The Dream Dog
Chapter 1

He was sad.

The man and the woman didn't seem to understand that.

They thought they could teach him tricks. They thought he'd bark at strangers.

When he cried for his lady, they just got cross.

They kept giving him things he didn't want to eat.

Then they'd go away and leave him for hours and hours...

Josh rode over in the moving van, perched up high in the driver's cabin.

"We might get a dog," he said, "now we've got a house."

The driver grinned. "Your cat wouldn't go for that!"

"It's my sister's cat really," Josh told him. "Anyway, she wouldn't mind."

"Cats hate moving," said the driver's mate. "Give that animal time to settle down. Then you can start thinking about a dog."

They eased the van in slowly between the parking cones. Josh could look down at the top of Mum's LADYFARE cab.

"Better get started," said the driver, helping him out.

The driver's mate unlocked the back of the van and began to load boxes on to a trolley.

Cath was sitting on the garden wall, drawing faces on her knees with a felt-tip pen. The minute she saw Josh, she stuck out her tongue. "Show-off!" she teased.

The driver's mate came back with the empty trolley. "Fancy a ride?" he offered. Then, "Hang on tight!" he told Cath.

Josh watched as the house filled up with their things - the sofa and the armchairs huddled next to the table, the big mirror and Dad's pictures all bandaged in sacking, three chests of drawers standing round the washing machine, and stacks and stacks of cardboard boxes.

Mum strode over the geranium pots, holding out the cat basket and a packet of crunchies.

"Take Mollie somewhere quiet," she told Josh. "And give her some of these to shut her up. And don't let her out, or she'll be gone in a flash."

"She's not my cat," grumbled Josh.

"Don't be difficult," said Mum.

Josh took up the basket and dumped it in Cath's room. Through the bars, Mollie gazed at him with troubled yellow eyes. "Miaow!" she wailed. "Miaow!"

Josh shook out some crunchies and the wailing stopped. "You're Cath's, really," he said, stroking the marmalade smudge between her black and brown ears. "It was Cath who found you." It wasn't fair, he thought. He'd have liked a cat, too, but pets weren't allowed where they'd lived before. Then the caretaker'd gone all goo-goo over Cath and the kitten. Just this once, she'd said. Since you're moving. As long as it's house-trained...

The men came upstairs, heaving one of the bunk beds. Cath came dancing after them, being bossy.

"I want it here," she said. Then she changed her mind. "No, under the window so I can look out." She bounced on the mattress, stood up, then frowned. "But I want my desk here, don't I?"

"You haven't got a desk," Josh pointed out.

"No, but I'm having one." Cath turned to the moving men. "Can you put my bed back in the corner?"

The moving men teased her. "That'll be an extra fifty quid."

The last box was unloaded. The van was empty. The men folded up their blankets and got ready to go.

"I'll make us some tea," offered Mum.

"No gas yet," they reminded her.

"Ah! We've got an electric kettle." Mum grinned.

Cath brought down the cat basket. Mollie stepped out cautiously. Everything was in the wrong place, and the wrong place smelt funny.

Dad opened a tin of cat food and spooned some into a bowl. "It's OK, Mollie," he said, but she glared at him, then fled.

They sent out for pizzas, and ate them in the garden.

The lady next door looked over the fence. She had brushy blonde hair and big dangly earrings.

"You could have had a bite to eat with us." She smiled. "Nice to have someone in that empty house at last."

A girl of about Cath's age popped up beside her. "Hi," she said, looking curiously at Cath.

Mollie appeared from nowhere, stepping delicately through the grass.

"Mollie's found the cat door," grinned Dad.

"You mean, dog door," corrected Mum. "That hole's too big for a cat."

"Great," said Josh. "Then we won't have to make one."

"We're not having a dog," declared Cath firmly. "A dog would chase my cat."

"Our cat," Dad reminded her.

"I found her," crowed Cath.

"Show-off!" growled Josh.