Friday, June 09, 2006

Bookfield, The Pack

I was on my way to fresh territory one day. The neighborhood I was passing through consisted of scattered suburban-type homes mixed with the occasional older shanties or farmhouses. I was pedaling down the street in a leisurely way when suddenly I heard barking. I quickly surveyed the nearby yards and spotted four medium to large dogs coming from behind me and starting to give chase. I pedaled faster, and started to fish for the small rocks I kept in my pockets. Looking back again I saw that all of the dogs were mixed breed, without collars or tags, and because of their number I despaired of repelling them with rocks or out-running them. They were a pack of wild dogs.

I was going about as fast as I could, but they were gaining on me quickly. I had to think fast since the leader was only a few feet back. Across the street and ahead of me I saw my salvation: a white ranch house with a fenced-in yard. The chain link fence looked high enough to protect me from the dogs, and if need be I could jump right from the bike over the fence. The lead dog seemed seconds away from my leg. I made a final effort pedaling at top speed and swerved across the road suddenly towards the fence, hoping to take the dogs off-guard. When my bike was across the oncoming lane I heard a loud clunk behind my rear tire. I was going too fast to look back right away and it was all I could do to keep from plowing into the fence. But, I sensed the absence of my pursuers. I jumped off the bike, landing hard and turned to look. The lead dog had been struck by a large white motor camper. It had all happened in an instant. The camper never braked or stopped, and sped away at what seemed to be at least 60 miles per hour.

The dog lay stretched out in the middle of the road. The three other pack members circled and sniffed his body, whined and ran off across a field. The dog’s body twitched involuntarily. I approached, first checking for oncoming traffic, but the road seemed deserted in both directions. The dog looked like a brown hound, probably about 70 pounds. I could see no injuries to the body. The eyes were wide open, but glazed. He was not breathing. Thick dark red blood oozed from the nose and ears and formed a plate sized puddle on the hot asphalt under the dog’s head.

I felt frozen by the dog’s death gaze. Emotion welled up in me. “Better you than me.” was my initial thought. I never saw that camper coming. It could have been me; it was so close. Too close. It could have been me, killed instantly. Yet, that camper saved me from sure attack by the dogs. But here lay this dog, looking somehow perfect in death and I felt a profound sorrow. I noted the velvety softness of his ears, the pinky roundness of his toes, each perfectly framed by short reddish brown fur. He was completely still now. I took his forelegs in my left hand, and rear legs in my right and carried his body to the drainage ditch on the opposite side of the road from my bike. I tossed him in. My hands looked clean, but I felt the need to wash them. I looked up from the ditch and for the first time noticed a graying two story farmhouse. On the front porch sat a little girl about five years old. She was holding one of the surviving pack dogs and sobbing audibly.

I crossed the street and picked up my bike. All that remained on the road was the thick puddle of blood. A car was coming. One of the tires drove right through the middle of the puddle, leaving a bloody tire tread print every couple of feet or so down the road. I opened the gate and walked my bike through the fence and up the concrete walk to the white ranch house. A woman came out of the screen door to greet me.

“That was great! That pack of dogs has been terrorizing the neighborhood. When can you kill the rest of them?”

I ignored her comment. I abandoned my approach spiel. “May I come in and wash my hands?” I asked.

“Sure. Come right in. The bathroom’s on the left. Let me get you a soda.”

I washed my hands in silent thought. I drank the soda and remember nothing else of my visit with that lady. I don’t think she bought a book. I remember riding away from the area and never wanting to come that way again, although I knew I would have to. I tried to focus on the bright sunshine on the trees down the road.

Word got around about the dog I killed. I became a local hero, of sorts. It helped my book sales somewhat, but I did not enjoy the notoriety.

1 comment:

em said...

beautiful post, sue! this is the best one so far!