The Mutt

The mutt

Late last night ,as I started my walk ,the cold was sharp as a blade cutting through stone  as most likely any  pure hearts left around were transformed into cold marble .

 I recognized him as soon as I saw him.  He looked like sleep walking, shivering and bundled up like a mummy.  His hat was pulled covering his forehead, his ears and almost touching his nose.  A scarf bent around his neck covered the rest of his face from the nose down to his chin.  The coat was mainly rags with some spots of fur coming through reminiscing of a certain forgotten grandeur.

He walked with his arm straight down and away from his body, like trying to keep some distance between him and maybe a dog, I thought.  In fact, I saw he was holding a leash.  The dog probably was behind him, I thought to myself, avoiding the wind straight in his face by walking behind his master.

”Smart dog,” I smiled inside.

The brutal freezing air was making me bounce, up and down, left and right like a deranged dance I had no control over.  I knew I must have looked like a mental patient but I thought it was irrelevant .My obsession with the enigmatic vagabond had crossed over the freezing boundaries of common sense.

I saw him wobbling left and right, like looking for something he had lost.  His walk looked funny from where I was watching.  On a second look, it was obvious he had a limp.  He was walking as if each step was aimed at leaving deep footprints in the asphalt.

He probably saw me since he stopped and looked in my direction.  I became for some reason extremely curious to see the dog walking behind him. 

I heard his cough.  He sounded like a broken old engine that some imaginary engineer was desperately trying to ignite.

“Smoker,” I said to myself.  “Maybe some TBC lingering in his lungs”.

The cold air and blown snow filled my eyes with tears.

“What a night!”  I thought.  “How stupid of me not to be home now.  And how idiotic to have an obsession like this, with a drifter.”

 I was waiting for the dog to show up for some reason.

 I tried to warm my hands by rubbing them against each other and blowing warm air from my lungs.

When I looked in his direction, I noticed he was wearing gloves without fingers.  Or something that made his fingers look compact.

I could not think past the dog.  He must have been shivering because of this cold, no matter how furry he was.

The street light went off suddenly.

“I guess those halogen light bulbs everybody is using nowadays are really short lived.”  I thought.

I squinted through the dark towards him and I saw his staggering silhouette approaching me slower and slower.

Maybe he was afraid of me?  I know I was rather spooked myself .As a matter of fact my hand clenched the keys in my pocket ready to use them as a weapon if needed.

I was waiting for the dog to parade in front of my eyes as if part of some military parade and I felt my heart heavy with pity for the beast mostly and a little bit for his freakish master.

“Why drag a dog behind you in this cold, in the middle of the night?”  I thought.

 He would have been better off anywhere else.  Animals sleep at night, do not wander in the dark following an obsession and besides, they have survival skills far superior to people.

They were very close now because I heard the noise as if a quadruped walked by yet I could not see anything behind the hobo.  Only the leash, which started from his right hand and hid behind him.  I even believe I heard a stifled noise coming from a suffering dog.

“Poor animal! “  I mumbled to myself.

He was steps from me now.  I tried not to let my anxiety be obvious since there was so much unpredictability in this whole situation I had created myself.  However, I was devoured by curiosity.  I had a lump in my throat as I almost voiced a salute to him.  I quickly took a posture suggesting self-control instead.  I did not want to betray in any way the interest I had in this odd couple.

Inhaling air deep in my chest I tried to hold my breath.  They passed through my face.  Seemed like long seconds as I was focused on not giving in to my apprehension.  I did not know whether he feared me or even noticed me because he seemed completely oblivious to time and space.  I was no longer sure they saw me and more to it, I was not sure I existed myself. 

Following his crawl on the bare asphalt, I saw the leash.  He behaved as he was pulling something but the leash ended up abruptly, as if it was cut off or someone gnawed at it.  Occasionally, he jerked the strap with a gesture as if he wanted to discipline a dog.  I could even swear I heard, though I was not sure where it came from,   a soft-spoken “hear puppy-puppy."

This late hour was probably playing tricks on me.  My mind no longer seemed to follow a reality stream. 

He threw something behind him, certainly towards the dog I thought.  Then I saw him shaking the leash again as if to get the dog moving behind him faster.  He passed by me and I could see the leash dragging empty on the sidewalk behind him.


I was consumed by curiosity now so after they distanced enough, I quickly went to see what he threw.  It looked like a very dry crust of bread.  I bent and picked it up, do not know why.  When I  got next  to a  working lamp post I looked at it and totally rapt I noticed deep  teeth marks in it .


Comments:
 
Ronnie_Elliv   Ronnie_Elliv wrote
on 2/21/2009 2:01:12 AM
This is a very nice story. I like your writing style. It's very elusive and makes the reader think just a tad. I also liked how you played out the end, with the possibility of there actually being an 'unseen' dog. I couldn't figure out if the teeth marks were already there or if they were just made by this dog, but I like that. It leaves it up to the reader's interpretation. There were some errors, mostly with comas, that I noticed. It wasn't too distracting. That was all I noticed, so whoo, go you! :) Love Always, R. Elliv

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A short story exploring the surreal .
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