Waking up thirsty in the middle of night, I start to think about a long cold glass of sparkling water. There is a bottle chilling in the drawer at the bottom of my fridge. All I have to do is rouse myself a little, throw back the covers and tip-toe quietly downstairs.
But something stops me, and I quickly get pulled under and into deep slumber again. Many hours or perhaps it is only a single solitary second later I am wide awake and feeling more strongly the overwhelming urge to quench my thirst. I know that I am only a short hop, skip and jump away from the bathroom where I could run off the tepid docility of the tap-water into the basin and manage to slurp enough, in the cup of my hand, to slake this demon thirst but thoughts of ice-cold bubbles smacking the back of my throat and quenching me deeply have now begun to infiltrate my central nervous system. I cannot go back to sleep now that I know that the only way to kill my thirst will be a long hard draught of fridge-residing fizzy.
I creep out of bed as softly as I can, without dressing-gown or slippers, as this sort of fast moving dead of the night operation has no time for such pleasantries. All it requires is speed and stealth. Whatever I do I must be careful not to wake the other inhabitants in the house.
This is my main fear. But there are others too.
I glide swiftly, my way lit only by weak and cloud-diluted moonlight which is of little help and gives the surroundings a romantic cloak of mysterious unfamiliarity. Bugger! I stub my toe against the skirting board in the darkness.
The pain is knife-stabbingly intense but I can't afford to draw attention to this now. All I can do, in the name of self-expression is allow my face full-rein to release the shock through its twisting musculature and a snappily chosen selection of classic Greek mask facial contortions.
I look into the stair-well and see nothing but my own fear. Softly creeping down, I stop for a moment, to listen with relief and to register the prevailing silence, the blanketing silence of an empty night that is both highly reassuring and deeply menacing. I have never been good on my own in the depths of darkness. In fact, my unrestrained nerve-endings and gluttonous imagination often run foolishly, with open arms, towards masked cat-burglars with striped jumpers carrying bags of swag and gangs of ragged bare-footed street urchins headed by a gang-leader wearing a battered top hat and answering to the name of The Artful Dodger. Or else its a more traditional mixed fright-fest potpourri of ghosts, large snakes and that girl who's head turned full circle and vomited green humours in the Exorcist.
But for this night, at least, the beckoning finger of fateful tempting, into the house, of all things fearful, has dissolved into nothing and as I reach the kitchen door I take a deep breathe, gently pull the handle down and step in.
The kitchen is quietly sleeping, with only the glare of the digital clock on the cooker to witness the proceedings. I pull open the heavily suctioned fridge door and reach down into the deep lower draw and haul up the bottle of water. And then, as I turn, I realise with unutterable terror that I am, in fact, being watched.
She is standing on the very edges of the hemline of refrigerator light and her concentrated stare, with beady eyes that glisten with heavy criminal intent, is dark like the colour of blackmail.
Quick as a flash she seizes her opportunity and races up the stairs and in through the open door of the bedroom. No such fear over stubbing her little toes in the dark, she veritably canters her triumphant little form across the room and onto the bed and immediately burrows into the covers to the seductive warmth underneath, and before I have even closed the fridge door and searched blindly for a glass, she is fast asleep, centrally, with all four tiny legs splayed out in a deliberately threatening display of mattress-ownership. It's the taunting pose of the confident canine supremacist and one which I dare not try to shift when I finally arrive back in the room bowed, cold, tired and with a sore toe. But not thirsty.
Now, having the woken the dog, I already know the deal that for some reason has fallen unspoken into the rule book. I woke her up in the middle of the night - so she gets to sleep in my bed. And now I will have to spend the rest of the night clinging to the outer edges while she snores, open-mouthed and drooling, her near-toothless oral-interior prone to leakages and luxuriates, spreading her special elderly-dog fragrances throughout the bedding where they will cling, like her hair, forever. And both she and I know the pointlessness of trying to remove her. Her fiendish tactics of frantic kitchen door scrabbling saved up and only ever activated during these night-time excursions are all part of her game plan, and she always wins this round (likewise the one when she stands just the other side of the closed kitchen door and releases a staccato stream of strangulated barks - timed to go off at regular intervals, approximately every 90 seconds - which each time jerk you cruelly awake just when you thought she had stopped). Like Don Corleone's grandmother she appears to have hidden depths on which to call on in times of need and I, now feeble and sleepy, feel unable to face her protracted weaponry and just give in.
Miriam, small, hairy and 12 years old, with a face designed to melt the stoniest of hearts, a softness to her body that endears her to children and strangers, but, when she wants her own way, a cold sinister stare and the willpower and innards of a devil.