Cars spew over the crest of the hill in a smear of colour. The road is still wet and shiny from this afternoon’s rain. I drive up the road and I see the old dog amble out onto the busy main road. I hear screeching of brakes and car horns that howl into space as I pass. I hunch my shoulders up to my ears, waiting for the thud and the screams. Nothing comes. I turn at the next island and race back in the direction I have just come from. I see the dog, an old beagle milling about in the scrub by the road. There is nowhere to pull over so I turn again at the break in the road and circle back. I have no idea why I am so compelled –I just know that ignoring him is no longer an option.
I turn off the road and park my car and head back to the main road on foot. I run, waiting for the blood curdling yelps of bad timing to reach me. I get to the crest of the hill and I see him. He looks up and starts walking toward me.
“Wait!” I scream at him, holding a hand up from the other side of the road. Brakes screech once again and I am powerless. Despite good intentions, I can’t stop him from crossing. A car passes, the driver flinging abuse at me through the window,
“Put your dog on a fuckin’ leash,” he screams at me. I shriek back at him but my abuse is carried away on the wind. The traffic eases and I run, nabbing the dog by the collar. I know this dog and have rescued him once before. I have a lanyard attached to my car keys and I tie it around the dog’s collar. He wags his tail, sniffs my hand and then resumes his rooting about in the long grass. He is unimpressed by my efforts. I grapple for my phone in my bag and I call the mobile that is etched in his bone shaped nametag. An onlooker appears and helps me carry him away from the danger. His owner turns up in her car, moments after I have hung up. Giggly kid faces are squashed up against the back windows.
“I think he must have nine lives,” she says, equally as giggly as her children. I want to remind her that he hasn’t. He has one life and she is responsible for it. But I say nothing. I drive home with my groceries and the smell of damp beagle on my skin.
The thing that lingers is the scream of the man who passed by in his car. How easily he blamed and abused. A fist of anger forms in my chest and I am powerless to defend my act. I am innocent but already hung in his eyes. He had no clue. Still doesn’t. In the quiet of my home, as I remember the malice trapped in his voice, I realise he was more scared than me. I forgive. I forget.