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.