The black dog running down the hill just blocks from home is wearing a red collar, but we only notice the collar and jangling tags after P almost hits the desperate dog with her car. Saturday evening’s sky features that color I don’t believe when first exiting a late matinee feature. What was real transitions to the unreal in the length of time it takes to find car keys and remember which way to drive home.
We are unable to turn back soon enough to rescue the dog, given the dividers in the roadway. The Labrador continues to give chase to a rapidly fading set of red tail lights. No doubt hoping to keep up with its owner whose speed rapidly outdistanced his. P is distraught, gently eases her car into my driveway, switches the motor off. Usually we talk about the movie now, but this time she wants to talk about yesterday’s rabbit.
Cats will be cats, she said. And her cat presented her a still–twitching baby rabbit clenched in its jaws while P was watering flowers on her patio. After rescuing the rabbit from her cat, P worked at reviving the bunny. Blanket, box, lid. Not because it had died, but because P felt this would help it feel more secure. The tightness of boxed-in darkness is soothing, don’t you think?
It’s only later in the day when her son called to tell her the third vet he took the boxed rabbit to accepted it did her husband tell her he was not about to pay $50 to have the rabbit put to sleep.
Poetry comes out of the quarrel we have with ourselves. Rhetoric is the quarrel we have with others. ~ WB Yeats
My second brother has always been older than me. I was fifteen when he was sixteen and cleaning bricks in a brickyard on a hillside near the Havre highway. Once the pallets of bricks were cleaned and loaded onto a flatbed, he would wait until midnight to sneak the truckload out of town to another brickyard some hours away. At sixteen, he was still five years too young to be involved in that sort of commerce. It was exciting to be part of this, to agree to be his companion in the dark cab, on our way to a new town, remembering to keep my feet away from the battery acid that dripped onto the passenger’s floorboards.
Before the last pallet could be loaded, a pack of wild dogs ran through the brickyard, up the hill and out onto the highway. We felt their rush and listened to the way the world seemed to part long enough to let the pack pass through. Tall grass bending, chokecherry limbs snapping. Pine cones rolling to a stop.
Then the racing sound of a muscle car, screeching brakes and the violent protest of metal meeting dog bones. The car pausing, changing gears and disappearing into the skyline over Havre.
I was still making out what I had heard, slow to run after my brother who knew immediately what had happened. When I reached him, he was standing in the ditch beside the fading dog’s scream, scanning the ground around him. For a heavy rock. He waited for me to catch my breath before telling me to go back to the brickyard. Don’t be part of this, he said.
I am still here. And he is there, still the one who accepts what must be done, and me being the one in transition. Morality begins when you can begin to see another person as the center of their own story.