The Dead Dog
There was a lady – you remember – standing on the side of the hill with a dog on a leash.
“Help me,” she said.
“What is it?” you asked.
“My dog is dead,” she said.
And you looked down and saw for yourself that the dog on the end of the leash was indeed dead.
It may have crossed your mind that with the dog being dead and all, there was no real need for the leash, but you were too polite to say anything. Certainly, she was too distraught to hear any kind of criticism from you at the moment. Yes, she was distraught, tragic even, in keeping with the situation, although it could be argued that the death of a dog might be an unfortunate event but not necessarily a tragedy.
The wind blew the tall grasses that grew on the side of the hill. The shadows lengthened as the day waned. The dog lay still, the wind ruffling its fur which was not too short but not too long either. The wind was blowing across the side of the dog’s face, across one big brown eye which was wide open, seeing nothing, seeing everything.
You noticed that the woman was pretty in a forlorn kind of way. You wondered how, under the circumstances, you could find the language to ask her out sometime. For sushi, say, or to see a play. But you suspected that such language does not exist and you were probably right.
“Would you mind looking after my dog while I go down and get some help?” she asked. She offered you her end of the leash, imploring you forlornly with her eyes to take it. What could you do? You took the leash. How hard could it be? The dog was dead.
“I’ll be right back,” she said. “As fast as I can.”
“What was it’s name?” you called after her as she made her way down the hill.
She stopped and turned and regarded you enigmatically. Or so it seemed at the time. “Jackson,” she said. And then she said, “Thank you.” And then she turned and continued down the side of the hill.
And then you called after her again: “What’s your name?” But she didn’t turn around again.
You stood there, watching her make her way down. The wind blew and the trees swayed and the tall grasses undulated like there were waves passing through them. The day gave up on itself as the sun sank below the horizon casting the side of the hill in shadow and the temperature began to drop. You felt a chill in the air and knew that autumn was nearing.
“Hmm,” you must have said to yourself. She didn’t seem to be in any great hurry to get back to you. You lit a cigarette. You smoked it. You had to ask yourself what kind of help exactly one might seek in the event that one’s dog had died on the side of a hill. The police? The fire department? Or was there a special if not obscure city department that looked after such things, the boys sitting around a grim little office somewhere, playing cards, waiting for the phone to ring?
The dog lay there, that one big eye staring. Obviously it just lay there. It was getting harder to make out its form, it seemed to be disappearing into the earth, lost in the dark shadows. Just as well it was dead, you decided, for it was a big brute of a thing, a kind of canine killing machine. Not being a dog person in any way, shape or form you certainly never would have been so close to such a dog if it were still alive.
God . . . if it were still alive, snarling at you, baring its dirty fangs, lunging at you ready to rip your throat out!
You took a step back, instinctively, but there certainly wasn’t any of that kind of activity going on with old Jackson. Nothing was going to animate that monster now. Just to make sure, you prodded him gently with your foot, your own body tense, ready to jump away if it showed any sign of life, but it didn’t, it just lay there, and you just stood there holding onto the leash.
You gazed down the slope of the hill to the road beyond, harder and harder to make anything out as the shadows bled into twilight, and beyond the hill the road and the lights of the city began to appear. The moon began to rise into the sky. You knew you had seen the last of her. You lay the leash down on the ground beside the dog’s head, still wary of putting your hand too close to its mouth. As if there were any danger.
“Never touch dead things,” you remember your mother saying, probably at the dinner table, probably over a big roast of beef. No, you had no desire to touch this beast, but you couldn’t help but feel a sense of sorrow around the entire episode, and your sense of decorum demanded a few appropriate words be said to mark the passing of Jackson.
You lifted your eyes heavenward and tried to pray but you could think of no words. You looked down at the dog and said, “Good bye, Jackson . . . I’m sorry.” Never would you have imagined that you would apologize to a dead dog for anything, but it seemed appropriate somehow.
You set back down the hill. You couldn’t remember what you were doing up there in the first place. The wind blew and made a strange hissing sound as it passed through the grasses. The trees swayed and groaned. The lights of the city beyond seemed to modulate and swirl and then explode into a million different colours.
For whatever reason, you knew in your heart that this was the beginning of the end.
And that is the end. Thanks for reading.