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Chapter One: Oliver in trouble

Cold water streamed down the young lad’s face, causing him to squint in a vain attempt to stop the water getting into his eyes, as he pedalled for all his worth into a freezing head wind. The driving rain had soaked through his jacket, his body juddered involuntarily as the torrents ran down his neck and back. His determination to get away from his home was part desperation to get out of the rain, and partly to get to sanctuary as quickly as he could.

He was so keen to get to safety he very nearly did not see the person in the parked car ahead of him. As he approached at speed, he glanced over his shoulder to check it was safe to pass the obstacle, threw out his arm to signal his attention, only to glance back to see the car door being thrown open by the driver, who had failed to see the cyclist. Oliver screamed at the person as he swerved violently, narrowly missing the door and the shocked driver. The lad’s heart pounded in his chest as the sudden surge of adrenaline spurred him on.

Huge puddles of cold, filthy water had formed at various points on his route. The waters splashed up from the bike’s wheels, dispersed by the woefully inadequate mud guards, the front soaking his shoes and jean-clad shins, the back guard splashing muddy water up his back. Oliver finally reached his Grandad’s street and leaned his bike around the corner, into the cul-de-sac and shot onto his Grandad’s drive as he pulled on the bike’s brake handles.

The boy parked his bicycle against the wall of the house and strode to the front porch. His feet were so wet, his trainers squelched loudly and squeaked with every step. A sense of relief overcame him as he pulled down on the door handle and pushed the door open. ‘Thank goodness Grandads’ home!’ he thought to himself, as he rapped on the inner door knocker. While he waited for the old man to react to his knocking, and answer the door, Oliver took off his helmet, ran his fingers through his hair and flicked the water to the ground. He caught his reflection in the glass around him, tutted and ran his hands from his shoulders own, pushing surface water off his clothes and flicked his hands again.

The door opened slowly. “Oh, has it been raining?” his Grandad chortled.

Oliver looked up at the friendly, familiar face, “Oh, ha ha!” he tutted sarcastically, “No, I thought I would go for a swim fully clothed on my way to see you!”

Grandad peered past the drowned figure in front of him, “I don’t know why you would do that. I am sure that cloudburst out there would have soaked you enough!”

The two were very fond of each other and the banter between the two best friends flowed easily. It was hard to imagine they were a generation apart. In fact, not only did Oliver have his Grandfather’s sense of humour, but others who knew the pair well, especially his mother, would often comment on the mannerisms the pair shared. Oliver’s Mum would frequently tut and remark, “Just like your Grandfather!” usually accompanied by a broad smile while ruffling his hair.

Grandad stepped to one side and ushered Oliver in, helping the lad off with his water-logged jacket as he passed. The old man looked out to the space recently occupied by his grandson, “Blooming heck, do you want a mop and bucket for that puddle you left?” he chortled.

Oliver threw his head back as he tutted again, struggling to slip his feet out of his saturated trainers as he did so.

Grandad draped the now dripping jacket on the back of a kitchen chair, as he made his way to the sink. “I saw mum this morning and she could not wait to show the pictures of you and Kira this morning!” he grinned to himself as he spoke, “that dog looked really pleased with the neckerchief!” He grabbed the kettle and filled it with water before returning it to its cradle and switching it on. “How many people turned up in the end?”

Oliver stepped carefully, arms outstretched for balance, over the tiled floor, trying to avoid the numerous splashes of water in socks, “About seven hundred I think.”

The old chap watched the tiptoeing with amusement, “That is a fantastic turnout for a walk.”

Oliver nodded, “It is a great cause, we all did it for Tina.” He replied as he finally reached the carpet and lowered his hands. “Have you heard of Niall Harbison and the dog hospital he’s planning to build?” he asked, “He lives in Thailand and has been rescuing stray dogs, it is a fascinating story.” Oliver continued without stopping to for a response, “He rescued a dog who ended up saving Niall’s life, so now he is saying ‘thank you’ by saving stray dogs. He pays for their medication; vet bills and rehabilitates them himself. Many have gone on to new lives all over the world, and the money raised helps save more. In fact, he is working so hard it feels great to be a part.” Oliver informed him as he pulled his phone from his pocket, walked over to his granddad and showed some of the photos he had taken on the day.

Grandad listened intently to his grandson’s explanation and eagerly studied the pictures, “So why was the walk called ‘Doing it for Tina’?” he enquired.

Oliver glanced up and looked at the mans face, “Tina was a stray that was in a bad way, Niall looked after her but unfortunately she died, so all this is being done in her memory, in fact Niall was at the walk and was visibly moved by the support.”

Grandad looked up from the screen, “Kira does not look particularly impressed!, did she not like the colour of the neckerchief?” he smirked.

“Bandana.” Oliver corrected the old chap with an air of certainty, “It is a bandana and it the way we show our support for Tina.” As he turned the phone off and put it down on the counter, “Kira is a dog, I am sure she has no preference as to the colour or pattern of the bandana!”

Grandad smirked to himself, “That dog is very lucky having you in her life for sure.”

The lad looked at the old man, “I am very lucky having her, grandad.” He retorted, “That is why ‘Doing it for Tina’ means so much.”

Grandad reached up and patted Oliver on the shoulder, “Go through boy, the fire is lit,” he smiled knowingly, “Tea’s on its way.”

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