Short Stories

A CHANCE ENCOUNTER

Stay Alert.   Stay Apart.   Stay Safe.

            We have been bombarded by these words for months now. Life as we knew it is no more. Suspicion lurks all around us as we go about our daily business. Is it you? Is it him or her? We are distrustful of everybody and the fact that we no longer smile as we pass each other because our smiles are hiding behind masks, is not helpful.

Living alone has never been an issue for me, in fact, I enjoy my own company. I do not have a spouse – well; I, but that is a story for another time – and I have no children. Zooming with my workmates is not quite the same as catching up for a coffee or a drink after work. It is depressing, and I am depressed.

We are being advised to keep exercising so today I am going to the park. My joggers have not had a workout for a while.  After squeezing my buttocks, which have increased in size after all the baking, into leggings, I tie my laces, place a couple of biscuits and a bottle of water into my backpack and skip down the front steps and out onto the footpath.

It is a beautiful winter’s day. Clear blue sky with just a few white, fluffy clouds and a slight breeze. The park is busy with joggers, walkers, cyclists, and others relaxing on the park benches. I choose a spot under one large Casuarina in a grove, sit down and lean back against the trunk, listening to the trees whispering above me.

On the grassy knoll further down, I watch a group of children tumbling and rumbling as their mothers sit, coffee cups in hand, a ‘social distance’ apart. There is no distancing for these children! My head is tilted upwards and the warmth of the sun is soon causing my eyelids to droop, and I feel myself drifting.

A hot, panting breath on my neck and in my ear startles me awake! With a pounding heart rate, I turn to look into a pair of molten black eyes. I reach out and run my fingers through his curly brown hair and it is then he wags his tail.

“Hello,” I say, “where have you come from?”

Working my hand around his neck, I search for a collar or tag without success. He is panting, he has been running. Removing the lid from my water bottle, I pour some into the cup of my hand and offer it to him. He laps greedily. There does not appear to be anyone around who is looking for a dog.

My leg has become numb from prolonged sitting, so I suggest a walk around the lake. He agrees. I decide we should become better acquainted if we are to share this activity.

“Are you a Spoodle or a Snoodle?” I ask. His head tilts from one side to the other, indicating that he is neither and I fear I may have insulted him because on closer inspection I can see that he is, in fact, not a mixture but a pedigreed poodle.

“Sorry about that. In that case, I will call you Pierre. Incredibly pleased to meet you. I am Margot.”

We walk companionably around the edge of the lake. Pierre appears to be a good listener and before I realise it, I am confiding in him tales from my past and present as well as concerns for the future. As we progress, I feel his wet nose press into the palm of my hand, and this is the only physical contact I have had for months.

“Thank you, Pierre,” I say, leaning down and stroking his muzzle.

He is very tempted to chase the ducks but remains close by my side. I promise him a biscuit as soon as we return to the tree.

After eating a biscuit each, I lay back on the grass, clasping my hands behind my head and Pierre places his head on my lap. It feels so good.

“Oscar! Oscar! There you are. You bad dog!”

A woman rushes towards me and then slaps a harness onto Pierre. His head hangs low.

“I left the side gate open for two minutes and he ran off. I have looked everywhere for him. I certainly hope he has not been annoying you. Come on, it’s time to leave,” she said dragging him away.

Walking away from me, Pierre looked back, and I know you will think this is not true but, I swear, he winked at me.

My step is lighter as I sling the backpack over my shoulder and head off. Meeting Pierre was a chance encounter that came at just the right time and I realise that it is the small things that will help to endure these trying days.

My neighbour waves as I walk up my driveway and I wave back.

 

Jan Pike  ©    2020.

 

If you would like to make a comment directly to the writer of this story, please email them at:

georgina@camdenwritersinc.com.au.

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