Marg McHugh

Title: Monday at 5.15pm

Medium: Creative non-fiction

Other Details:
Both the woman and the dog in this chance encounter inspired and motivated me to write this short short story.

Monday at 5.15pm

I wait on the side of a road for a break in traffic. Heat and humidity slap my body after a day serving in the airconditioned art shop in Nowra. On the other side of the road a nuggety, stationary figure holds a lead attached to a tan, medium sized dog. Extended forward from her other hand is a white cane with a ball shaped end. A traffic break comes. I stride out, a box of cat food wedged under one arm. The stranger and I greet each other as if she were waiting for me.                                                                                                               

We talk a little before she says: ’I had a cat when I was a girl. About eight. It moved onto my bed to sleep at night and soon it was sharing my pillow. I tossed and turned as you do when you’re a child. If I took up too much space on the bed the cat would gently prod me to move back over my side. It didn’t scratch me, just nudged me with its paw.’

We laugh and I tell her a little about my eighteen-year-old tabby.

‘I called her Tayla because her tail sweeps up from her tailbone and returns, underside up, along her spine.’

The dog patiently stands.

‘You’re a good dog,’ I say. ‘Look how handsome you are, with your beautiful fur and lovely hazel eyes.’

‘This is my first dog,’ my conversational companion says. ‘I got him after I retired.’

The dog casts a momentary snout in my direction and then moves away from us into some shade.

‘A neighbour suggested to me that I should get a dog,’ she says. ‘We went backwards and forwards to the pound until one day I saw him and said he was the one. I didn’t know he was a kelpie. He’s very smart. One day we were walking over near the highway where they’re doing the roadworks and all of a sudden he started dragging me up an embankment. Hauling me. And then this truck was there, mounting the grass toward us. Three wheels were over the kerb and then the fourth wheel got caught. If he hadn’t pulled me and the truck hadn’t got stuck then it would have run over us.’

We acknowledge a universal force at work in her escape.

‘And then another time I was coming to the south side of the Nowra bridge. When there were some trees there. And he started pulling and pulling me along. And there was a crack and I felt the leafy end of a branch stroke down my back.’

‘Wow. He knew. He sure is a clever dog.’

We conclude our exchange with our names. Robbie is the dog.

‘If I see you again I’ll say hello,’ I say.

‘Yes do that. And say your name. I can’t see much but if you say your name I’ll remember.’

The compact figure that crosses the road is a work-hardened life enriched by experience. Robbie unfurls the lead as he sniffs forward. A striking couple.

Marg McHugh

19 January 2021