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Bill, Bingo and Bram
Bill Smith had a (32) ________ with dogs, a kind of power over them. They would sit in awe of him, would listen to him and would slink away sheepishly if they had growled near him. It was a skill I had cause to be thankful for once or twice. The odd thing was that Bram, the last dog Bill owned, had died in 1925 — fifty years distant.
Bill was a retired, (33) ________ bachelor.
He lived alone in the small terraced house next door but two from us. (34) ________ a number of occasions, I visited Bill’s house, and it seemed that it hadn’t really changed much from the 50s.
There were hints that some articles had been undisturbed apart (35) ________ the occasional silverfish or visiting woodlouse, since the 1930s.
He had a picture of a dog in the small converted kitchen which housed his huge solid pillowed chair, newspapers protruding from beneath its seat cushion. It was among one or two other small photos, which (36) ________ closer examination were photos of seventeen year old Bill. Almost forgotten amid the clutter of pipe cleaners, matches, spills, bits of wire, tea coupons and old Yale keys was a very small dark photo of a black mongrel dog, lying in a backyard. A white stripe down its nose and in between its ears was one of the few ways it was distinguishable from the background gloom. This was Bram, Bill told me, his dog.
Through the years, my family had a total of four dogs. We actually had no photo-graphs whatever of the first two. Dogs had only played walk-on parts in my family. As far as I was (37) ________ , the all defining object in a house was a television. There was one in Bill’s house. It stood like a lonely, redundant sentinel in a dank corner of his empty living room and seemed cold and unused.
When I asked Bill what he watched, he answered that the set didn’t work, it needed a new plug, and he hadn’t (38) ________ to get it fixed. And what’s more, he didn’t miss it. To me this was unimaginable — how could a person have a TV and not use it?