After a lengthier, character-based piece like ‘Homeward’, I wanted to do something a bit more free-form, a bit looser, and a completely different world and tone. ‘A Dog’ was written very instinctually, without much consideration for where it would ultimately end up.
A dog lopes up a crisp, green hill, wind in its fur. Feels the cool air on its tongue, dew between its claws. Today is a good day.
It pauses, panting, and looks back down the hillside.
Far below, a small hamlet. A cluster of buildings, tightly wound around cobbled streets. Children run pass a closed school, laughing, clapping. One of them falls, and a toy tumbles into a muddy puddle. The laughter stops.
A merchant trudges by, tugging at a horse that reluctantly fronts a cart that is far too light. The merchant kicks through the puddle, curses this sudden good weather, wonders where it was a few months ago. Tugs harder on the horse, and thinks of the coming night, cool and dark.
From a balcony, a drunkard swirls beer in a large stein, watches the horse disappear down a wide street. The drink is beginning to warm, and this vaguely distracts him from his task. He shakes his head, regains his focus, and drinks again. It’s already been a long day.
Inside, behind the bar, a man tries desperately to calm himself. It’s a struggle – he can’t believe he’s said the things he’s just said, soft and truthful though they might have been. His heart thumps in his chest. He pulls a beer – all foam – and has to start again. He laughs at himself. He hopes that she doesn’t take it all too seriously.
Down the street, around the corner, a woman sits on the stoop of a dying house. Curses her luck. Counts the coins in her pocket, and grins again. Above, the sun is shining, and all good things come to those who wait. She needs a drink. It will taste good today.
Behind the house, an alley. A boy is hunched over, clutching his stomach in pain. He holds up his hand, and in the darkened shadows of the looming buildings he can just make out that it is stained red. How will he explain this?
A police officer waits behind a desk, looking at his gnarled hands, scabbed and cracked. The station is silent, everyone out or working or sleeping or finally keeping quiet. With a heavy heart, the officer picks up a pen, and wishes that someone would say something.
The man standing on a box in the park says a lot of things. He says them loudly, and his heart soars as he realises that people are listening. But he knows, somewhere behind that voice, that he is a lunatic, and that no one should ever pay him any heed at all. He keeps on talking. Because his ideas, oh his ideas, they are sacrosanct.
A woman watches him speak, feels the warmth of the day on the hairs of her neck. Lets the words wash over her. Wonders how anyone could live inside a mind like that – addled and furiously indistinct. But, then, she hears something which takes purchase in the back of her head, and in that moment she realises that they are, all of them, the same in the end.
Three teenage boys leave the park with a plan. The carry with them a bag – the hessian is wriggling and writhing, and they struggle to contain their excitement. They nod and wink and keep silent, each of them hiding their own burden. How they’ve gotten this far, they’ll never know, but right now, there’s no turning back.
Overlooking the park is an old inn, its wooden furnishing polished and shining in the fresh sun. Forty men sit around one such shining table, their brows heavy with decision. One of the men breaks the silence, his chair creaking back as he finally takes a stand. It is the last stand he will ever make.
Downstairs, a woman considers her wide girth as she orders another serving from the kitchen. She looks around, wonders what the other patrons must be thinking of her folly. And then warmth spreads through her, and she realises that she doesn’t care, and that she cannot wait for another bite. Today is a good day.
In the kitchen, a young cook realises his mistake. Bundles up the ruined food, goes for the back door, hoping he won’t be spotted, hoping that he can start again with a fresh chance at success. As he goes for the old wooden bins outside, he spots a skinny cat searching for some sunshine. He looks at his bundle.
A child steps out from underneath the shadows of the village, and considers the wide green field ahead of him, finally starting to dry. In his hands, he clutches a round leather ball. He throws it in the air, and hopes that it will never, ever come down.
Somewhere, someone thinks of their grandfather, and begins to cry.
Somewhere, someone forgets where they are.
Somewhere, someone feels a pang in their breath.
Inside a hessian bag, a bird wonders what it did to possibly deserve this.
From a narrow corner, near by a tavern, a young woman smiles at a recent conversation. Clutches her hand to her breast, and tries not to take it all too seriously.
She looks up to the hills above, and thinks she can see a dog.
Words copyright Matt Vesely. Image copyright David Keen.