September 28

World Rabies Day

 

Maia hated walking down Crisfield Road, but it was the most direct route home after her shift at the diner.  The white house with the red shutters was the problem, and the dog that essentially ran loose in the yard all hours of the day and night.

Could she blame the owners?  They certainly wouldn’t want that dreadful beast inside their home while they ate meals or relaxed in front of the television.  While they slept.

The large Doberman prowled back and forth on its property, daring anyone to walk near.  Maia always stayed on the opposite side of the street, trying not to attract the dog’s attention.  Maybe one evening the animal would ignore her, would let her pass without a bark or snarl or lunge at the fence.  It must get tired of the same old game of terrorizing her.  It had to rest sometime.

That fence never seemed sufficient as a barrier.  The dog stood tall, its leg muscles ready for a bound over the short hurdle, or an angry head-butt splintering one of the posts and the animal’s snout squeezing through the fresh gap, the head forcing through, then the body, and the dog bounding across the street, jaws snapping, and Maia running, running, but never fast enough.

Well, she was spared that level of terror, at least.  Some strange sense of propriety kept the Doberman within the fenced yard…but still he would bark and leap and scratch threats, as soon as Maia entered the block, and she’d run-walk past the house, keep going while growls and gnashing of canine teeth accompanied her footsteps.

Tonight would be no different, she was sure.  She braced herself before she reached the central block of Crisfield.  Maia considered, as she always did, taking the next street over — even though it detoured awkwardly in the wrong direction, and the evenings had started getting darker — then told herself she wouldn’t let the animal beat her, that he always stayed in the yard, and it was just bluster and noise, all bark, all bark, all bark.

She crossed the intersection, saw the white house and red shutters in the distance, and began her usual brisk walk.

And the street was unusually silent.  Maybe she’d finally get her wish, and the dog would be resting in the yard, with no appetite to frighten her.  Or even her secret shameful wish, that the dog had died from some canine disease:  something awful transmitted from a flea or a tick, or a ringworm destroying his digestive tract.  Rabies, maybe.

She kept walking, and still no sound from the house — even when she passed directly across the street from it.  Maia examined the yard, tried from across the street to look through the slats of the fence.  She saw no Doberman shape, either sleeping or following its usual back-and-forth patrol.

Maia let out a sigh of relief, and kept walking past the house.  She nearly reached the end of the block without incident.

Then from behind her, on her side of the street, she heard a familiar growl…

 

[…continued tomorrow…]