Image courtesy of Wim Mulder. Shared via a Creative Commons license.
When I saw the puppy slinking into the gallery I got so mad that I fired one kick behind it. But I miscalculated. My foot connected with a steel chair instead of the pup and I sprained my toe. The stupid dog scampered outside, sat by its mother and looked at me with large doleful eyes. I glared angrily at it. It was 2am. Why couldn’t it settle down and sleep like everyone else?
There had been six of them. Five died. Not that we cared anyway. What would a person do with six dogs? And not just dogs but pot hounds and not just pot hounds but skinny, mangled, undernourished pot hounds. They made a lot of noises and chewed everything in sight, including slippers and mats. They even got inside the house whenever they were ready to filth. It seemed they preferred carpets to the hard concrete yard. We suspected that the neighbours poisoned them, and we silently praised the act. The neighbours endured the same afflictions we did at the butts of the pups.
As the lancing in my toe started, a correspondent pain in my head began.
“You dotish chile. Come here!” I barely heard the expletive. A wounded scream emanated from the house next door. It was the scream of a child no older than six. I heard the shuffling of feet and the slamming of a door.
The dog did not bark. It began licking its infant with soft caresses, oblivious to what was happening around it. Stupid dog! I thought. I must get rid of it. It does nothing around here. Makes no furor, runs no potential criminals. The puppy whelped as the mother suddenly bit it. Where was the other dog?
“You hear that jus now? He at it again,” my sister said, now standing beside me in the gallery. “Where the mother? She always away when these things happening. I don’t care what anybody say, we should call the authorities. Is every night this going on.”
“We have no proof,” I said quietly. I looked at the dog and its pup absently and wondered at the two of them a few months from today, mating and carrying on a progeny, forgetting that they were mother and son or father and daughter or whatever.
“The big daughter pregnant. You know that?” said my sister.
“No. I saw her yesterday and her stomach was flat.”
“Well he probably made her get rid of it. I mean, that sort of thing is sure to bring scandal…and evidence.”
“You see the belly?” I asked.
“I don’t have to see a woman’s belly to know she with child.”
“We have no evidence,” I replied. As I turned to go to my bed I glimpsed the dog, walking away and leaving its pup shivering in the night dew. The house next door was silent.
What a cold world we living in, I thought tiredly.
As I drove to work in the morning, I reflected on how serene the child had looked when I passed her sitting in her gallery. Her father had waved me a bright good morning. No truth in that rumour, I thought, speeding out the driveway unto the road, the fact that I was late registering forcefully. My toe throbbed. The stupid dog!
I saw the crowd before I saw the cars, the bodies and the blood.
“Write off,” I heard a passerby mumble as the traffic forced me to slow.
“We need a car! Flag down a car! We have to get them to the hospital quick!”
I willed the car in front of me to go faster. I was now almost at the scene of the accident. What if they were to stop me? Blood on my new fabric seat covers? AIDS? My skin suddenly began to itch and looking down nervously at my fingers now trembling on the steering wheel, I glimpsed the time on my watch – 8:28am! I was late! Horribly late!
The traffic eased and the car in front of me drove away. I followed swiftly. In my rear view mirror I saw the curious spectators flag down car after car, but to no avail. None stopped. This was such a cold unfeeling world. The throbbing in my toe returned as I kept my foot pressed down on the accelerator. Stupid dog!
When I saw them on my lunch break, my mongrels came immediately to mind. Six children sitting on a bench around their poverty-stricken mother in Woodford Square.
“Why the authorities don’t do something about this situation?” I asked my friend. “Look at them!”
As I spoke, a stray dog came up to one of the kids and licked her arm sympathetically. The child screamed in fright and bolted off the bench right unto my injured toe. I whelped painfully and thrust her off me. The child fell unto the ground. The dog moved to stand over her and looked up at me accusingly.
“Why don’t they get rid of those strays.” I grumbled.
“You are cold,” My friend said and she looked at me as though seeing me for the first time.
“My dog caused me to sprain my toe last night,” I tried to explain my plight, I myself confused.
“Was it the dogs or the kids you were referring to as strays?”
My friend seemed not to care that my toe was throbbing. The woman stretched out her hand as we passed by. My friend handed her a dollar so I did likewise.
“You don’t know who is who these days nah,” I grumbled. “Coke addicts using any ploy to get money for a fix. Is only because you here that she get my dollar.”
My friend was silent for a while as we continued strolling. When we left the square and were safely on the other side of the road, I barely heard her as she muttered under her breath,“What a cold unfeeling world we live in.”
Something is wrong here. Why do I get the feeling that the perimeter of the world is narrowing? Why am I suddenly so uneasy?
When I returned home later in the afternoon, the pup was dead.
“Good.” I told my sister. “Should we bury it or cremate it?”
“The authorities came for Mr. Jones,” she said, ignoring me. “Turns out the rumours were true. They wanted to know why we took so long before notifying them.”
“You mean you called?!” I asked incredulously.
“I saw the young one crying on my way to work.”
“She was smiling when I saw her.”
“You must be mistaken. She hasn’t smiled in a long time, Christine.”
“Who is burying the dog?” I asked.
“And all the while you wanted evidence? We heard the evidence every night.”
“I’m glad I’m seeing the last of these dogs. No more noises when the night comes.”
“I wonder why the mother never did anything? His own flesh and blood.”
“Your mother to go next puppy,” I continued. “She sits here and does nothing. No barks, no whine, only eating! Eating! Eating! What good is a dog that does nothing? I hope the neighbour poisons her too!”
“Christine are you listening to me at all? I said I got the authorities to give me temporary custody of the kid.”
“You what?! Are you crazy?! An abused child? You are not a psychiatrist, girl! And what if the child gets attached to you? She won’t want to go back home. And if her mother recovers, or her father comes out of jail, or her sister wants her? Doesn’t she have a grandmother? An aunt? An uncle? Why do you – ”
A wounded cry was heard from somewhere close by and I jumped away from the dead dog in alarm.
“Dead things don’t need attention Christine. It’s the living ones that do.”
I saw a wounded creature, its arms linked tightly around my sister’s neck. As I looked into her eyes, the scenes of the day flashed vividly before me. My sister held the child closely and looked accusingly at me. Was the world really that cold after all? My eyes remained transfixed on her retreating back as she walked away from me. I stood woodenly over the dog. Must get rid of it quick before it gets cold. As I bent to retrieve the shovel, my legs made contact with the repulsive carcass and I recoiled. The dog was already cold. I pressed my palms against my cheek and found that I was cold too.
Petra Pierre–Robertson is currently the Library Director of University of the Southern Caribbean, a position she has held for the past fourteen years. A graduate student of the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Jamaica, she received the prize for creative writing during her undergraduate study at UWI, St. Augustine where she completed a BA in English. She completed a Master of Library Science Degree at UWI, Mona. She is pursuing another graduate degree the MA Literatures in English at UWI, St. Augustine. She is currently a writer for a religious journal.