Monday, June 09, 2014

A Little Something

Keith stood alone on the waterfront. The lagoon stretched out before him, lovely and shimmering in the evening breeze. The sun had gone down a bit earlier. The sky was a dull orange rapidly turning purple. A flock of sea gulls were resting some ways from him. Keith searched the rocky bank of the lagoon, looking for something.

He had been working late hours pretty much all of last month. Tomorrow he would present his findings. He felt weary. What he had for tomorrow didn't seem like good enough. How was his new boss going to take this, he wondered for the umpteenth time. God knows, he was trying! An involuntary sigh escaped him. It is what it is. He purposefully started running. He would run up to the Mariner Point, a good three miles, and then back. That was his routine. A sea gull started to glide on the skies next to him.

Keith loved his jogging. This unstructured bit of solitude gave him the opportunity to brood aimlessly. The exercise helped him unwind. He never felt lonely in this desolate windy patch he ran every evening. He felt comfortable in his skin as he jogged, enjoying the rhythm of his own gait. It was a special feeling. But today he was a bit uneasy from the start.

From a distance, he saw some boys fishing in the lagoon. As he passed them, he thought he recognized some trout lined up near the water. Keith never liked the artificial blue they added to the lagoon to keep the algae growth down. He mused dubitably about the catch. He did like trout. His wife would love a fresh catch if he were to take these home. Those boys would be too happy to sell, he knew. But he went past the boys and kept jogging. Maybe on his way back if they were still there.

Suddenly he thought of Luce. Luce Dickson would know how to position his case for tomorrow. She always had the right words. Maybe he should invite her to the meeting to back him up if need be. Should he call her now or perhaps after he gets back? Will that be too late in the evening? As he continued to muse on these lines, something pounced at him from the dark. Keith did not know what hit him.

A medium sized black dog, also on its evening exercise, had jumped up at him. He hadn’t seen it coming in the dark. Keith stumbled and fell to the ground. As he had been jogging pretty vigorously, the momentum from the fall hurt him quite a bit. But he was numb to that pain. Keith was acutely afraid of dogs since an ugly incident when he was four. It had gotten better with age, but never went away. Thrust upon him thus, he was back in his childhood in that moment. He began to sweat profusely and froze up with terror. He lost his voice and could not cry out for help. As he stared at the sparkling eyes of his attacker with bared saliva clad gums and teeth, nausea filled his mouth. And then, the dog was off him as suddenly as it was on. A sea gull had poked the dog and it was off shooing at the new target. Keith watched the gull brave the dog and draw it away helplessly from the ground. Few feathers and drops of blood hit him as the dog snapped at parts of the bird he could reach.

The owner had spotted the commotion and came running toward his charge. The gull was able to fly away safely. The man apologized to a trembling Keith. His dog was apparently trying to play with Keith, seeing him jogging away. It’s the dog thing to do. Keith felt too drained to be angry and just wished the master and his monster departed soon. Slowly he rose and retched. He drank from his little bottle of water that he always carried. He rested a few moments. He pulled out his phone and dialed Luce. He tried to distract himself from the hideous few moments of the past by thinking of business. Why hadn't he thought of Luce before? Luce and Keith spoke for some time. He felt better afterward. He finished the remainder of his jogging mostly in a slow trot, but in relative peace, resigned to whatever was in store for him. The trout was of course wholly forgotten. .

He stood a moment gazing at the now dark rippling waters, back at the spot from where he'd begun. A half smile broke on his face. A sea gull was homing in on its favorite rock. Keith watched it with gratefulness and satisfaction. Keith wouldn’t discuss the encounter with the dog with anyone. He was rather embarrassed of his affliction. A bird, perhaps this very one, had saved him tonight. It had become a habit for Keith to watch this particular one perched on that very rock, every evening. It had bothered him to find it missing earlier today. Keith stood looking at it, trying to spot the broken feathers or other signs of struggle. He couldn’t really tell. He took a moment to look into its eyes in the dark. The bird seemed to stare back in silent greeting. Keith felt his heaviness lift. It was going to be alright tomorrow.