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Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Minor Mystery

We recently started getting the Sydney Morning Herald delivered each morning. What luxury! When we were a little poorer, we used to get it only on Mondays for the excellent TV guide, and we went to the shop to buy it.

Andrew loves it: best paper he’s ever come across, he says. (I used to feel that way about the Melbourne Age, which is ‘from the same stable’.) I like it too, but most of all for the word puzzles, which I solve (or not) while watching TV in the evenings.

Then, for the last two mornings, it went missing. The first time, I didn‘t get to the newsagent to report it unil late in the afternoon. By then there were none left — not there, not anywhere in town. It was the morning after Australia found out who was going to govern in our hung Parliament; I guess everybody wanted the paper that day. The newsagent gave me a copy of The Australian instead — a paper with a very different political slant from the Herald. ‘Julia Gillard gets nod to govern’ said the SMH headline (I found out online). ‘Gillard gets a second chance,’ said The Australian.

The following day, Andrew saw the paper outside in our yard, but neither of us was dressed at that point. By the time we were, and went to retrieve it, it was gone. I phoned the newsagent, explained, and asked him to keep us another copy. Then I went door-knocking around Tulipwood Court (our little cul-de-sac). My neighbour in the other unit is away. She once told me someone collected her mail for her at such times, so I thought maybe they’d picked up the Herald too on the assumption it was hers. No-one I spoke to knew anything about it.

‘It must have been stolen,’ said one woman. ‘There’s a bit of that goes on around here.’ Another said, ‘I’m up at five every morning. I’ll pick up your paper from now on and put it up on your veranda.’ Sure enough, this morning’s paper was right there outside our front door. Bless her!

The newsagent’s father delivers the papers early. He confirmed he’d thrown it right up into our yard. ‘Could it have been a dog?’ asked the newsagent. ‘One that’s trained to fetch?Dad saw a dog rummaging around in the rubbish bins along the street.’  Hmmm, I’d heard a dog barking up and down the street in the afternoon, which was unusual, and on the way home from the newsagent I saw what looked like a stray in a nearby street to Tulipwood Court.  But if so, it must be a very selective dog. Various free newspapers get delivered too, and they have never disappeared. The Tweed Echo was still on our lawn yesterday after the Herald had gone, and the Mail the day before.

I spoke to teenage Nathan from across the road, and his little sister. They were riding their bikes around our end of the street.

‘It could have been Monty,’ they said. ‘He takes shoes sometimes.’

Monty is a big old dog from further down the street, inclined to wander vaguely in front of cars, but we all stop to let him by. Or they thought it might be Baxter. Baxter’s a big boxer who lives near Monty, and is the reason I don’t walk down that end of the street. He appears friendly, but very boisterous; I’ve been scared he’d knock me over in his exuberance.

‘Baxter’s a bad dog!’ said the little girl.

‘There have been some bites,’ said Nathan.

‘And there’s also Coco; she’s a golden labrador who lives down the hill.’

Baxter wasn’t out on the road just then, nor were the other dogs, so I braved the walk to their owners’ houses. Monty had been in his back yard for three months following a complaint to the Council, said the cheery blonde who came to that front door. At Baxter’s place, a teenage boy and girl and their Mum all answered my knock and told me Baxter is now confined by an electric fence and a special collar.

Coco’s house was over the side of the hill, down a dip. There was a little path through bushes, then a big house with a big yard. Coco, lying outside, looked up at me placidly. Not a golden labrador actually, but one of those curly-haired ones that look a bit similar: a golden retriever.

‘Come in,’ called a tall young woman busy peeling vegetables.

She said their SMH wasn’t there this morning either. We had a hunt around the garden but found nothing.

‘If she does pick ours up,’ said Coco’s owner, ‘She usually takes it to where she sits. And she doesn’t bring home other papers.’

She introduced me to gentle Coco, who stood up to greet me and enjoyed having her ears rubbed.

I must be looking my age even though I don’t think so. Coco’s lady took my arm to help me back on to the path up the hillside and asked her teenage daughter to accompany me to the top.

So I don’t know who or what has been making off with our paper, but it won’t happen again thanks to the kind five o’clock riser, and now I’ve met more of our neighbours and found them all very nice.

One door I refrained from knocking on because others said, ‘Stay away from her. She’s ... er ... strange.’ (Strange enough to steal newspapers? Perhaps I’ll never know.)

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