Little Dog

You’re going about your business. It’s been a dull day and you’re walking back from your local fish n’ chippy with your evening meal. You could’ve driven there but it’s not far, a kilometre and a half return. You’ve done bugger all exercise all day so this is something. You’ve got two grilled garfish and a bowl of coleslaw. You’ve dispensed with the chips. You’re feeling a little holy because you’ve dispensed with the chips. You’re eating a life-extending meal. You’re less than 100 metres from home and you’re feeling good about yourself when …

          When you sense something at the back of your right heel. You reckon it’s a dog but dunno how big, how small. You’re startled. You’re near the edge of the kerb, a slight drop, nothing to worry about normally but you jump a fraction to your left, and when you come down your left foot hits the ground and you tilt, and you hit a slope tilting further the same way and you’re falling. You’re a big man and you have an image of a skyscraper toppling on an angle, only it’s you, and you crash. And your hands and left knee hit the asphalt taking skin from each. And a man comes to your assistance and say’s he hopes you’re OK, and you catch a glimpse of a teenage girl twenty metres away talking on her mobile, and she keeps talking on her mobile.

          And you look at the dog and it’s a Jack Russell. And there’s pain in your palms of your hands but you’re not angry. Or not as angry as you oughta be. And you say, ‘It’s only a little dog.’ And you get to you’re feet and check your pants looking for a hole in the knee where your knee feels sore but there isn’t any hole. That’s something. You guess that’s something.

          And the man with the dog is saying how friendly his dog is, how it wouldn’t hurt anyone. And you notice he’s riding a bike and he’s got his dog on a long lead. He’s riding his bike on the footpath with his dog on a long lead and he’s wearing a helmet. He breaks two laws and he obeys one but he’s getting exercise, and his dog is getting exercise, so he’s probably feeling good about himself until …

          Until what happens happens. But as for changing behaviour will there be any change? You’d like to think so but because you didn’t blast him he might just feel he’s had a let-off and carry right on as before. You didn’t blast him because of the size of the dog. You don’t want to seem ridiculous. ‘Me ridiculous!’ ‘Little dog’, as you said before.

And so he pedalled home and you limped home and put a couple of band-aid adhesive plasters on each palm and ate your garfish and coleslaw and couldn’t find your glasses and realised you’d slipped them in your top shirt pocket when you’d gone to the fish shop. So you walked back to the scene of the fall and found them on the edge of the road. They’re only cheap glasses but at least a car hadn’t run over them so there was no damage done. No damage done.

          You sat down at your computer and answered a couple of emails. You were able to type OK, there was just the stinging in the palms and your knee. You’d been going to have a grog-free day but an email from a friend in Coober Pedy so vividly described the perils of a dust storm that you began to feel an aggravation in your throat. And you didn’t have any painkillers on hand so it was a trip to the pub for a couple of soothing bottles of Cooper’s stout. You wrote to your friend about the soothing qualities of stout.

          An hour or so had passed and your left arm wasn’t hanging as straight as your right and you felt a sort of muscular twist on the inside of the arm. You thought about trying to straighten it out by swinging a golf club on the back lawn. Wisely you resisted the temptation.

          Instead you went to bed with a book and thought that maybe after some rest things would settle down. You felt the muscular twist getting worse and pain increasing at your left elbow which now began to bend to ninety degrees. It became more difficult to hold the book. You turned out the light around 10 o’clock and fell asleep but woke after midnight and couldn’t get comfortable. You balanced being uncomfortable until making a visit to a GP the following morning, against the discomfort of driving one-handed to the Emergency Department of the Flinders Medical Centre a few kilometres away in the middle of the night. You drove to the medical centre.

          It was 2.30 a.m. when you arrived and there was a young bloke with his girlfriend in front of you. He had blood all over his right hand. She had big tits and wore a short black skirt. He joked a lot with the reception clerk who joked back about him having ‘merely a flesh wound’. You said it was good to hear Monty Python getting a re-run in a hospital at that hour of the morning. The reception clerk asked whether you still lived at Torrens Park. ‘That was thirty years ago’, you said.

          And you remembered that you had been admitted with pneumonia back then. How you’d been coughing up phlegm for a week or so and taken to drinking Cooper’s stout for medicinal purposes. You’d ignored what was obviously bad bronchitis and the stout hadn’t proved much of a medicine. You recalled how a friend and his wife helped admit you and they’d come in a couple of days later to find you all covered in tubes and getting nutrients intravenously. You were surrounded by a lot of old men coughing and spluttering. Your condition looked more dramatic than it was. But you lost a couple of stone in a couple of weeks and you were lucky that you had a nurse for a girlfriend and when you got out she used to come around to your flat and beat the shit out of you. Phlegm actually.

          The clerk told you that it shouldn’t take long because there was only one person ahead of you. The bloke with the bloody hand had an accident with a bottle of Heineken and kept up a lot of patter with the girl with the big tits and short skirt. Then the girl went home and his mother arrived and there was more patter. A black and white movie played on TV without sound. You tried to read your novel. You and he waited. A lot of clerks, a lot of cleaners, a lot of security staff, odd friends or relatives of patients went by or to and fro, but no doctors. You thought about asking, ‘is there a doctor in the house?’ and you recall that Doctor in the House was a 1950s English film starring Dirk Bogarde and Kay Kendall and James Robertson Justice and …

          After two hours he was called. After three hours you were. You’d read 100 pages of your novel.

          When you finally see a doctor she asks you to rate your pain on a scale of one to ten. You reply, ‘About four’. When you have an X-ray and are asked to rotate your arm into about four of five positions the pain is excruciating. You say, ‘Make that about eight’. The X-rays don’t show any breaks. A male doctor tells you you probably have soft-tissue damage. If it doesn’t clear up in two or three days, call. They give you a sling. You get out around 6.30 a.m. You drive one-arm to a service station and buy a block of Cadbury’s milk chocolate. You deserve a sugar fix.

          Three days later your arm is improving. You’ve got more rotation so you hope it will straighten out in another day or so. Maybe you’ll be swinging a golf club on the back lawn sooner than you think.

          Little dog. You’re not going to blame a little dog but the bloke on the end of the lead you don’t have to think too hard about. You’ve seen people riding bikes with dogs on leads on footpaths and (even worse) on roads. What if a car had been approaching at the precise moment when the dog arrived at your heel and you had fallen into its path? Even if it had been travelling at a conservative back-street speed of 40 kph you’d be a dead’un. Or what if it wasn’t you but an elderly man or woman, a broken hip for sure? Or what if the rider and dog were on the road, and the dog is startled and gets tangled with the bike and the rider goes over the handle bars and you’re driving behind and you run over the mangled mess.

          Dead rider.

          Dead dog.

          And you’d have been simply going about your business.

Bernard Whimpress

© October, 2009

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