Here it is, finally, another instalment of the Freddie Monologues. Hoping to catch up on my Writerly Aspirations by the end of December. Only six more to go, woohoo!
The Jade Writer Girl.
The Freddie Monologues
The cry of cicadas is both a warning and a memory. Every year they bring with them the nostalgia of Christmas. Emerging on the curtails of a dry heavy heat to become a daily backdrop of ordinary outdoor life.
They form a symphony. A constant rhythm to match to and as they weave their chirruping lullaby I beat a steady drumbeat with the pounding of my feet.
The warm bitumen is hard and unrelenting, and I make sure to stick to the outer edge of the path, delegating my companion to the soft, cool, narrow strip of grass beside me.
He lopes with ease, four feet instead two, a tongue lolling and unapologetically silent. He senses me watching and shoots me a wide-eyed smile.
Together we run.
We run from our problems. Four legged and two.
We run from people. Aggressive and neglectful.
We run from the noise. The constant hum of voices that neither of us can contribute to. Communication isn’t our strong suit, which makes us well paired.
That’s not to say we cannot talk.
His long snout lifts twice, scenting the air, before he shifts his head slightly in one direction. Without pause, without breath, without hesitation, I follow his nose. The soft, light handle of the lead may be curled around my wrist, but for the most part, he determines the direction we take.
I tilt my body slightly to the left as we jog around the corner. We’ve only been gone fifteen minutes, and yet he leads me with ease down several streets, somehow knowing the way back, telling me, in his own way, that’s he’s had enough. At least for today.
Besides, I’ll be back tomorrow.
Panting, our footsteps echo up the pathway as we near the small building he—for now—calls home.
Sweat clings to my back, breaking out over my forehead and neck as we slow to a more reasonable pace. My heart hammers, and I ease my breathing to slow it down.
My companion slows to a jaunty trot, pleased but not puffed. I shake my head and head up the path toward the back of the building.
As we enter into cool, relieving air conditioning, a cacophony of voices greet us. Michael glances up from his computer at the back desk and gives me a slight nod.
‘All done for the day, then?’ he says, pushing himself up off his chair to let me through the buzzer door. ‘You know, you don’t have to run them all every afternoon. It’s not like we pay you.’
I shrug, unclip the lead from a thin chain collar and wind it around my fist. Michael watches me, his face questioning. He opens his mouth, reconsiders, and shakes his head.
‘Your choice I suppose,’ he mutters and returns to his seat.
He doesn’t attempt to help me take the dog back in and I’m glad.
Obediently, I am followed back into the long row of dog pens. They are only half full, but half is still too many. Too many for the two volunteers who run the shelter to handle.
I open one of the doors and gesture inside. The dog pads through without resistance and flops gracelessly to the ground.
As I’m filling his water the back door slams and I hear Michael curse followed by a loud, aggressive snarl.
Barking erupts a moment later.
Before the dogs in the hallway can loose their cool, I close the door to the pen and head on out back, slipping through the buzzer door as quietly as I can manage. No need to set them all off after I’d just finished wearing them all out.
Michael and Susan are wrestling with a blur.
That’s all it is at first because Michael and Susan are too busy grappling over it for me to see.
Despite that, I see the accident before it happens. Susan looses her hold on the lead, stumbles, and slips. Michael curses, grabbing at the dog that is too quick. Without thinking I step in to intervene.
I snatch the slack lead from Susan’s hand with one hand, while reaching into my pocket with the other.
Before the dog can launch itself at Susan’s face, I jam my closed fist in front of it’s nose. It goes still and I get a decent look at it.
Steel blue, white socks, torn ear and decently scarred from the looks of it’s frantically sniffing snout.
I raise my fist up and, like always, the dog’s nose follows, takes two steps backwards before settling back on thick, muscled haunches. I grin and open my palm flat, letting the dog gobble up the dried kangaroo meat. A sticky trail of slobber replaces the treat on my palm. I snort and wipe my hand on my shorts.
‘Thanks, Freddie,’ Susan gasps, struggling to her feet. ‘I haven’t been able to get her that still since I picked her up.’
‘Bloody pitbulls,’ Michael scowls. ‘You should’ve just told them we can’t take her. We’re full as it is and anyway, we don’t take the dangerous breeds.’
A low growl starts up and I shoot Michael a swift glare as I crouch down in front of the girl. I reach into my pocket and produce more kangaroo meat and she goes still again. Her ears perk, her head tilts, and she snuffles at my fist, giving my fingers a light nibble as she tries to access the source of that sweet, sweet scent.
The lead is standard capture. A loop that can be tightened once around a stray’s neck and right now it’s far too tight. As she scoffs another strip of meat, I work my fingers under the collar and loosen it off a bit. She’s too distracted to pay me much mind, and I use that opportunity to run my hand down across her back.
It’s clear she’s been in a few scraps and tousles, but I’d seen worse on guard dogs at truck yards. Not a fighter, then. At the very least she hadn’t been bred for it, anyway.
Susan and Michael are already arguing, and as their voices raise and the prospects of treats diminish, the girl’s ears go flat. Her eyes are wide and she looks up at the two humans with tense muscles around her face. Her hackles go up, and a low whine forms in her throat.
Whoever said dogs can’t talk is an idiot.
I leave her sitting where she is, dropping another two treats in front of her paws as I go searching for the spare collars.
Deep brown eyes glance nervously at my face as I crouch back down in front of her and let her sniff the collar. She’s a mix-breed, one of the mid-sized bullies, but from the looks of her leg muscles that’s not going to matter much.
I fix the collar around her neck and pull the running lead from my other pocket.
Michael and Susan are still too busy arguing to notice. The girl’s nose is good, and she’s sniffing at my pockets, her ears still pinned back but her eyes focused on the prize as we walk to the back door. I pause, wondering if I should get their attention.
My eye catches sight of Susan’s bag and I grin.
Outside the ground thuds beneath my feet as I ease into a steady jog. The afternoon is cooling, but still warm enough to make me sweat within moments. As we run, the tension and unease rolls off the dog, and I feel my own, worn out legs settle into a steady, reliable rhythm.
This is easy. This is simple. This is instinct.
We take the left turn, heading out onto the main street and as she relaxes into the run her beauty shines through. Even with the bright yellow sash I’ve tied around her middle sprayed with a logo and large, black letters.
Shelter dog, needs adopting.