Cyril strolled down the cobbled street, confused and enraged by the lack of horse shops. He had been told by a reputable source that buying a horse was quick and easy for anyone who had the brass to spare. And yet he found himself surrounded by a slew of horseless institutions—the local post office, the church, the butcher, a tobacconist, and a pop-up vendor offering a selection of artisanal gluten-free cakes.

He was about to ask the most attractive woman within a four-metre radius where he might find the nearest horse shop when she tripped over a loose cobblestone and squawked like a seagull. He smiled at her misfortune, delighted by a brief flash of ankle beneath her garment. He rushed to help her because he was a perfect gentleman.

“Are you all right, madam?”

“Thank you.” Her gloved hand gripped his. “You are a kind and frankly quite handsome man.”

“Golly goosedrops,” he said as their hands parted. “Well, you’re the prettiest dame I’ve ever seen trip over a cobblestone—and I must confess I’ve seen a few of those in my time.”

They laughed.

“I don’t suppose you’d be so charitable as to escort me to the nearest horse shop?” he asked. “I’m looking to buy myself a fine steed in the shade of brown.”

The delicious woman-creature glanced up and down the dreary grey street. “I’m afraid I don’t know of any horse shops around here—or in existence.”

“No horse shops, you say?” Cyril tutted. “That’s rather a blow.”

“But I know where you can buy some dogs.”


“Yes. Big vicious hounds.”

Cyril shuddered. “No, thank you. I despise dogs with every fibre of my being, especially German Shepherds.”

The woman frowned as if he had just called her an unsightly syphilitic wench and said that in that case she was out of brilliant ideas. He panicked when she spun on her heel and power-walked in the opposite direction. There was a good chance she was the one, and to let her get away would be a tragic start to the morning.

“Wait! May I ask your name, madam?”

She stopped and turned. “Yes.”

“What is your name?”

“My name is Emmalina Ducksmothers.”

“Oh! Emmalina Ducksmothers,” he repeated, almost singing the words. “A beautiful name for a beautiful lady. My name is Cyril W. Magenta.”

“What does the ‘W’ stand for?”

“Whiskas—like the cat food.”

They gave each other the once-over about ten times, before she smiled and offered to join him on his search for a horse shop. They linked arms and wandered up the street, a musty stench rising up from the ground as the sun perved on them from behind a cloud. She tripped on four more cobblestones, which warmed Cyril from the inside out. He could barely stop grinning as they meandered down dark alleyways and through the park where that homeless fellow called Dudley Bigchips—nickname Duddles—preached the word of God to whichever pigeons deigned to listen.

They sat on the edge of a fountain—Duddles was snoring in the fetal position on the other side—and talked about every subject from horses to dogs. Her easy conversation captivated Cyril as much as her beauty, and the sheer existence of her ankles was a constant fascination. Within half an hour he was violently in love, and to conceal it any longer would be an impossible agony. She squawked once again when he seized her hands and squeezed them like he was trying to get the juice out. Her eyes widened with either fear or desire. They were a complex mixture of brown and green, much like the fountain water.

“Darling Emmalina, I simply can’t hide it anymore—I love you with my entire heart. I feel quite ready to explode both physically and emotionally. If you don’t love me right now, I will throw myself in front of the next train that goes down the train tracks!”

She gasped. “What train tracks?”

“I’ll do it—don’t think I won’t!”

“Don’t be so dramatic, Cyril. You know perfectly well it can never be. I have three German Shepherds called Mixolydian, Asbestos, and The Beast. You hate German Shepherds and said they are your nemesis. I love you too—I always have—but how can we ever make it work?”

Cyril clutched her hand against his heart, which was galloping as hard and fast as all the horses in all the horse shops in England. “Can’t you dispose of the Shepherds, my dearest and most expertly-sculpted Emmalina? Surely they don’t mean more to you than I do. Surely they can’t make you as happy as I can.”

“I’m sorry, darling.” Emmalina took her hand back and used it to wipe away her tears. “The G-Sheps are here to stay.”

“Oh, Emmalina! How could you be so cruel? You must know I’d sooner die than live without you. I will jump in front of the next train that choo-cha-choos past, I swear it. I will place my head beneath a Clydesdale’s mighty hoof and tell him to stomp me deep into the hungry earth. I must have you, darling!”

“But—but the German Shepherds, dear! They were a gift from Cousin Winston and are an immovable obstacle between us.”

“To hell with Cousin Winston—the perverted bastard!”

“There’s simply no way around the situation. It’s me and the hounds, or nothing.”

Cyril grasped her by the shoulders and shook her like a piggy bank. “But my dear mother was eaten alive by German Shepherds in front of my very eyes when I was just a boy of nine years! If I come to live with you and the Sheps, I’ll be constantly faced with the traumas of my childhood and thus develop all manner of strange and violent behaviours in a desperate attempt to cope with my inner turmoil. Is there really no way that we can be together without those blasted hounds interfering?”

Emmalina pressed her hand into his chest as if preparing to rip his heart out. But instead one of her fingers slid into the gap between two buttons and touched a lucky chest hair.

“I shouldn’t say this, darling—I was brought up to be a refined and respectable lady—but your amorous words have made my bust-berries feel ripe for the picking. We must make wild, passionate love behind that dumpster, but then we must go our separate ways. There is no other solution. I want you more than anything, but I refuse to relinquish my G-Shepherds—I don’t care how much they ate your mother alive. Perhaps your mother invited them to the task!”

“Emmalina!” Cyril recoiled. “How can you say such heartless things to me while I’m nursing this hopeful half-humper? If you really want me to make very passionate and romantic love to you behind that dumpster, you’re going to have to stop harping on about how my mother was eaten alive by G-Shepherds and how you don’t care one jot for the tragedy!”

“I’m sorry, my darling.” Emmalina pouted in a way that reminded him of a duck wearing lipstick. “It was perhaps very slightly insensitive of me.”

“It’s okay, my perfect angel—I’m ready to get cracking.” He stood up and offered his hand. “Shall we? I can scarcely wait to lay you down behind that filthy dumpster and make a genetic donation!”

She allowed herself to be pulled to her feet, giggle-shrieking as he wrapped his arms around her. Duddles stirred and shouted something incomprehensible. He tried to spit at them, but instead he hit a seagull in the face and the seagull probably deserved it.

“Oh, Cyril! Please squirrel me away to the safety of behind the dumpster and supply me with your best instructional material! The clock is ticking for me, darling, as I’m pushing thirty-nine and want four sons called Trough, Dunston, Colonial—Colon for short—and G Major by the age of forty.”

That seemed like a lot to get done in just one trash-humping dumpster session.

“We’ll do our best, my love.”

He dragged her behind the secluded dumpster, which concealed them nicely from the hustle and bustle. An old man sitting on a balcony a few houses away cackled and gave Cyril the thumbs up.

The smell of rotting cabbages and eggshells unleashed Cyril’s torrential desire, as his first romantic encounter with a girl called Antoinette Goosespoon had also taken place behind a dumpster. He was yanking at the fabric of Emmalina’s skirt—desperate to to reveal the ankles which had been so teasingly flashed at him before—when the gravelly, rattling bark of an angry dog sent a chill from one end of his manhood to the other. He turned to find three infuriated German Shepherds cornering them against the dumpster.

“Where in the devil’s dictionary did they come from, darling?”

“Oh rats, my love! They must have sniffed me down again. They’re awfully good at sniffing me down, as I only bathe about once a week and bath-day was yesterday.”

“I thought you were smelling gloriously complex.” He released Emmalina’s skirt and backed away from the G-Sheps. “Darling, I—what do we do? This is quite literally my worst nightmare.”

The Sheps snarled and snapped.

“Oh dear! They’re not happy with you, Cyril. I have to confess, these are some of the most pathologically jealous G-Shepherds in town.” She smiled at her psychotic hounds. “Hello, my pretty sweethearts,” she cooed. “You are naughty for following mummy.”

Cyril hyperventilated. “I’m going to get torn up like a dinner roll and dipped in my own red sauce!”

“Of course not, darling. They won’t eat you unless I give the order.”

“What is the order?”

“Pickles Banana.”

Barely had the two most deadly words in the English language left Emmalina’s mouth when she gasped and placed a hand over lips. “Oh, I am a silly goose—now they’ll almost certainly eat you!”

Cyril screamed as the three devil-dogs charged hungrily towards him, their jaws snapping and their tongues spinning like propellers. The biggest one—presumably The Beast—nipped the heel of his boot as he scrambled into the dumpster and slammed the lid over his head. He cowered at three loud thumps above him. The hounds drummed with their feet as he sobbed hysterically, an onslaught of flashbacks to his mother’s death driving him to the brink of insanity. Emmalina ordered her Shepherds to withdraw—“banana pickles”—and the dogfoot-thunder faded at once.

“Thank you, darling,” Cyril shouted in her general direction. “For a moment there I thought I was about to be ripped apart by three homicidal German Shepherds, thus dying in the exact same very specific and unlikely manner as my dear mother all those years ago!”

Her laugh was muffled outside. He laughed too.

“That was a close shave with a straight razor,” she said. “And yet I’m feeling more pregnable—is that a word?—than ever! I don’t suppose you still have the inspiration to crack on with it, dear?”

Cyril grinned into the filthy darkness. “Of course, darling! Why on earth wouldn’t I?”

The lid of the dumpster creaked open, and he squinted up at a blinding light. Emmalina’s silhouette loomed above him, a cold grey sky as her backdrop. The dogs protested as she climbed inside, closing the lid behind her. The smell of her cheap floral perfume made the stench of the dumpster slightly more tolerable.

“The Sheps can’t eat us in here,” she whispered by his ear. Her fingers slid through his hair, which was already slicked back handsomely with trash juice.

“Dearest Emmalina,” he whispered back. “Please get rid of those horrendous hounds and let’s be together—just the two of us.”

“But they were a gift from Cousin Winston.”

“To hell and back with Cousin Winston! I hate the phallus-fondling cock-blocker.”

“Well, there are some rumours about him but there’s no need for that.” Emmalina stroked his face with her silken fingertips. “We’re together now, darling—just the two of us. Let’s make the most of it while we can.”

The Sheps growled their threats outside, but Cyril was far too in love with Emmalina to let that stop him from engaging in some good old-fashioned dumpster-dwelling rumpity-pumpity. So he kissed her and stroked her ankles and lay her down on the fragrant floor like a brand new bathmat.

The whole thing took about three hours, mainly because the smell of the garbage started to put him off after a while, and it was difficult to focus on the task at hand with the relentlessly obsessive G-Sheps triggering a near-constant stream of despair-inducing flashbacks for the entire duration. And to make matters worse, Duddles kept opening the lid and rummaging about in search of lunch-worthy scraps. He didn’t seem to notice them, but it was distracting all the same.

They emerged from the dumpster with tears trickling down their cheeks—there was some kind of toxic waste on the floor that had aggravated their skin and eyes, but also soon they would be parted forever. The old man gave Cyril another thumbs up and hollered, “You’ve got the stamina of Valeria Messalina, boy!”

Cyril beamed and returned the thumbs up, shouting, “It’s just because I was on the verge of an emotional breakdown the whole time!”

Emmalina joined the old man in laughing. Cyril laughed too, even though he was crying and now it wasn’t from the toxic waste but a cocktail of anguish, confusion, and regret.

They kissed once more and said their goodbyes. Emmalina almost fell on her face as she climbed out of the dumpster—those long skirts really were a nuisance in every regard, but at least he got another flash of ankle. He watched from the safety of his trash palace as the love of his life started down the street, escorted by her three deranged hounds—a gift from Cousin Bloody Winston.

On the way home he stumbled upon a horse shop, which caused him to burst into maniacal laughter in the middle of the busy footpath. Swept away on a non-negotiable current of romance, he had forgotten all about why he had left the house that morning.

The horse shop was nestled between a jeweller and a merchant peddling a variety of exciting and perfectly safe radium products. He bought a clock with fun glowing numbers—ingenious—and a fine steed in the shade of brown.

He called her Emmalina.

The End