Monday, September 24, 2012

Murdoch and the black truck

We are on the dusty road, white and dry again even after a downpour of rain the other night that sounded a thunderous ovation on our roof and clattered down through the trees. It is hot in the sun, so different from the cool of the shade in the forest that opens up your lungs as if for the first time.

Murdoch hurries along beside me as we head for the trail at the end of the road. I am on the verge of speed walking, trying to find a balance between his headlong rush through life and my insistence that he does not pull off my arm.

It has been too many days since we’ve been up the trail. It will be soppy and squelchy with mud even as dust hangs over the road. Murdoch has had to put his needs aside for Bear lately. It does not come easily to him, this thinking of the welfare, the happiness, of others. I cannot leave Bear behind in her eagerness to play, so we’ve done the short walks through the woods, looping up and around, playing a bit of stick, and then back to the house. These long walks have been missed by us both.

Our feet crunch steadily over gravel, my eyes focus on the spot where the road narrows in to the trail far ahead, the stark white of the road beneath the sun giving way to the darker shadows of the tree-lined path. From this distance it is almost a mirage, a mythical destination, a safe zone, because on the road we are exposed, Murdoch and I, to the very real possibility of cars and people and things that make Murdoch’s head spin and usually result in me being dragged to the ground. I focus on that darker spot ahead where the trail begins and I walk a little faster, imagine us already there.

And then the black truck turns out of the last driveway on the road, right where the trail begins. It is tiny from this distance, but the chrome grill flashes in the sun, a plume of dust blooms behind it as the engine revs, Murdoch is already walking taller, stiffened.

The familiar feeling of panic, frustration and anger clash in my chest and before I can even form my next thought I make a hard right, haul Murdoch with me off the road and around the edge of a large gray metal gate, overgrown with weeds and attached with a twist of metal wire to a t-bar hammered securely into the rocky ground. It is an entrance into our neighbours’ property, a gate designed for the passage of vehicles but the trail behind has long been used for walking. Murdoch and I have accompanied Jack a few times along the cool, twisting trail that ends at a sprawling beaver pond.

I am relieved our timing today brought us even with that gate just as the black truck appeared. That truck that makes my stomach flip over and my heart deflate every time I see it. We are destined to collide, the black truck and I. But it’s all Murdoch’s fault of course. I have lost track of the number of times Murdoch has pulled me off my feet when that truck rolls by. One of our first encounters was four winters ago when I lost my footing and got dragged along the snow-covered road on my knees, clinging desperately to the leash as Murdoch – not even full-grown then – bounded after the truck.

Since then it’s as if the universe has developed a rather sick sense of humour about the whole thing because it doesn’t seem to matter when we leave for our walk almost every time we’re on that road the truck appears as if it was lying in wait, its grill flashing that frozen grin, the sound of its engine turning my stomach to stone, its very presence inciting Murdoch into some Tazmanian Devil-like creature and causing me to become a being of pure, unfocused, adrenaline. It is not relaxing.

There are days when I think that truck is out to get us, determined to push my sanity over the edge. Then there are others where I imagine the truck sagging beneath a groan at the sight of us. As it bears down I can almost feel the truck wishing it could disappear, casting about for an escape. But mostly I imagine it getting a kick out of imposing chaos and I am overcome with an irrational anger when it appears as though it has no right to be on the road in the first place.

So this day I outsmarted that truck, and as we disappear around the first turn in the woods, it trundles by on the road and Murdoch twists around to look but the only thing to see is dust rising up amongst the trees and I suppress a giddy laugh that threatens to bubble out of me like some crazy thing and I think, “Not today truck. Not today.”


  1. Heather, I'm sorry that you keep meeting this nemesis of a truck, but I just have to tell you ... your writing is amazing!