The winter marks December morning patterns of sunrise too early and sunset the same. I pay more to the troll under the bridge so he can fan his fire. I try harder and harder to run across but the warmth of my castle and safety in the embrace of my queen call me to lay in our who knows what count Egyptian cotton sheets. I know the jackal awaits outside the castle walls hoping that I let my guard down. Knowing I will put my guard down. I throw buckets of ice water over the fence to scare him off.
One of these days I will shoot that dog.
The winter marks the season for giving because others have not. The blankets that the homeless need so bad but do they need Egyptian cotton? Certainly they want food more. Their unintentional fasted state must be coming to an end soon. If not because of me than who? I want to do something for the wild jackal I allow to freeze in cold and wet. But feeding him will only bring fleas and more howling as I try to slumber.
The dog is hungry. I must shoot the dog. Out of pity.
I have far too much on my plate and yet I push it away in disgust over my three decades of decadence. My best years lost to morbid obesity and oblivious blissfullness engraved and branded by a suit of armor and a smile for the ladies and a scowl for the men. My lucky stars that the flesh displaces well those secrets I do not tell. I contain my laughter because that would be inappropriate for there are people crying.
The dog is crying. He is cold. Grab your bow we are hunting.
I cannot imagine that the dog could be tame or domesticated. I give into my one guilty pleasure and throw a bone for him to suck on. Like a malnourished whore who will settle for inappropriate proteins and calories.
The dog is disgusting and hopeless. Poor dog. Poor pitiful jackal.
The rain come this time of year and washes away the natty dreads that cluster like a duster. Full of objects from the ground and fleas from the sky. Ticks from the trees and worms from the earth. Eating from the outside and from the inside. Pustules of pus fill just waiting to be lanced and drained. Disgusting. Bloody stool from the bones and shards of garbage thrash the intestines leaving only a liquid shell of what once was a glorious hound.
The dog is dying. I must put him out of his misery.
The frozen tundra crunches from the weight of his frostbitten feet and he whimpers at each step until he finally lets out a painful cry as he collapses violently enough to rattle the thirteen foot gates of the castle. The guards hurry to look for what it could be. This battle cry not of the beginning of war but of defeat and surrender. Not one of a man but of a beast.
The dog must be dead. I should stomp its head.
Looking down at the emaciated mass of matted hair I do not see the threat of a monster but the terror in the eyes of a beast. Too weak to bite he growls with great effort as I attempt to lift the bastard of the wild. It takes a village or at best three of the strongest individuals to take the injured soul to a shelter inside the city walls.
The dog is dying. Let it have its final moments in comfort.
I clear a place on a priceless rug and direct the landing. I cover it gently in the Egyptian blanket that I know the queen would most certainly kill me for doing and would burn after the news got out. I not care. I have faced this fear for far too long. I must confront it for what it is. Unjustified.
The dog licks my arm. Gross. It likes me.
I lean in for an embrace and I hear a faint heartbeat. Then I feel a deep sigh and a long exhaustive release of a full lung of air. I see and feel the bones and smell the stench of the soon to be carcass. Then a piercing sensation travels from my arm and to my chest. A tear rolls down my face and I am guilty.
I should have shot the dog. Before it was too late.
Moments pass and I cannot hear a sound. Only the river winding outside the door. The dog is no more. Flashes of time pass me by. Scenes of the years that I would throw buckets of waste and garbage that I knew was not going to waste. Every once in awhile I would take a prime cut when no one was watching and toss is over. Knowing is was not going to waste. It was appreciated. Although I never saw I knew. I knew I was feeding my fear.
The dog takes one last breath. Then more silence.
I sit crouched in a corner alone. Scared and anxious. What will I do without this animal haunting me? The fear was what made me stronger and now my fear is gone. And so is my will to fight. I have no more competition. Suddenly, I realize that without the fear I would not be alert. I would not be inspired to wake up and challenge it. I would not have the edge. My strengths were drawn from my fears and now my strength was gone.
The dog must live. I must save it and save myself.
I jump up and grab a warm bucket of water and put it slowly over the old man and begin to rub its side. Another bucket and another. I can feel it is stiffening and getting colder. Hotter water. Ten buckets later I begin to see a coat of hair frayed and peppered in black and white as it captures the sun through the window.
The dog inhales. I exhale. I need to feed it.
I laugh out loud and his eyes open. I take off my gloves that have no fingertips and make a cup. I scoop out warm water and place my hand where one year ago I would not dare. At the mouth of the wild and savage animal. One year ago my hand would be gone had I placed it in the spot. Yet today it is acting as a small dish. He raise his head no more than an inch or two. The dog slowly jets his tongue out and laps the water from my palm. I grab another handful. He is done. His head falls bad to the floor. I grab wads of the luxurious bedding and shape it around the bottom of his massive skull that I can barely lift. I wipe a most nauseating substance from around his eyes. Something white and resembling mucous and saliva. They were tears. Dehydrated tears.
The jackal is warm and wet. He will live. He must live.
I carefully walk around the room gathering supplies to mend and cleanse the beast of burden. I trim and bathe carefully. Not knowing where the lines are between friend or foe. Will he gather a burst of energy and rise to kill me or will I shove my shears into his pathetic eyes? Neither. Hours pass. The sun sets and rises. The sun sets and rises. The sun sets and rises…slowly.
The dog sits up. I am afraid. I question not letting him die.
I freeze in my tracks. The dog looks strong. I am afraid. He is large but thin. He seems weak but strong. The layers of hair that I cut away and the ticks that I burned off leaves a muscular frame filled with scars and small actively bleeding wounds. Coagulated scabs and tremors rattle in waves along the giant ripples along his striated mass. Sitting upright I see now why it took so many men to drags him in. Now the animal sits on my floor. In my home cloaked in my sheets.
We face each other. Not a word. Not a growl.
I walk slowly over to a table were my meal grows cold. A large turkey leg with excess meats on whatever bone attached it to the bird under cooked remains. I extend my hand and it lunges. I thought I was dead. Instead, it ran out the door and across the courtyard. Through the gates and into the wilderness.
The dog is gone. The season remains. The beast is stronger.
So am I.