The leash lengthened and the puppy started to prance around the yard. I was so excited – I never got to do anything like this before – be in charge of something that was alive.
I’d tried many times over to help my mama with my baby brother. But, she didn’t need me to clean out his nose with a q-tip. We ended up a mass of soggy flesh and damp clothes when I tried my hand at wrangling him out of a dirty diaper and into a clean one – pre-paper diaper. As my own live baby doll he wasn’t very cooperative.
The heat fell like a blanket on the trailer park that late August Saturday afternoon –it was the kind of late day sun that made the tin roofs of the trailers pop – like when Daddy popped the top off a Pabst Blue Ribbon after work.
I spent most of my waking hours barefoot – my berry colored feet were ashen after all of the circles I turned in the needley grass that day following that puppy around. I didn’t care how hot it was – my hair was pulled back in a tight pony tail and what wouldn’t stay back was plastered to my forehead and neck. My cheeks were red and my mouth was dry but I was so happy – getting to be in charge. I didn’t want to let go – not for pop or popsicles or a rest in the shade.
I had been warned several times to pay attention, make sure I didn’t let go of the leash, stay in the yard. “Be careful – don’t let the puppy run out into the street and get hit by a car,” was one of the last things I can remember my mama saying to me that afternoon. I was a fairly rule abiding youngster – there is no way that I would run out into the road and into the path of an oncoming vehicle. And my mama knew that much too. She had also expressed some doubt about letting me free in the yard with the puppy. We didn’t have puppies, or kittens or anything that was alive but the people.
The adults found shade and chattered – keeping half an eye on me while I skittered around behind the puppy – leash in one hand, red balloon in the other.
It became one of those days – a day I will always remember but one that it will take decades to determine why the memory stayed so long.
It started as a low rumble coming from the top of the street – the silver car was barreling down our gravel road too fast – kicking up rocks and exciting puppies.
About the time everyone realized a car was coming down the road, going at a faster clip than was allowable in our little park, it was too late to stop what was going to happen next.
I know it all happened fast – the car came, the puppy ran toward the road, I let go . . .
All of those reasons for being careful materialized in a flash before my eyes– while I watched the puppy tumble under the tires of that car and then lay life-less in the road.
And I knew from that moment on – not being careful enough, cautious enough, strong enough, good enough could have disastrous results.