Thursday, June 26, 2008

Snow in the City

Snow. New stuff this. Crunchy, not soft. Grey, not white. But cold. Jake stopped on the sidewalk to take it in. He bent down to scrape up some snow, this wondrous new substance for an eight-year old, but not for long. Mama's walking.

Her old habits return quickly, for the city is hardly unfamiliar to her. For a moment, she forgets about the boy. Her head is tuned to the past and not the crunching snow underfoot. The boy may not even exist. But he does, catching her held back hand, reflexively. The cold surprises her and she stops.

What's this?

Snow!

It's dirty. Don't play with it.

But it's snow!

When we get to the park. Then you can play with it.

She wipes his hand, then grasps it firmly, fairly pulling him along. The world rushes by. Crunching in the snow, everywhere there is motion. Heads down, look out. Mama's walking. The boy tucks into her coat as they reach the bus stop.

Waiting, snow begins to fall. Tugging, twisting, eager to see more, to catch a flake, he turns away and sees the dog.

For the boy, street level has real meaning. Tethered to an adult, he knows he is secure, but the world below the waist has a turmoil all it's own. Legs whipping by, umbrellas and bags to dodge, the view is chaotic. The dog is at the boy's height, in his world and in trouble.

Around the dog's neck there is a choke chain, and it is tight. The dog is small and lithe, certainly no match for the chain. Already it cinches up the fur around his neck as he is dragged along. No look from above returns the plea for release. The dog tugs and pulls, but the motion is seen as rebellious, not plaintive, and the return is tighter and tighter still.

The boy watches as they approach. The snow is falling hard now, and the bus is pulling up. He tugs at his mother's arm but the response is to pull him closer as they edge toward the curb. He fights and twists to look back.

He can see the man with the leash now, a filthy and disheveled creature with an open coat and wild hair. He is openly fighting with the dog now, wrenching it up into the air as it yelps and struggles. No one stops. No one looks. Just the boy.

The man moves toward a store now, dragging the dog behind him. People step out of the way. A woman leaves the store head down and swerves to avoid tripping on the dog, but does not stop. No one stops. The bus is coming.

The boy can see the dog's tongue now, long and red, it droops loosely from his mouth. The struggles are diminished now, reduced to quivers and involuntary spasms, but the torture is not finished. The man cannot drag the body of the dog through the closing door. The shopkeeper emerges to prevent him from entering. No sounds The wild gestures say it all.

No effort is made to to save the dog, only to remove the offender from the store. In this, the shopkeeper is successful, but by the time the man has been forced back onto the street, he is dragging a corpse. The long red tongue makes a soft wet trail in the falling snow as it disappears into the forest of motion.

The bus is here.

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