I am a victim of abuse. Just look at my right thigh—covered in a lumpy, reddish, purplish, bluish wound. It’s a fact from which I can no longer hide.
Every night for several weeks now, it’s happened. Every night. Sometimes more than once. As any crisis, the phases begin with my sudden awakening as I hear the dreaded sound. In sets denial. “Tell me this isn’t happening. Not tonight. It can’t be. I’m too tired for this.” Persistent truth turns my thoughts to the more plaintive pleading. “Please stop barking, Freckles. Please. Please just be quiet.” The truth is as loud as the barking outside my door. I clamber out of bed as the next stage settles in: anger. Seriously. That dog should realize that we aren’t afraid of deer attacking us and massacring us in our beds. As soon as I open the door and our little wag-tail dive-bombs my toes, licking and wriggling all over with delight, my anger melts into guilt. How could I be angry at her when she so desperately tries to please. “Be quiet,” I say sternly, holding her mouth closed tightly. That exemplifies resolution for my crisis. Suddenly I understand the full import of what is happening, I comprehend what I must do, I suck up and do it and in the end I am a stronger person. Except for last night.
Because last night, Freckles was the victim of an unjust accusation. I slid the heavy glass door open to scold her and discovered that while she licked my bare toes earnestly, the barking continued. Taska, on our property, let the whole world know that she had decided to run for best watch dog. About as conceited and ridiculous as Al Gore running for president. Of course I knew that we’d torn most of the deck off. All that was left was a narrow walkway in front of my door and a small walkway out to the hot tub. I thought I was stepping onto the walkway to peer out at Taska, but actually, I missed it by a few inches and stepped right off the edge of the porch. Thump. Down I went about three feet and landed easily on my feet where I stood, feeling slightly dazed. It wouldn’t have been a nasty accident at all, had not the walkway decking boards decided to give the side of my right leg an aggressive kiss on the way down. The result was something like an enormous hickey, spreading the length of my right left. And it hurt something fierce. Freckles licked my face as I climbed back up onto the deck. “Good girl,” I whispered, gritting my teeth. “Good girl. Don’t bark.”
We saw the light at the same time. Just a tiny green lantern flittering aimlessly across the driveway. “Bark!” went Freckles and dashed off down the steps. With a quick lunge she gulped down the firefly and met me at my door with a green sparkle stuck to her lips. “Be quiet,” I warned, before limping inside.
A private examination revealed a large patch of strawberries growing up my leg. I climbed into bed and went to sleep. Freckles didn’t bark.
By morning the strawberries had become a fruit salad. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries. Very colorful. Perhaps even a few gooseberries had joined the ranks leaving my thigh feeling rather tender the rest of the day.
Now, if my father had done to me what that porch did to me, we’d call it abuse. And I’d be a victim. I’m thinking of exposing that porch for the monster it really is.
I hope Freckles doesn’t bark tonight.