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Chapter Four

A gash an' faithfu' tyke

...struggling to keep hold of Glen, they walked directly onto the sea wall.

Instantly, their world opened out as strong draughts of cool air brought the familiar tang of salt water and seaweed to their nostrils. Choppy blue-green seas washed around Inchkeith and surged down the Firth of Forth. The Fife shore trended away hazily to the northeast. To the west, they could just make out the top girders of the Forth Bridge above the grey smudge of Leith Docks. Nearer, the Penny Bap emerged from the sands. To the east, across the bay, tiny but unmistakable, the pyramid of Berwick Law stood sentinel over the junction of the Firth and the open ocean. All three stood in silent contemplation, the humans open-mouthed, Glen, tongue lolling, enjoying a good pant after his exertions. Then Billy spoke for all.

“That’s mair liker it!” he said. Then he pointed to the stone steps down to the foreshore. “Last one doon’s a hairy kipper!” he announced, and disappeared at breakneck speed.

James followed, fighting to keep his footing on the slippery surface as Glen threatened to pull him over the steep incline. Then, reaching the bottom with a single leap, the dog frantically set to casting about, nose to the sand. He’d landed in a supermarket of smells and he was ecstatic.

“Let ’im off the lead, then!” shouted Billy as he trudged ahead through deep, dry sand.

“Naw, Ah’m feared ’e might run away,” replied James and kept a tight hold of his charge. They wandered on, blissfully watching the tide go out and spotting ships in the sea lanes. It was when they came round an angle of the sea wall that the stench hit them. They squinted and tried to make out what it was. Ahead of them, covering the sand was a stinking brown glaur.

“What in the name o’ the effin’ wee man is it?” asked Billy, deeming that the situation warranted profanity. They stood, hesitating, scratching their heads, turning up their noses. But Glen, with a Canine Master of Science in Sniffology, was fast losing patience with the deficiencies of his human companions. Taking matters into his own hands – or paws – he suddenly ripped the lead from James’s feeble grasp. With one joyous bound, he leapt into the deepest part of the glaur and plowtered around, spraying it up around him. Then, not content with that, and having quickly forgotten his recent bath, he turned over on his back and rolled royally in it, his four legs waggling in the air. In a heartbeat, Glen’s fur went from pristine to putrid. Struggling to believe the evidence of their eyes and noses, the laddies suddenly twigged at the same time. As usual, it was Billy who was first with the words.

“Jesus!” he exclaimed. “It’s toallies!”

And indeed, toallies it was. Acres and acres of them, raw, untreated human excrement that had been pumped out here at Seafield’s Corporation outflow, probably overnight, and straight into the Firth of Forth. If the tide had been in, they wouldn’t have known. But the tide was ebbing and the sewage had settled a half a foot deep in places all over the sands. The realisation left them speechless. Only one thing was worse than the smell: the fact that Glen was in the middle of it and didn’t look as if he was coming back soon. As the sea slowly receded, more of the stuff was being revealed and Glen, his brand-new lead trailing beside him, was playfully trotting through it, heading for Fife, apparently.

Image by Rocbag, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons