Mrs Greene was happy but for one thing.
Mr Greene had an excellent job, the children had left home, and she had a healthy, varied social life. No post-menopause blues or holes in her life for Mrs Greene. If it weren’t for her neighbour, Mrs Browne, life would be perfect.
Mrs Browne, despite the extra ‘e’ which they shared and which Mrs Browne wrongly thought gave them something in common, had a habit of dropping in whenever she wished and overstaying her wafer-thin welcome. She would gossip and criticize and rarely had anything positive to say, and Mrs Greene, a cheerful, benign optimist, was far too polite to shun her unwelcome neighbour.
One day, Mrs Browne called round before lunch while Mrs Greene was sewing and half watching one of those programmes about people selling off family heirlooms and pretending not to need the money. You know, where someone really wants somebody else to enjoy a Chinese vase that has been in their family for five generations. Mrs Greene´s cocker spaniel, Sam, had an odd impulse to howl on hearing the title music to this programme. It was the only music of any kind that produced this effect on the docile beast and it amused Mrs Greene and made her wonder if the depressing undercurrent of the show caused this primal lamentation.
The howling, however, seemed to greatly agitate Mrs Browne and she finished her tea hurriedly and excused herself. Mrs Greene mused on this reaction to Sam´s reaction and told her husband about it when he returned home that evening.
“Just that programme?” he asked.
“Yes, just that one. Pity that´s not one of Mrs Greene´s usual visiting times.”
After dinner Mr Greene, a splendid man of few words, went off to his shed in the garden and reappeared with an old cassette recorder.
“Record the music on that programme tomorrow, dear.”
The next evening Mr Greene arrived home with another cassette machine and a cable, and after dinner took the two machines to his shed. Some time later he re-emerged and placed one tape recorder on the kitchen floor. He pressed the play button, turned the sound down, and called Sam. He slowly raised the volume and the dog began to howl.
“But I can´t hear anything!” said Mrs Greene from the sitting room.
“No dear, but Sam can, and the music goes on and on. Now let´s find a good place to put this.”
Mrs Browne was much perturbed. Every time she called on her neighbour that stupid dog howled, either right away or after a short time. The howling was unbearable to her and Mrs Greene apologised and took Sam into the garden, pressing a button through a plastic bag next to the geraniums before she re-closed the kitchen door. The fainter howling still penetrated to some deep, dark place in Mrs Browne´s soul and her visits became brief and infrequent.
Mrs Greene´s happiness was complete. She loved her husband more than ever, she had felt for the first time since her childhood the peculiar pleasure of naughtiness, and Sam was still only three years old.