It could have been different

In response to Elizabeth Frattaroli’s writing prompt, here’s my reconstruction of the nasty little scene I witnessed yesterday and that is still trotting in my head.

* * * *

An angry voice shattered the sound of the rain and my concentration.

“Get outta that, I said! You filthy…get over here. Now! Move it!”

A dull thud, a muffled cry, and the violence in the words sent me hurrying to the door. A child? No one would hit a child in public, surely.

In the middle of the street, a young, thin-faced man stood with raised fist. The dull light caught the twisted metal of rings on all his fingers. His other fist gripped a dog lead attached to a cringing, famished-looking dog wearing a muzzle. The fist fell again, and the dog gave a strangled yelp.

“What use are you to me if you don’t even do what I tell you?”

“Stop that,” I said, putting all the severity into my voice that my diminutive aspect would fail to convey, “or I’ll fetch the police.”

He glared at me from the depths of his grimy hoodie. “It’s my fuckin’ stupid dog. I’ll do what I fuckin’ well like with him!”

“Touch him again and I’ll fetch the police,” I repeated. “Give him here, if he’s so useless.”

He glared at me, an interfering woman, standing on the doorstep of her comfortable house, while the rain slid to the edge of his hood and dripped.

“What’s your problem? It’s just a useless mutt.”

“If you don’t want him, I’ll have him,” I insisted. The dog trembled and raised its troubled eyes. That was enough. In a fury he unwound the lead from his wrist and thrust it at me. The fist clenched and darted one last time. The dog closed his eyes and flinched but the muzzle silenced all but a faint whine. Thrusting his hands in his pockets, the man stormed off down the street, his trainers stomping in the puddles.

The dog whimpered and strained after him. I hushed him and pulled gently on the lead, towards the warmth of the house. He looked at me with eyes full of fear and maybe hope. His skinny flanks trembled, but he took a step towards me. My own dog came to the door, curious, wagging his tail. The new dog stepped cautiously over the threshold.

Except it didn’t happen like that. The man in the hoodie started when I opened the door, his raised fist hanging in the air. He lowered it, glaring at me, and instead grabbed the dog by the muzzle and snarled, “Useless fuckin’ animal. You disobey me again and I’ll fuckin’ massacre you.”

He yanked on the lead and as he passed, turned to me with a steady stare, daring me to speak. The dog raised eyes full of hurt and incomprehension to him and, his tail between his legs, followed his lord and master. My own dog came to the door, curious, and barked at the retreating stranger. I closed the door feeling sick with this world full of casual brutality, and my silence. The rain fell harder.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

17 thoughts on “It could have been different”

  1. Hi Jane, wow! This really paints a (horrible) picture and stays with you long after you have read it. I can only imagine what witnessing the real thing must have been like. Thanks for entering and I’m never disappointed in the quality of your writing. Your poem on the subject has equal impact.
    Kind regards,

    1. Thanks Elizabeth. Hopeless young men turning on their famished-looking dogs is getting more and more common. They usually don’t hit them too hard when other people are watching though. I hate to see it, or to know that some dog’s got it coming to him.

      1. Hi Jane. I have just posted the results of the last mini comp on my blog and am pleased to say that your entry came out on top. If you would like to set the next writing prompt for February please just contact me in the usual way and I will notify everyone accordingly.
        Congratulations and thanks again for taking part,

      2. Thank you, Elizabeth! It had slipped my mind completely that the result would be out about now. I was messing about with last minute editing and formatting my book all last week, and the official release was yesterday. It’s all getting a bit much to handle. I need two lives!

        This is a lovely surprise. Thanks again for organizing it, and I’ll get back to you when I’ve had a think about the next prompt. I’ll look over the last months of entries for inspiration.

        Thanks again for making my Sunday.


  2. Great story ,Jane. Tears in my eyes . These ” dogs” need putting down , strangled by their own hoodies. We don’t see a lot of rain where I am, but I can assure you the horrors of ill-treatment of man’s best friend ,are even worse here .

    1. Yes, I know the really bad stories get into the papers here. But in some countries horrible abuse is so common nobody notices. My own dog was saved from a fate worse than death in Spain. Human beings can be the worst species on the planet when they put their minds to it.

    1. Thank you. I agree about the format, it isn’t the easiest to read. If I could have found a black on white theme with the same options I would have gone for that. Still, the black background sets the pictures off well.

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