AIDA AUSTIN: My husband strips off to his waist and jumps into disaster with two feet

Day trip. Part 2. 1.30. My husband and I are below deck in a ferry boat cabin, chugging across the harbour towards an island famous for its subtropical gardens. 

Our dog Tilly has just bounded up the cabin ladder and fallen overboard. “DOG OVERBOARD,” my husband shouts, running towards the back of the boat. “DOG OVERBOARD,” I shout, dropping my sandwich and running after him.

At the back of the boat, we scan the ocean in all directions. “THERE SHE IS,” I shout, pointing at Tilly, bobbing around in the ferry boat’s wake. “I SEE HER!” my husband shouts. I look frantically at my husband; If this look could talk, it would be saying, “excuse me, but my brains have also jumped ship and I’m not sure when they’ll be back so in the meantime, we’re going to have to use yours.” My husband looks frantically back at me. This look says, “excuse me, I’m awfully sorry, but mine have too.” We look at Tilly, bobbing around in the wake like a cork. Then back at each other. Together, my husband and I have managed many, many crises over the years but none of them featured a ferry boat with a small dog bobbing around in its wake. Tilly fixes us both with a beseeching look that says, “well, don’t look to me for a solution, I’m just a stupid dog.”

1.43pm. Tilly doggy-paddles with all her might away from the ferry. “SHE’S SWIMMING AWAY FROM THE BOAT,” I shout, “ AT LEAST SHE WON’T GET CHOPPED UP BY THE PROPELLOR.” “SHE’S HEADING TO THAT ROCK,” my husband shouts, “THE ONE WITH THE SEALS ON. “COME BACK TILLY, he shouts, WHAT THE **** ARE YOU DOING?” “DO SEALS EAT DOGS?” I shout. “I ******* HOPE NOT,” he shouts, “THEY CAN BITE THOUGH. ONE BIT A SURFER’S LEG. ON THE LONG STRAND.” “TILLY,” I SHOUT, “STAY AWAY FROM THE SEALS.”

Tilly does an about turn in the water and doggy paddles off in a different direction. “WHERE THE **** IS SHE GOING NOW? My husband says. “She’s coming back to the propellor, to get chopped up into tiny pieces,” I say, “oh my god, someone do something.” The captain, hearing all the commotion, idles the ferry engine and passes my husband a long wooden boat hook. “Slip the hook under her collar,” he says, “and fish her out.” My husband and I give each other another look. If this look could talk, it would say very, very quietly and shamefully, “chance would be a fine thing with that stringy old collar”.

At this point, Tilly changes direction again, heading back towards the mainland. “COME BACK TILLY,” I shout, “COME BACK TILLY,” my husband shouts. But it is no use.

We watch as Tilly changes direction again. She is now on her way to America. “Sometimes,” I say, “you just have to jump into a disaster with two feet in order to avert it. “And we all know whose feet,” he says. “Well, what are you waiting for?” I say. My husband strips down to his boxers and jumps into disaster with two feet. “He’s a fine swimmer,” the captain says to me, “as good as the dog.”

He takes out a walkie-talkie and makes a call to the owner of a speed boat. “There’s a fella in the water,” he says, “chasing after a small dog.” We watch my husband chase after Tilly. “She’s giving your husband a run for his money,” the captain says. Finally, my husband catches up with her. The captain picks up his walkie talkie again. “He’s out of the water and on a rock,” he says into the walkie-talkie, “you can’t miss him, he’s wearing what-d’ya-call-em?” “Bright orange boxer-shorts,” I say, and then, unaccountably, “with a black and white trim.” “Bright orange boxers,” he shouts into the walkie talkie, “with a black and white trim and he’s holding a small dog. You can’t miss him, you’ll see him there in the middle of the harbour.”

I see him there. He is waving.

My husband strips off to his waist and jumps into disaster with two feet


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