Finn, Rubbish and the Corned Beef Virus

A short story to raise a smile in these perilous times.

The Mighty Finn, Lord of the Glen and deerhound of great repute, was sitting on his chaise longue on the patio in the late morning sun – wishy-washy though the sunshine was.  He’d been listening to the experts on the radio talking about the virus, which was making him tut-tut and shake his huge and hairy head.  “Grim days indeed,” the old dog said to himself.

            “Mr Finn!” a young voice called.  He turned to see the brindle greyhound called Rubbish running up the garden towards him.  “Have you heard?  There’s something wrong with the tinned food!”

            Finn looked puzzled.  “Tinned food?”

            “Yes.  It’s making people ill – the corned beef’s got a virus!”

In spite of everything, this did make the old hound smile. “My dear Rubbish, you mean the Corona Virus!”

            “Yeah.  That’s what I said.  It’s in the tinned food!” Rubbish insisted.  “And it’s making people go to the loo so much their toilet paper is running out!”

            At this point Finn laughed out loud.  “My boy, I’ve been listening to the radio, reading the papers too and speaking to Cath and Sam about it.”

            “Ooh, I feel ill…” Rubbish said, sitting on his haunches.

            Finn sighed.  “Firstly, it’s not in the food and definitely not the corned beef!  Secondly, young Rubbish, we non-humans can’t catch it.  It’s just a thing for people.”

            “Oh no – are Cath and Sam ok?” Rubbish looked worried.

            “We live in the country so can self-isolate – which means not come face to face with other humans until things calm down,” Finn explained.

            “What Ho!” a plummy voice called from the doorway which opened into the garden next door.  A very round and scruffy marmalade cat sauntered along the red-brick path towards them. 

            “Any news?” asked Finn.

            Jeffrey, that ancient cat, sighed, “Yes, fortunately The Colonel is safe in his hotel and apparently showing no symptoms.”  His owner, The Colonel, was quite elderly and had been on a hiking holiday in Italy when the virus had arrived.  Jeffrey’d been worried, but he seemed much calmer now that he’d spoken to the Colonel and he was safe and well.  “He’ll be home as soon as all this calms down.  It may be a few weeks or even some months.”

            “But he’s safe,” Finn replied.

            “Thank Dog I have you fellows to look after me!” smiled the old cat.  Rubbish could feel the sting of muscle-rub and arthritis gel wafting from the moggie, making his eyes water.  Worse than that was the prevailing aroma of anchovies!

            “So how’s everyone here?  Are the Maid and the Butler coping?” the cat asked.

            Finn nodded.  “They are fine.  I’ve never seen people wash their paws – I mean hands – as much in their lives.  I know they’re getting on a bit but I am sure they will be ok.”  (From the kitchen a female voice announced, “I heard that!).

            “Wonderful!  What’s for luncheon?” the cat asked.  He was also known as The Professor for his vast knowledge (or at least, he had an opinion on any subject under the sun and moon).  He was also well known for his appetite, which usually involved soft foods (as he had so few teeth nowadays due to his advanced age), largely fish.  And cake – he particularly fond of Victoria sponge, with raspberry jam.

            Cath called out of the kitchen door, “Roast chicken with vegetables and in your case, pilchards!”

            Finn raised a hairy eyebrow, “You can always rely on the Maid!”

            “So is everyone going to be really ill?” asked Rubbish.

            Both the old moggie and the deerhound shook their heads. “Apparently it isn’t as bad as first thought; it just bounces off most little humans, and those who are fit and well.  They might have a cough and sneezes and a slight temperature,” Finn told him.

            “Ah, like the awful Man flu that Sam had last year,” Rubbish suggested.  There was a very loud laugh from the Maid in the kitchen.

            “Well, sort of,” Jeffrey chuckled. “But if you’re already ill, with a bad heart, or weak chest, then it is more serious.”

            “Oh.”  The greyhound thought for a second. “So where has all the toilet paper gone then?”

            Finn turned to Jeffrey, “Professor?” he asked.

            At this point Jeffrey put his hand into his furry chest, to that invisible pocket where he kept useful items.  He rummaged round (a sight to behold!) and out came a fountain pen, a small jar of liniment and, finally, a pair of spectacles which he balanced precariously on his nose.  They didn’t help him see, but he felt that they made him look studious, and was a sign that he was doing some serious deep thinking.  “Now that is a great mystery!”

            “Manky corned beef,” muttered Rubbish, still convinced that tinned meat had something to do with it.

            “I think it has more to do with people acting in a very strange way due to stress and buying lots and lots of things they think might be essential,” Finn told him.

            “Like flour,” the Maid shouted from the house.

            “Indeed,” Finn chuckled, “Because everyone out there does so much baking these days!”

            “I blame Mary Berry,” mumbled Jeffrey. “And that Hollywood chap.”

            “Humans are such strange things,” the deerhound said, leaning over the back of the couch to look into the kitchen (to check on the progress of the roast chicken which by now they could smell cooking).

            “I hear that the villages around here are deserted,” Jeffrey told the others.

            “Have they all been beamed up into space ships by little grey aliens?” asked Rubbish, aghast (he had a thing for science fiction programmes on TV).

            Finn laughed again, “No you daft puppy!  Everyone has been told to stay inside their houses unless they have to go and buy food or medicine.”

            “Or 30 rolls of toilet paper and 20 bags of frozen chips,” chuckled Jeffrey.

            “How long for?  Will everyone just stay inside forever?” the young greyhound was wide-eyed.

            Finn shook his head, “Fortunately no.  It’s expected that it will get worse for a month or so then gradually go back to normal.”

            Jeffrey said, “I reckon 6 months or thereabouts and we’ll all wonder what the fuss was about.”

            “Yes,” Finn stared down the garden to the old door in the red brick wall that led into the meadow and on to the woods where the rabbits lived.  “We’ll just keep our heads down, eat chicken (and pilchards of course) and wait it out here in our garden.”

            Rubbish smiled and lay on the warm patio, “Yes.  There are a lot worse places to be.”

(All characters copyright Chris Dignam & Crafty Dog Cymru.  Any resemblance by the Maid and the Butler to real characters who live in Letterkenny, Donegal is purely on purpose).

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