sometimes under its paws and sometimes under so much of it they had to shove it away to get at the paper.
The dog never paid any mind. Just sat. Its back to the door. Facing the street. Watching.
Now, when I say this dog was big, I mean big enough so that even sitting, its head reached Seamus’s waist and Seamus was 6’4” and short waisted. You can calculate it. Big dog. They could shove it over, pick up its paws, even move its tail to get at the paper. Bella hadn’t had the courage until after Seamus showed her. Dog never stirred. Strange. Weird. Just plain odd.
Also, right after they got the paper? The dog would take off. Always. Maybe wait a minute or two, but then it left.
Well, it did no harm. So they said nothing about it. Just laughingly called it the affair of the shaggy dog. And so it went.
Until one morning Bella went to get the paper. A little earlier than usual. Just before daybreak. The dog indifferent as usual, its back to her, watching the street.
As Bella reached for the paper she spotted a dark figure in the road, bent to creep along, coming her way. At the same time, the dog started up with a hoarse whuffling bark and galloped down the path to the road where it raced straight at the crouching figure, whom Bella now recognized as Bull Maloney.
Nattily-dressed, loud-mouthed, obstreperous radio talk-show host, Bull Maloney. Quite well-known. Lived way across town. In one of those wanna-be mansions. Never came here, ever. Felt it beneath him. Bull Maloney.
Whom Bella thought a twit and Seamus thought a miserable rotten womanizer.
Well, Seamus had it on good authority. Bull Maloney’s wife, Marigold Maloney, prize garden show exhibitor, helped Seamus, at the very least, with the seasonal maintenance of his garden beds and in the process told him much, and often, of Bull Maloney’s cheating ways.
As to what the dog thought, it’s anyone’s guess. What it did was to race straight at Bull Maloney, whuffling and snapping, forcing him to run for his life, which he did with a dispatch that amazed Bella, his potbelly bouncing as he disappeared down the road and out of sight, dog in hot pursuit.
Bella and Seamus were never to see the dog again and gradually began saying things happened Before the Affair or After the Affair. Which made them both giggle.
And then it all came out.
About how Bull Maloney had had a long running affair, now over, with their next door neighbor, Cleo Antony, prize litigator at the law firm of Long & Lyte. Cleo.
Whom Seamus thought a snob and Bella thought a sneak, a snot and a cheat.
Well, Bella had it on good authority. Cleo’s husband, Mark Antony, noted violinist, often on concert tour but Bella’s music teacher when home, held it was no less than truth, the whole truth and nothing but truth, or so he claimed, as he wept, at the very least, on Bella’s shoulder.
But you know, in the way of things and people after a storm has passed, Seamus gave up all budding thoughts of long successful seasonal seductions of poor Marigold Maloney.
And Bella thought twice about putting the weeping Mark Antony’s lingering looks and long bow strokes to, well, other uses.
In the final aftermath to all that had happened and all that hadn’t, Bella and Seamus grew expert at speaking out so tiny seeds of resentment and irritation never again pushed long roots of discord and mischief into the marital bed.
And each time they did speak out, Bella would close her eyes to think how much better it was to be only with Seamus.
And Seamus would shut his eyes to think how happy he was to be only with Bella.
And they never mentioned the affair of the shaggy dog again.