The accident [revisited]


An early evening sky redolent with smoke and the sun’s reddish pall greet Wade when he leaves the library, and there it is, immediately, without warning or preamble, a pedestrian on the far side of the lawn near the physics building bent over and beating a dog (presumably his own, though there is no justification for Wade’s assumption) with closed fists, as if it were an enemy or threat, as if the man—no older than Wade but certainly not younger—must beat the dog to defend himself from it, as if the dog had attacked him and the man has no other choice but to become the aggressor, he has no other option than to punch the dog in its head, repeatedly, right fist after thundering right fist into the dog’s neck and body, the man’s left hand tugging on the leash tethered about the animal’s neck to keep it from fleeing but also to maneuver or situate the dog’s head for a more suitable location for the next blow. Wade doesn’t understand at first, he thinks he’s hallucinating, he shakes his head and stares at the man beating the dog and he walks toward the event, for that’s what it has become for him, an event, equal to any other catastrophe or unexplainable episode of violence he’s experienced in his forty years. It can’t be, he thinks, walking across the lawn toward the man and the whimpering animal, it can’t be, I’m seeing things, my mind is playing tricks on me, it can’t be a man beating a dog—again, presumably his own—they must be playing with each other, rough-housing, wrestling on the grass, performing some type of esoteric ritual or physical exercise, so intimate must be their companionship. Confused, Wade ambles over pale grass covered in goose shit, and something’s happening in Wade’s brain, the event before him has triggered unfamiliar and uncommon neural activity and Wade’s thinking it must be the odd copper glaze of the sun over everything, it’s the light and it’s the heat playing with his mind. Closer he approaches the man and dog and his mind confirms what his eyes see, it is indeed a man beating a dog with the full bearing of his right arm and with a stifled yelp the dog ceases its squirming and slumps on the ground unconscious, still and incapable of either fighting back or fleeing, perhaps even dead. This man just beat that dog to death! Wade says aloud, his voice a whisper or slightly more than an exhale, and the man, grunting and heaving short barks of his own, his eyes nightmarishly wide and focused down on his target, continues to pummel the animal’s head, the blows a bit more spread apart now as the man wearies, the dog’s body absorbing each rhythmic blast. The man suddenly registers Wade’s presence and stops beating the animal to stand erect, his chest heaving with exertion. He sees Wade and stands with fists down at his sides but still clenched, he says to Wade smiling but with his eyes mad, Fucking animals!

Wade feels the liquid-electric spasm originate somewhere in his neck or at the base of the skull and shoot down through the shoulder blades toward the small of the back and reach the pelvis all at once and then he collapses face-first onto the lawn, eyes wide, the right side of his mouth pulled back in a tight rictus, surreal and garish. Wade’s spine snaps audibly straight and his hands crack into claws and he convulses from each muscle in his body all at once, or so thinks the dog-beater, bending down to assist Wade as he lay facedown. Mister? the man says. A redbird overhead circles about the incident peering down indifferently and then the bird tires of the scene and shits mid-air to fly westward into the receding light.

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