Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Long Walk to School Part 2

Here is part two of a little memoir I am finishing in my classroom about a childhood adventure with my best old friend Rick Kadar and a neighborhood dog named Buck.  If you want to read part one click here.  

Part Two

Buck was a good dog and I loved that big old thing.  He was smelly and matted and greasy.  Occasionally they would cut the shaggy hair from around his eyes.  It must have been a shock for Buckley to suddenly see the bright sunlight without the filter of that long wiry hair over its eyes. 
Rick and I would walk through the middle of that block, behind those houses, talking of just about everything: how mean the teachers were, how cute certain girls were, what was up with Rick’s beloved Cubs, Blackhawks, Bulls or Bears.  We talked about music and styles.  We shared just about every thought and secret we had.  We were like brothers.

 We would stop at Buckley’s fence, his long pink tongue lolling out of his mouth; spit dripping off of it in long slippery strands.  He liked us coming to his fence every day, at least it seemed that way.  He would wag his stub of a tail and lean into us as we petted him, making satisfied grunting sounds.
It went on like that for quite some time.  Lunchtime, walking home through the backyards, Buckley bounding over to meet us, Rick and me stopping to pet his big old blocky head.  Floppy ears, big wide tongue, dog spit, wiry hair, dirty dog smell, greasy hands, dog breath, and clinking chain-link fence.  One day, it was warm out so it was probably springtime, when we stopped to pet old Buck on the way back to school, he behaved differently.  I remember the sun was shining.  The breeze was cooling the perspiration on my neck. 
When he jumped up to get his daily dose of head rubbing, he had the same enthusiasm that he always had.  We were giving him double petting as usual.  Suddenly his tail stopped wagging.  He became still, stiff. 
“What’s up with Buck?” Rick asked, the sun glinting off his wire rim glasses.

“What do you mean?” I kept petting on Buck but Rick had stopped. 
“His tail stopped.”  Sure enough the lower part of his body was rigid, his shoulders were stiff.  Somehow he didn’t seem… happy.
“C’mon boy.  What’s the matter?  You OK, old buddy?”  I kept petting, trying to prompt his usual friendly response.  Then I heard it.  No, maybe at first I felt it.  It was a rumble, a faint vibration coming from way down low in his throat.  When I looked through the greasy strands of hair into his eyes there was something suspicious there, some unfamiliar look – or was it just a feeling?  Something was definitely not right.  Rick knew first and backed away.  My response was to keep petting, to keep trying to get him back to his normal waggly self.
“You’re OK, boy,” I soothed.  But Buck was definitely not OK.  Something was wrong.  The snarl became a little louder.  He slunk his shoulders down a little lower, closer to the chain-link fence.  His lips pulled up and away from his teeth, his furry muzzle wrinkling, white teeth showing, and his growl louder, more menacing. 
“I’d stop petting him if I were you,” Rick warned.  It was too late.  It happened so quickly that it barely registered.  I certainly didn’t have time to pull my hand back.  Buckley lunged and snapped.  He got my right hand at the base of my thumb.  It didn’t even hurt right away. 
When I pulled back there was a flap of skin, an almost perfect one inch semi-circle, which was pulled away from my hand.  It didn’t bleed right away.  For just a moment I could gaze into the wound.  It seemed like I could look right in on the muscle.
Then it did bleed.  “Oh man,” Rick said in a soft voice, a scared voice, a voice that said, “I’m glad that I’m not you right now.”  Blood oozed from the round cut.  Then it started to pour.  I held up my hand and a crimson liquid line ran down my forearm to my elbow where it dripped and dripped.  He must have torn through a blood vessel, because the blood was pulsing out.
I looked over at Buckley who was still on his hind legs, still hunched up with his head down low. Still snarling quietly, deeply.  I whirled and kicked that fence as hard as I could right where he was standing.  I was scared.  “You idiot!” I screamed.  Then he barked savagely, dog spit flying.  I knew there was something terribly wrong with him.  

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