It’s one of those moments that could change everything. A Sunday evening and a stray school bag or two must be retrieved from the boot. I know it should be a Friday afternoon thing but I resist whenever I can. A warped defiance of sorts overcomes me. I’m in cahoots with the boys. Leave the wretched bags in the car. Let them smoulder in the blast of early summer. Let the crusts harden. The cores wither and tan. The petit filous cartons grow an unhealthy bout of bacteria. I don’t give a damn.

So out I go, weakening at the last. Not leaving it altogether until Monday morning. Our lovely little dog follows me. He’s been out of sorts all day. A bit of vomit. A bit of leaking fluid whilst asleep – and asleep with one eye open. The boys are worried. A couple of them follow us out too. They think a vet is in order. They panic and fuss over him like a parent over a new born. ‘We’ll see how he is tomorrow’ I tell them with all the assurance of a wise old bird.

He potters a little and hovers beside me as I tug a leaden bag out of the boot. Always at my side. But then it happens. He takes off like lightening, up the hill and away from us. I call his name which he dutifully ignores. I screech ‘a little bit of ham’ – his reward for being good. He speeds up, in the wrong direction. Marque 2 acts, as he always does in an emergency. He doesn’t speak. He just does. He sprints after him. At the top of our quiet road is a very busy main road. Not to mention a nightmare junction. I jump into the car, turn the keys, and realise something’s not quite right. A haze of sorts. Bloody glasses are in the house. I blurt the news while grabbing them and run back out, followed now by all. They run, barefoot. I drive. I’m gripped by the white knuckle fear of it. Of him being squished. Of one of them running out to save him, unable to stop themselves. Of one of them coming a cropper too.

As we find out later Marque 2 reaches the main road with the dog well ahead. As he’s very attached to me – the dog that is – marque 2 decides to use this as a lure.
‘Mummy Mummy Mummy Mummy Mummy’ he hollers as he runs at top speed along the busy road. People stop and stare. A tall skinny teenager sprinting like mad and calling for his mother. Poor sod. The dog slows for a second, reconsidering his escape plan, then he dips out of sight and re-emerges to the horror of marque 2, running across the road at the 4 way junction.
‘Mummy Mummy Mummy…’
He runs on. Marque 2 raises his hands to oncoming traffic and sprints after him across the junction. He doesn’t care. He’s visible, he reckons. Not so squish-able. The dog is making a bee-line straight for the local vet. Something which, even in his stricken state, marque 2 finds vaguely amusing. He stops to relieve himself – the dog that is. A little piss up against the vet’s wall and marque 2 swoops in. Horns blast. Other dog lovers wishing him well.

I get to the top of the road in the car and stop. All my other boys are standing there staring. It’s bad, I think. Very bad. They’ve just witnessed something horrendous. I should never have let them go. Horrible schoolbags left in the car, proving a point, has led to this. Stupid, stupid me. Then a golden marque 3 turns towards the car and I think I can’t look. I’ll just drop my head onto the wheel and not see whatever this is. Before I get the chance though his hand goes up, a thumb standing proud. He’s nodding and smiling at me. A minute later marque 2 rounds the corner, dog in arms. He climbs into the car beside me. White as a sheet. Beads of sweat frozen on his face. He tells it all, there and then. The blind fear. The fact that if it hadn’t gone well, he’d have always blamed himself. He’d always think he could’ve run just that little bit faster. And with his birthday in a couple of days. Imagine, he says. Just imagine what kind of a birthday that would be.

Marque 2 has saved the day countless times. He spots peril like no other. At seven he plucked a face down floating toddler from a deep pool, wading in fully clad and grabbing him by the hood, dragging him safely back to shore. He acts calmly in the moment, in a trance like state, knowing exactly what to do. Then he allows himself a little crumbling, when all is safe and well. Sugar for shock. According to marque 1, this brother has also just saved his leaving cert. A mown down much loved pet would’ve exacted disaster in this realm.

So thank you.
Happy sweet sixteen.