And then she had taken the bus and perhaps, if it hadn’t been for the dog, everything would have gone normally or, well, differently anyway.
He was there when she got off her last bus. She saw him as soon as she stepped down, a little more slowly than the crowd of quickly dispersing fellow passengers, onto the sidewalk along a busy four-lane highway. The passengers walked along a corridor of sound barriers to staircases and tunnels and the city spreading itself on either side.
The puppy’s chances were not great; were, in fact, nil. He was lost, a very little and rattylooking mongrel, not very steady on his legs yet, wandering from side to side of the road, the wind from the stream of cars buffeting him as they whizzed past, the wheels of the delivery vans way above his head as they bowled down on him as he made a try to cross the street, then flattened to his stomach again, tail clapped down, eyes frightened, as each one passed. It’s a terrible thing to see a life crushed out, smashed beneath the wheels of a vehicle, an insensate machine of metal, rubber and destruction – one moment of inattention, of panic, a wrong move: the approach, the split second of disbelief, and then…Cordelia imagined it all in a split second too.
He couldn’t get off the street; he was caught there between the barriers. Beyond there were parking lots, modern office buildings, warehouses, the inhospitable environs of the Warsaw periphery. There was no place for him to go or to have come from; he must have been dumped, thought Cordelia in distress as she stood on the sidewalk uncertainly, watching him. Some dreadful person must have just opened a car door and dropped him out to meet his death.
She glanced at her watch again. She had fifteen minutes until her appointment. She hesitated, closed her eyes and cringed as the puppy started again across the street as another truck came thundering along. The puppy began to run. No, no, no, she wanted to scream at him. Too late. He darted across the road, and she shut her eyes again, waiting for the slight impact of small body and wheel. But when she opened them again the puppy was on the other side of the road, the truck was retreating into the distance. But now the puppy, thoroughly disoriented and distraught, was preparing to cross again.
Oh why hadn’t she taken the other bus, the one that would have let her off on the other side of the building, where she would never have known of this poor little dog’s fate, but could have gone calmly – well, as calmly as possible – to her job interview. And now, what was she going to do? If she caught the puppy, she would have to take him with her. A fine impression that would make, but really, she couldn’t leave him here.
She made up her mind, and began to hurry clumsily down the sidewalk towards the creature, lurching, her bad leg swinging out awkwardly. Really, he was very ugly: a thin blackish puppy with frightened eyes glinting under a mat of wild hair. He was cowering beside the curb.
Stay there, she told him in her mind. I’m coming. I just can’t move very fast, you see. I can’t really run. But I’ll be there in a minute. She was almost level with him; if only there would be a break in the traffic, she would rush over and catch him. Why did people have to drive so fast? Just stay there, puppy.
But he wasn’t staying. He was going to run towards her, between that car and another truck coming from the opposite direction. No! She shouted at him, and stepped out into the street, holding up her hand to the approaching car. There was a screech of tires. She was no judge of distance.
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Michelle Granas was born in Alaska, but currently divides her time between Oregon and Poland. She has degrees in philosophy and comparative literature, but now works as a translator. Over the past dozen years she has translated for many of Poland's major politicians and writers, including short pieces for the Nobel Prize winner Lech Wałęsa and Nobel Prize nominee Ryszard Kapuścinski.
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