an exceptional man
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The Eyes Have It.
by Harry Downey




“Fancy caps and cream trousers. Where does he think he’s playing? Lords?”  The watching man clearly didn’t like what he could see on the field before him and voiced his opinions to the dogs dozing at his feet. “They’re rubbish. Jonty there couldn’t hit the wicket if it was as big as one of his barn doors.  And young Stephen’s given eight byes away while I’ve been watching.

Nowhere near as good as his dad..” After another disapproving grunt and a final glance at the scoreboard he left, His dogs followed instantly on his one word command.


a line, (a short blue one)


It was a subdued saloon bar in the "Black Swan" that evening. The Everington team had gone after the handshakes and customary pleasantries – with the inevitable barb in the tail. “Sorry, Skip, just wasn’t your day. We’ll see you again in August when you come to our place. That’s when a lot of our lads will be away on holiday with the wife and kids. At least then you’ll have a game with our second string and youngsters. Just about your standard these days, I’m afraid. You used to have a good chap here at Elmsford and you could do with him again. You certainly miss him.”


a line, (a short blue one)


“No, John, you wouldn’t know the full story. When it all happened you weren’t here. The chap we’re all talking about is Isaac Pennington. He lives at the top end of the village in a cottage way past the church.

You’ll see him around, but never without his dogs. There used to be three of ‘em, and then he lost his favourite, Jessie, just over a year since. Bad business. He reversed his old Morris Minor over the dog, badly injured it and when he got it to the vet there was nothing he could do. The dog died in the surgery – in the vet’s arms as it happened.  Peter over there is our local vet and he’ll tell you what a strange affair it was. Naturally enough you’d expect a man to be upset when his favourite dog goes like that, but Peter says it was a lot worse than you would expect. Isaac would not accept that the dog was dying, and even after Peter had pronounced it dead he wouldn’t have it. He took the dog away and said he’d nurse her back to health again. He was convinced the dog would recover and he wouldn’t replace her. Not that he could do it just like that anyway. The dog – Jessie – looked like a normal black and white collie, but she had one brown and one blue eye. Apparently it happens but it’s not common. She also had a peculiar sort of birth mark on her head that meant you could recognise her anywhere.”


“Isaac became a different man after that. He seemed to cut himself off from the village, and more or less became a recluse. You still see him around sometimes, just with his two other dogs – he said he would never replace Jessie – but he acts as if she is still alive. He never married so being on his own didn’t help. I suppose anyone with a twisted sense of humour would say he was barking mad.”


“Where he fits into the cricket thing is that he was far and away the best player here, and for miles around. Bigger clubs did their damnedest to prise him away but he was always loyal to his home village and wouldn’t play anywhere else except for us here in Elmsford. After he dropped out the team went to pieces. We’d lost our best bat, our best bowler and a safe slip catcher. And it wasn’t just that, but Isaac had a mind like a computer when it came to spotting a weakness in one of the other team’s players. Yes, we really miss him.”


“Of course, we’ve all tried to get him back. Most of the lads have asked him to come and help us out but –- no joy, I’m afraid. As a newcomer, John, he might listen to you when he wouldn’t to any of us. Give it a try and you’ll make a lot of friends if you can change his mind. He still keeps an eye on us but only from a distance and never watches a full game.

Have a go if you want to, but I don’t think there’s anything anyone can do.”


a line, (a short blue one)


“Arnold, hello. This is John McCarthy. This Isaac chap you told me about. Well, I met him this morning. I took Bunty out for a walk to have a look round our new home – no, Bunty isn’t my wife, Lord no – she’s my dog. A one year old labrador, not much more than a puppy really, and she needs a lot of exercising. As you probably know, when dog owners meet they usually have a chat and allow their dogs to have a look at and a smell of each other as they do. Well, Bunty didn’t bother much with the other two – a Jack Russell and big sort of dog that was definitely a bit of a mixture – a real Heinz 57 dog – but she and his collie seemed to like each other. As it answered to your description I simply asked how Jessie was these days and it seemed to please Isaac a lot when I asked. Yes, that’s right, three dogs, The collie had the peculiar eyes you’d mentioned too. And a birthmarky thing on its head too. No, I’m not trying to explain it but that’s how it was.”


“I think it was my interest in Jess that did it but he started off about the cricket. He wanted to know what the chances were of a game and I told him that wasn’t up to me but why didn’t he come to the net practice tonight and have a word with you. He’s going to do just that so I should make sure you’re there for him. Good news, eh? See you later down there then. Cheers.”


a line, (a short blue one)


If the village still had a Squire, Sir Joseph Parks would have been it. President of the Elmsford Cricket Club for years and its keenest supporter and regular benefactor, at the end of the season he decided to mark the startling revival in the team’s fortunes by creating a new Knock-out Cup open to all village teams within a fifteen miles radius. When, a year later, Sir Joseph presented the trophy to its first ever winning team, its players had unanimously chosen their captain for the occasion. Isaac Pennington was a proud man as he shook hands with Sir Joseph and held up the silver “Jessie Trophy” for his teammates to see. What everyone else except Isaac had known about in advance was that a black and white collie with eyes that didn’t match and a mark on its head had been awarded a special medal too. Sir Joseph hung the medal round the dog’s neck to applause all round the pub’s packed Function Room. Most men try not to cry in public but Isaac Pennington wasn’t like most men.




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