Tuesday, October 7, 2014

In the Letting Go {Part 2}

{This is part 2 of a story I began yesterday in my 31 Days of Surprise Endings} 
Our mothers, who worried about silly things like veterinarians and vaccinations, did not like the way we played with the puppies, letting them writhe on us and lick us and scratch our arms.  They mentioned silly things like "worms" and "rabies."  The issue of worms did concern me slightly, but rabies did not, for by then I had seen plenty of rabid dogs and knew the gaunt, hunched bodies with the ribs that showed through their skin like treacherous canyons, the haggard expressions and glazed eyes and foaming mouths.  It was true that the mother of the litter was not kind.  She never approached us as we played with her puppies and regarded us with a malicious gleam in her eye as she stood about ten feet away.  But still, I was almost ten.  That meant I knew enough to be smart about things, and I knew Mom, as she was always saying to me, worried too much.
Then one night, I needed to use the bathroom.  I tiptoed over the sleeping bodies of my sisters and cousins and quietly let myself out the door.  A lone light bulb was attached precariously to the wall above the stairs, and I saw that the puppies’ mother and another dog I recognized as being a regular visitor were stretched across the steps.  It didn't occur to me to be afraid.  I descended the stairs, and as I approached, the dogs lumbered off toward the garden.  
At this point, I had a choice to make: should I wake up my parents and use their bathroom, or should I use the outhouse?  I knew it wouldn't make them overly happy, but I went with waking up my parents.  There was no light in the outhouse, and though the moon was out and shining brightly, it wasn't enough to convince me that nothing sinister would be lurking in the corners.
My dad stumbled to the door in his boxers, half awake after my knock.  
"I need to use the bathroom," I told him as he sleepily scratched his back with one hand.
"Right.  Yeah.  Come on in."  
I bid hello to my mother, did my business, said goodnight to both parents, and left.  When I returned to the stairs I noticed that the two large dogs had returned to their stations.  They lifted their heads as I approached.
"Hi," I said, in my most friendly tone.  As I set my foot on the bottom step, though, the dogs' mouths curled above their teeth, and I heard a vicious growl.
"It's okay, you know me," I said in my most pacifying tone, placing a foot on the second step.  The dogs stood, their growls becoming louder, and the hair on their backs stood completely upright.  
It was at this point that I began to believe I should not continue up the stairs.  
Mom had always said you should never run from a dog.  But in that split second when I realized the dogs had started down the stairs towards me, and I decided to disobey her.  I pivoted and ran as fast as I could.
I had no idea how far away the dogs were, but since we had started with only a few feet between us, and since their snarls and barks seemed to be right in my ears, I guessed they were at my heels.  
Although I didn't realize it until later, when it occurred to me that I was nearly hoarse, I had started screaming as soon as I started running, and it probably saved my life.  The door to my parents' room flew open, and Dad stood at the doorway, a superhero in boxer shorts.  His expression of puzzlement way quickly gave way to one of grave concern.  I raced past him and he slammed the door behind me, pushing it against the open jaws of the two dogs. 
For several moments, I clung to my father, crying, gasping, shaking, and coughing.  I knew I was safe then, but I couldn’t stop shaking.
We didn't play with the puppies after that.  Yaqoob and his wife assured us that the dogs weren’t rabid, they'd had shots, and the attack was brought on because Yaqoob had been sick to his stomach that night and his trips to the outhouse had unsettled the animals.  
But it dawned in me then that Mom didn't really worry too much.  She was actually wise -- very wise -- and doing her best to impart her wisdom.  And she prayed a whole lot -- which, as surprising as it may have been, I actually needed.  You might even say I needed it desperately.  
And also, as it turned out, there was nothing more beautiful than my dad, hair wildly askew and standing in his boxer shorts, his arms open for me, when the scariest thing in the world just then was right at my heels.

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