It's four days since my last news concerning our charming little black neighbor Pif, seen here this morning (with an elegant silver chain around his slender neck) in the company of Sophia.
I'm aware that people all over the planet will soon be crying out for an update on events. But first, a little French joke, whose relevance will soon become apparent. Although it's not exactly a politically-correct joke, it's quite innocent. Nothing to do with mindless insinuations about an arriviste lad, say, thinking of changing his religion with a view to becoming rich.
Little Mustapha lives in the Maghreb quarter of town, but the educational administration sends him to a nearby school, on the other side of the river, in a posh Catholic neighborhood. The diplomatic school mistress introduces Mustapha to his new friends.
School mistress: Mustapha comes from across the river, and you might be tempted to imagine that he's different from us. But this is wrong. To prove that Mustapha is a little child who's no different to all of you, I suggest that we change his name. We'll christen him Michael.
That evening, back home in the Maghreb quarter, Mustapha informs his parents, excitedly, of his first day in the Catholic school.
Mustapha: I'm no longer Mustapha. My new name is Michael.
Father, slapping his son in the face: Stop your bullshit. We called you Mustapha when you were born, and that's your name forever.
Mustapha: No, I assure you, Father. I've become Michael.
Mother, slapping her son in the face: Your father told you to stop this bullshit. Your name's Mustapha.
Mustapha receives a few more blows from his parents, for good measure, to remind him that his name is not Michael. The next morning, at school, his face is covered in bruises, as if he had been boxing.
School mistress, alarmed: My poor little Michael, whatever happened to you?
Mustapha: Nothing unusual, Miss. Last night, back home in the Maghreb quarter, I got beaten up by a couple of crazy Arabs.
Yesterday morning, when Pif turned up stealthily in my kitchen, something was wrong. The little dog's face was disfigured by swollen lips, and he was unusually lethargic. I was alarmed, wondering immediately if Alison might have whacked her dog too hard, to punish his recent disobedience. I didn't know how to react best. I phoned up Bob, to ask him whether it was possible that his daughter might have been excessively violent with Pif. Bob assured me that this was unthinkable. So, I got around to imagining that maybe Sophia had bitten Pif's snout in a sudden fight, during my short absence the day before yesterday. Finally, I wandered up to Alison's place, on the off-chance that she might be at home.
She was. As soon as I drew her attention to Pif's disfigured mouth, Alison understood immediately what had happened: "He has been bitten, maybe by insects or a snake! " This was a good analysis of the situation. We've noticed that Pif likes to go off onto the slopes on his own, where he's liable to meet up with bees or wasps, not to mention snakes. Alison added that she had noticed that something was wrong with Pif, the previous evening, when he had disappeared into a nearby field, as if he wanted to be alone. She reassured me that she was going to keep Pif at home all afternoon, and look after him, ready to take him along to the veterinarian if any more troubling signs appeared.
Today, the crisis is over. Pif is in perfect form. As usual, he has moved back down here and immediately dragged Sophia's rugs out of her wicker basket and onto the lawn. Clearly, Pif's a survivor. It's less clear whether he intends to survive up at his place, with Alison, or down here at Gamone with Sophia and me.