Friday, May 11, 2012

The wounded dog

Whenever I drive towards or from the village, I always go very slowly, even if that forces the cars behind me to beep furiously, or press up towards my car in irritated haste.

Do you know that road? There is the stretch of forest. There is the filling station- one of few places open round here after 5 pm- as the road curls down to the village, then a couple of tiny houses, then the low village itself.

It was not completely my fault. I was at the Jefferson’s for drinks. There was a downpour as I drove, and even the few paces  from my car to the my friends’ porch left me with sodden shoes. 

Angela said, “Take off your things.”

So I stood in the hall, peeling off wet coat and shoes.

“Fuck off! Fuck off! Fuck off!”

Julian’s voice, coming from a room to the side. I glanced at Angela, who was waiting for my coat. She raised her eyebrows with an  apologetic nonchalance. “He gets like this when he’s working on his paintings now. He discovered expressionism.” To which she added, as she ushered me into the soft calm of a candlelit veranda, “unfortunately”.

Angela had some whiskey.  We drank through the hush of soft rain, the dark wet green leaves of the garden trees soothing. 

I can’t remember what we talked about, but I reached a respectable time to leave, and I left, raindrops freshening my face until I was back in the Rover. The leather seat hugged my legs, and I was reassured by the sturdy dashboard, how my feet felt just right on the pedals, and with the rain falling, impassive, on the windscreen.

Drunk but not too drunk for a quiet road. I turned on the radio, a tranquil song, a driving song, about the folly of love.

Back through the village, past the tiny unlit houses, up the rise, the wet road shining from headlights, and the hush of tyres. Past the filling station, silhouettes in the cabin, the empty forecourt, on to the woodland.

A thud:  something came off the front of the car. Something larger than a rabbit by the sound.

 I stopped, crouched down to see the bumper, too dark to see, I ran my fingers along it: wet, but to thickly wet to be rain. I knew it was blood. 

I turned round: a dark shape, a dog, there in the car light, three legs, one crooked up. I went to it, “here”: it backed away. I said “here” again but it backed off awkward, so I went further. But it was scared, it scuttled to the far side of the road. So I advanced, but it retreated into the bushes. I followed, into the wet black shrubbery, my clothes sticking to my legs, and my feet sinking into mud. I heard murmuring through the rain. “Come here”, I called: there was a rustle in reply, then fainter sounds as the dog retreated further into the darkness. 

Hopeless: I returned to my car.

I drove back to the garage. There was just one man there.

What can I do for you?” he asked.” I hit a dog,” I said. He looked at me blankly. “A dog, just up there”. “It isn’t ours,” he said. I saw his eyes and they were not quite right.

I drove back along the road but there was no sign of the dog.  But now, whenever I drive there, I look out for the dog.

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