Up The Middle

Published: November 2021 in Conceit Magazine

     Sarama, a chalk-white Scottish terrier, trotted easily, straight up the middle of Rillito River’s dried-up bed. Her black nose quivered as she paused momentarily to inhale the pungent aroma of dead brush and tawny grasses, seared under a hot Tucson sun. She noted her beloved human, Gina, trailing not far behind, then turned her bearded head. As far as her keen eyes could see, the place was empty: no other people or dogs could be seen anywhere. Unfortunately, that meant no chases or fights this day. So, once more, the Scottie pranced off, free from tugging her delicate human around with the strong rope.

     A desert bird croaked; wings beat overhead. Sarama’s angular ears pricked up. She gazed through hedge-like bushy eyebrows into a clear blue sky. To her left, far in front above her, she recognized a silver flash that drew closer and closer. Ruffcycle, Sarama thought, snarling.

     She instantly recalled her father’s chiseled face and thought of their wanderings through the sweet-scented sward, her puppy body barely reaching the center of his black furred, muscular chest. And as they roamed on their short, stout legs, her wise terrier-father would teach her the ‘Way of The Scottie,’ as his father had taught him. All must stop to honor the majestic Scottie: most regal of dogs. Slow humans must stop to praise and pet; the sly cat must halt and crouch; the bushy-tailed squirrel must hesitate and stare.

     The wiry fur on Sarama’s thick neck stiffened, her amber eyes simmered madly. How I hate those hard, circle-legged things that humans sit on to take them places, she thought. Those cold, scentless things never stop, and sometimes swerve dangerously close. A thought filled her canine mind, bold and daring: I will run that bad-mannered ruffcycle down and teach it an important lesson.

     Sarama lifted her noble head, her jaw clenched. A coiled eruption of violence, she hurled herself forward, straight up the middle of the dry waterway. Swiftly, she veered to the left and raced toward the steep, almost vertical riverbank. Be one with the birds, she thought. Gathering her hind legs and charged with energy, she leapt—seemingly flying right up to the middle of the dirt slope. Stubbornly, she scrambled and clawed her way to the summit.

     Barely panting she sprinted off, straight down the narrow path. No mercy, Sarama thought. No mercy. Closing in on her two-wheeled enemy, she struck, her jaws springing shut on the human’s pant leg like a steel trap. The rude metal bicycle groaned to a halt.

     Screams of “What the… Get it off me! Get it off me!” echoed through the once idyllic river park. Sarama clamped her sharp teeth more tightly around the young male’s ankle. And as she did, she imagined her father at her side, watching, his great chest heaving with pride. How she had once loved hunting fat squirrels and other small creatures with him.

     Shouts of “Bad dog! Sarama stop!” came from somewhere far behind. Sarama cocked her long head. It seemed her human had finally found the stairway up to the bike path and was running, pathetically as humans do, toward her. Sarama’s amber eyes glared. Bad, bad ruffcycle, she thought. A deep growl grumbled from within her thick throat.

     “Get it off me!” the terrified rider screamed.

     “Let go crazy dog! Do you want to go to the pound?” Gina yelled, approaching in a rush.

     The pound, Sarama trembled. That lonely, dark room with the hard floor and bad food. Where she was kept caged by the nasty smelling human who marched about with a burning stick in his mouth. Her pointed teeth loosened their grip; her strong jaw jerked open.

     Sarama knew she was in deep trouble.

     “Are you alright?” Gina asked the bicycle rider, bending down to quickly slip the lead over her badly behaving dog’s neck.

     “Yes,” the biker seethed through his teeth while inspecting his scraped ankle. “But you should keep that vicious dog on a leash. You’re lucky I’m not calling the police—”

     Though she very much wanted to stand her ground and protect her human from this angry ruffcycle rider, Sarama found herself being tugged away, down the asphalt path and toward home. How she dreaded the thoughts that surely were going through her human’s mind. She no longer pranced proudly. Her angular ears drooped. She thought of her proud terrier-father once more, and the vital advice he had given her. Always help your human be happy, for they cannot do so on their own. Although delighted to teach the rude ruffcycle rider a well-deserved lesson, it did not please her one bit to see her human so downhearted.

     Perhaps there was another lesson to learn this day

     Sarama now padded up the middle of the path, a light bounce back in her stride.

     A blue flash drew closer and closer. Another ruffcycle, Sarama thought, growling.

     Her human pulled the leash closer.

     Sarama felt waves of anxiety pouring down the lead. She thought of her wise father’s utmost warning: Show strength…all things will fear you.

     The bicycle drew ever closer.

     “Be a good dog Sarama!” Gina ordered. “Good dog.”

     Sharp barks filled the once quiet river park. Sarama leapt, lunging at the bicycle, her human tottering forward. Intentionally missing her target, the Scottie landed on all fours. Her keen eyes watched the bicycle speed by.

     That ruffcycle was scared of me…it ran away, Sarama mused. She eyed her human triumphantly, then trotted briskly toward home.