That was the question old Mrs Baxter asked Beano. Beano was a great lolloping Retriever with a huge brush of a tail.
Beano’s mummy, AKA Harriet, sat a little awkwardly on the sofa playing with a ballpoint pen.
“Would mummy like a cup of tea Beano Weano?”
The question came again, this time with greater emphasis on the word “tea” which was drawn out into a trailing “eeeee”.
Beano’s mummy cleared her throat and said in a small voice that was not her own. “Yes, I think she would please Mrs Baxter.”
Mrs Baxter cooed and rolled up Beano’s ears into unnatural tubular shapes.
“Ah – would she? And would mummy like sugar?”
There was a pause. Not entirely silent due to the slopping noise which Beano’s tongue was making as it licked Mrs Baxter’s hand.
Mrs Baxter opened her mouth to ask Beano the sugar question again, but Beano’s mummy dived in with a slightly-too-loud “No thank you mummy – er, Mrs Baxter.”
“Ah”, sighed Mrs Baxter.
Beano’s mummy ferociously fidgeted with the ballpoint pen and tensed as the lid snapped off and flew across the room.
“What’s mummy up to?” Mrs Baxter asked Beano with exaggerated impatience. “What’s your silly old mummy up to eh?”
“Sorry,” mumbled Beano’s mummy, reddening.
Beano gave his mummy a look of disgust, and she tried to signal to him that it was time to go.
An hour later none of them had moved. Mrs Baxter held command from inside the walls of her upright chair. Beano was lying nonchalantly on the floor. Beano’s mummy was pinned to the sofa in an apparent catatonic state.
Suddenly Mrs Baxter’s ice-cracking voice boomed, “Beano, does mummy need to use the bathroom?”
Even the air jumped out of its skin. Beano’s mummy spluttered out the remains of her cold tea. She stood up and pulled her skirt into shape. She was flustered.
“Beano my dear”, she said hurriedly. “Shall we let Mrs Baxter watch Strictly? It started five minutes ago!”
“Say bye bye to Auntie Miriam Beano,” said Mrs Baxter kissing the Retriever repeatedly on his snout. He turned away and fixed his eyes on the empty fruit bowl.
Beano’s mummy was at the front door. She felt old Mrs Baxter behind her and half-turned with a broad smile at the ready.
“Come again soon love”, whispered Mrs Baxter. “We always put the world to right don’t we. I do so love our chats.”
“So do we, “ replied Beano’s mummy, tugging at the Retriever’s ear.