A Short Story by Ehtisham Rizvi
Art by Tehreem Naeem
I sat at my new spot watching people and traffic go by. The setting sun turned the sky orange and the cool evening breeze ruffled my hair. I saw him turning the corner. The guy heading my way was wearing his usual worn out t-shirt and old pair of jeans. The sweat on his brow and his obvious heavy breathing told the story of a fast and long walk. I sat up in anticipation.
This guy goes to a nearby gym every evening, and every evening I watch him intently. I tend to do that with everyone. Sometimes I don’t just watch them, I shout at them and chase them around scaring the living crap out of them. Some of them throw stones at me, others run for their lives, and some just freeze. I enjoy my interactions with the people who pass my street, but this guy particularly intrigues me.
Unlike others, he wears his emotions on his face, and unlike others, I can always read him like an open book. Although he seems like a nice guy and I feel bad for saying this, but I think he suffers from mental disorders. There are days when he speed-walks to the gym singing songs at the top of his voice, not giving a crap about people staring at him, and there are days when he is as quiet as a dead mouse. I have watched him every evening for one year now, and I have seen him at his best and at his worst. I can always sense anger and frustration in him, and I worry that one of these days he will lose it and break someone’s skull. Sometimes I try to communicate with him, but he never understands a word I say…no one does.
I have tried shouting at him and chasing him around, but after a second or two he just stands his ground and starts shouting right back at me. Not many people try such shenanigans with me, and I usually bite the ones who do, but this guy has an air of confidence that has prevented me from attacking him.
His weathered face tells the story of hardships, but I doubt anyone notices. I can sense goodness in him, but feel as if soon his bubbling rage is going to get the best of him. Still, I felt connected to him. I wanted to know his story. I wanted to tell him mine. I was in desperate need of a friend and I needed a way to get through to him.
As he drew closer, I could see the lines on his forehead. Usually I do not interact with him when he is in such a mood, but today I needed someone to talk to. I walked up to him slowly and said hi. He looked at me, avoided eye contact, and kept walking. I tried keeping up with him but he walks fast. I started running after him, but was careful not to scare him. I made it clear that I wanted his attention. He kept walking towards the gym as if he had forgotten about me, so I said hi again, this time in a louder voice, still being careful not to appear threatening. He clearly noticed me and then started walking faster, but before I could increase my speed to match his own, he stopped and turned around. He looked me dead in the eye and said something in his language. I didn't understand his words, but I knew exactly what he was saying.
He was asking me why I was limping a little, why I wasn’t in my usual spot, and why I was chasing him. I answered his questions, and told him how the new security guard had beaten me with a stick to chase me away from my spot. He spoke his language and I spoke mine, resulting in a most wonderful and fulfilling conversation. In a few seconds, he turned around and started walking again. I went back to my new spot, staring at the old spot where that security guard was dozing off in his chair.
I thought about taking a little nap myself, but all hopes of sleep were taken away from me by a loud noise. I saw them coming from afar on their noisy ride. There were two of them and they were headed straight for my friend. They stopped near him; one grabbed him by the collar while the other pulled something out of his pocket.
I ran as fast as I could with three good legs, and reached them just in time. I jumped one of the guys, biting him and attacking him with my claws. I was busy tearing this man apart while the other landed right next to me while holding his jaw and screaming in pain. I looked up and saw my friend holding his right wrist trying to shake away the pain from his knuckles. As I screamed, people started gathering around and soon they got me off my victim. I looked at my friend and he looked at me. The look in his eye was that of appreciation and thankfulness. He said something in his language again, and this time around I understood him completely. He said, “Stray dogs are not useless after all.”