Two and Twice Beaten Dogs
(c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2005
The woman never smiled, the dog never wagged - well at least not that outsiders noticed. Everyone gave them a wide berth. It seemed she was able to separate from her skin on will the way she jumped when a sudden noise startled her. Loud voices made her wince and touch made her cringe. The woman lived in a deep well of silence or suffering, apparently anesthesized to the pain. She never looked up and neither did the dog - at least not that outsiders noticed.
Everyone had heard the stories and wondered why no one helped or why it was this way or why she didn't do something about it. There were many opinions on the matter expressed in lingering coffee shop gossip. The mental well being of the woman was often subject to such discussion but not the condition of the man and the lack of support for correction or punishment of his conduct. It was that way because it could be that way - everyone gave their permission. It made you wonder which one of them had the greatest potential to be dangerous. Perhaps they were both dangerous but in very different ways and only towards each other. The real question, which no one asked, was which bitch was going to kill him first. It was the only thing that was a certainty.
She understood that dog and that dog understood her. They were bound those two with the commonality of their experiences at the hands of that man. You don't know what he did to them, one can't tell and the other will never tell. It is too full of shame, fear and doubt. There would never be any words for her to articulate her grievance or describe her state of damage. She was really not much different than the dog.
If you saw them you would notice they way they carried themselves. It is a hung dog look, haunted around the eyes and an aura of wearied sadness. Oh those leave-me-alone eyes with their deep, prideful and silent stare that pled for rescue, relief, release and redemption but beyond asking for help. Wary like a caged owl or a pacing panther with a hatred for being touched or stared at and well sick of this prison. No one could ever show them their worth now. There was no trust left in either of them it was long ago shattered with undelivered overpromises. Neither could put their faith in people. The only love assured for either was their love for each other - that woman and that dog. No one came between them and that brought much grief and misery to that dog for her care and attempts to protect the woman when those hours of darkness descended.
It was a day that came sooner than either the dog or the woman could have thought. As usual the attack was unprovoked, the dog had been outside on its chain when it had started. It was probably lucky for the woman that the door wasn't closed and only the screen door separated the events inside from the dog outside. He had her by the throat , her feet dangling in the air, shoved against the hallway inside the backdoor. The last thing she remembered before blacking out was him screaming "Til death do us part." and the sound of the screen tearing.
It was a strangely peaceful scene. The dog curled protectively around the woman, licking her face trying to revive her. The man dead on the hallway floor, jaw agape and eyes frozen open as cold in death as they had been in life. It is said she fought hard to keep the dog alive. In the end she lost and the powers that be executed her only protector for being an aggressor. People heard that there had been life insurance, enough for a start over somewhere and then she was seen in that place no more.
She did move on, feeling like a failure to herself and to her beloved rescuer because she couldn't return the favour. She bought a very small house in a very small town and a vehicle for very basic transportation. All she desired was to keep to the simple and to herself. She sat on her couch, stared out the window, smoked many cigarettes and thought for a very long time.
A stray dog with haunted eyes and a hungry look happened upon her tiny porch and the woman saw her through the window. The dog didn't know whether to cringe and from her or wag for her. The woman reached for a bowl for some water for the dog. She knew, for the first time in the very long time that she had been sitting on her couch, staring out the window, in her very small house in a very small village, smoking many cigarettes and thinking, that this was what she had been waiting for.