Saturday, January 10, 2009

Riddled with guilt

** Writer's note: upsetting post

When I'm out and about and see an animal in potential danger, I stop. I've moved turtles off to the side of highways, corralled loose dogs and called their owners, etc. 

So that's what went through my mind as I approached my house tonight after work. It was dark, and a car was coming from the other direction on my road - a relatively major thoroughfare, with speeds of 55+ mph. Right in front of my driveway, that other driver did something - swerved or slowed down - that drew my attention to... holy cow - there's a black dog right in the middle of the road!

No, I did not hit the dog - I was only going like 15 or 20 mph as I slowed to make the turn into my driveway. I passed the dog and saw it was eating road kill. I had to stop to let the other car pass before turning, and the dog looked right at me, then returned its focus to the dead animal (rabbit, I think). There are a few loose dogs that roam the neighborhood, and I recognized it as one of those; I wasn't sure who owned it.

I drove up the driveway and into my garage, and got ready to go out to the road to coax the dog into my driveway and out of danger. Wait, I thought - even with the full moon, I won't be able to read its tags without a flashlight. I'll grab the one out of the back of the car. So I spent a few moments digging around for, and not finding, the flashlight.

I gave up and walked out of the garage, and got about 10 steps down the driveway when... Oh my God, there's a truck coming really fast... it's not slowing down... I can't look.

There was a crash. The pickup truck kept going into the night. I knew, right away, that the dog was dead. The total silence - no yelps of pain, no whimpering - confirmed it. In the immediate aftermath, I couldn't bring myself to look at the scene.

Twenty, maybe 30 seconds, and I would have had that dog out of harm's way! If I hadn't looked for that flashlight! If I hadn't stopped for a burger on the way home! 

My head was spinning. I started shaking. I was on the cusp of hyperventilating. Still outside, I called my dad and asked him what I should do. I called the sheriff and reported it, and they said someone would stop by. All the while, I could hear other cars, maybe three or four, hitting the dog.

I went in and saw my own dog, tail whipping against the side of her crate, whimpering and barking, waiting to greet me. She needed to go out. I walked lock-step with her as she did her business, and got her back in the house ASAP.

I realized that when I called the sheriff, I had not actually seen that the dog was dead. So I steeled myself up, grabbed the house flashlight and gingerly made my way out to the road. It was about 50 feet down the road, mostly off to the side.

My neighbors across the street have a dog I've heard and never seen; they keep it in the back. I was almost certain it was NOT theirs, but I didn't know for sure, so I knocked on their door. It was after 10 p.m., but the lights were on and I figured they'd wonder about the sheriff's car anyway. It was not their dog. Two more cars hit the dog as I talked to them. It was night, the dog was black... I guess I can't blame them.

About 10 minutes later the sheriff came out. He looked, and there was no collar. He said someone would be by to pick up the body on Monday. It will have to sit out there all day Sunday.

I thanked him for stopping, and felt a bit childish for not being able to look for the tags myself.

I went back in the house. I thought about the times I'd seen this dog, and became pretty certain which home it belonged to. I don't know for sure, but I think the owners are the same people who had another dog, a yellow one, that got hit in front of my house one evening last summer. That dog, miraculously, survived - in part because I drove it to the vet. Its owner had been drinking and was too drunk to drive, so she frantically asked me to chauffeur the both of them into town.

So then I was getting angry. Those idiots! Didn't they learn their lesson? Didn't the sight of their one dog, trailing a mangled back leg last summer as we hustled it in to the vet's office, teach them anything? Apparently not. And, both times, I've been forced into dealing with the aftermath.

It was after 10:30. There was no way I was knocking on that home's door at this hour, given that kind of news and given that I wasn't 100 percent sure it was their dog. There was nothing else I could do.

I flopped down on the recliner, turned on Saturday Night Live (I needed something to laugh at, and, fortunately, it delivered this week), and petted the dog as she rested her head on the arm of the chair. After a while, I got down on the floor, and gave her a hug as she leaned her weight against me. I told her she was a good dog, as the sound of cars passing outside gave me chills.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Shooting pool

When I was maybe 6 or 7, my family acquired a pool table that got set up in the basement. It was an old, full-sized table, and I remember it having collapsible legs - basically, it was the pool table surface on top of two narrow, full-width-of-the-table rectangle "legs." I also remember being warned of, or being scared of (or both) it collapsing suddenly, so we were not supposed to go under it.

It converted into a ping-pong table, too. After a couple years, the basement was remodeled, and the pool table, sadly, was scrapped.

Outside of the home set-up, my first memory of pool tables was when I was maybe 8 or 9. My family was visiting my aunt and uncle in northern Wisconsin, and we went out to dinner at a bar / restaurant in a little settlement called Cayuga, along Highway 13. It was a local hangout, and there were pool tables, so we started playing. I was given the chance to break the rack to start the game, and I promptly launched the cue ball up and off the table, and it made (in my recollection) a huge crack as it smacked the floor.

I remember lots of people looking to see what was going on. I remember being kind of mortified. I don't remember much else.

Dreaming, Vol. 3

Last night's dream:

I was living in a dorm or apartment building of some kind. The building had a big, open common room where there were couches and ping-pong tables, and where the mailboxes were located.

For some reason, I had placed a bunch of possessions on one of the couches and was going back and forth between the my room and the common area. Maybe I was moving in or out.

I went to place some letters in the outgoing mail slot, and then gathered up some of the things on the couch. Another guy I didn't know was there, and he glanced at me, then picked up my sleeping bag (the really good one I have in real life) and started walking away. I thought that he thought that these were someone else's things, and that we both were making off with some loot.

"Hey, put that down. Are you trying to steal that?" I yelled.

He put it down, and kind of hurriedly moved away. There were others in the room, and I called out to them that the guy had just tried to steal my stuff.

That's all I remember.


After waking up, I felt kind of bad. I wondered if the unknown guy had been trying to help me carry the stuff to wherever it was I was going. I had just assumed he was stealing.

Should I feel guilty for rushing to judgment on someone who doesn't exist?

Power outage

The power went off tonight, somewhere around 6 p.m.

I'm obsessive about power surges ruining my computer - even though I use a protective power strip, I unplug even that when I'm not using the computer - so the fact that everything flicked off when I was online caused me immediate concern.

My house is in some disarray, but fortunately I remembered that I still had my winter storm survival pack assembled - and it contained a headlamp. I dug it out, checked around the house (the dog got scared and left the comfort of the recliner for the cocoon-like safety of her crate), and then did about the only thing I could do - bury myself under some blankets, turn on the battery-powered radio and read by the light of the headlamp.

I thought about how much my life requires electricity - especially in winter. No power means no heat (the furnace and space heaters are all I've got), no water (the well requires electricity, though I always keep some pitchers / jugs filled for these situations), no cooking. I think I can manually open the garage door, but even that would require some figuring out because it's attached to an automatic opener. At least my neighbors have a fireplace that can heat their house, so I know I wouldn't freeze in a prolonged power outage - though my house's pipes would.

After maybe 15 minutes, the power came back on... and a couple minutes later, it went off again. Another 15 minutes and it came back. It's been hours now, and no further issues.

I'm not sure what caused the outage - no snow today, relatively warm weather. In any case, the house is warm, the dog is back on the recliner and the computer seems to be fine.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


I did a bad thing a year or so ago.

I watched "Duel."

Stepping back for a moment, I am a person who has issues with horror or suspense movies. It's not that I'm scared. Actually, if I watch one, I usually enjoy it. It's just that sometimes the disturbing characters and images contained within those films kind of stick with me, and, say, pop into my mind as I head into the dark basement.

So, "Duel."

Screenshot of the truck from "Duel" (image from Wikipedia)

I had heard of the movie before. Released in 1971, it was Steven Spielberg's first feature film. The basic premise is a man driving on a remote stretch of highway in the Desert Southwest gets into an ongoing brouhaha with an ominous, unseen tanker-truck driver (you see the truck, not the driver). The unseen truck driver keeps trying to kill him.

I caught it while flipping through channels, and proceeded to watch the whole movie. It was a good thriller. But then tonight, as I was driving home from work, it came back to me.

I was about to turn up Mesaba Avenue when a plain, unmarked semi came barreling up the boulevard. It was kind of jarring, because you don't often see full-size semis tearing up Mesaba, and because it was 1 a.m.

The truck had to stop at the next light, and I passed it in the left lane after the light turned green. I saw it in the rear-view mirror - anonymous, big... and "Duel" popped into my mind.

I found myself driving kind of fast, and actually felt a bit of relief when I made it through the light at Mesaba and Central Entrance - and watched it turn red before that truck could get through. I was safe... from what, I'm not quite sure.