A little black pit bull trotted in front of my car as it crested the small slope on West Alabama by the low red bodega, it trotted in front of my car then crossed the divide and was hit in the side by a red truck the blank thud yelp weep cry muscle pulsed and turned all wrong a cry and between us shot into the night this cry I found my hand over my mouth with my car stopped and the red truck stopped and the dog had turned after the slam the thud the cry turned back and ran the other way into the dark strip of ruined fields houses yards, the man in the red truck his eyes so briefly locked in mine our mouths both open throats stopped and the dog already running back into the night, then both of us letting up the breaks, driving forward, with no cars before or behind us, no witness. The radio was on. Leonard Cohen was singing Chelsea Hotel #2. I turned it off. I tried to pray. The praying sounded like Please save the little black dog, god, the little black dog, please please save the little black dog. It sounded like failure, like helplessness, like waiting rooms of hospitals, like detoxes, like a slur on the phone, like denial. I called my father. He tried to tell me a story about a dog in Israel, how before lunch, Ben had been petting a small dog outside a cafe, how when they came back and I stopped him from telling because I could already see my small hand touching the golden dog's head its wirey frame like a coyote already feel how I'd have been with it, feeling it a friend in a place where I felt foreign, both of us strangers here on earth. To think of it, what happened after lunch, when they went outside the cafe, when they saw the dog. I could feel the terrible hole opening up in the world to swallow me then, to see how quickly all can be erased....
In the paper this summer, there was a picture of a man being attacked by a jaguar outside a village in India. Apparently the jaguar has been hanging around town - there had been a drought, and when droughts occur, animals are forced to widen their hunting and foraging areas. So the jaguar had been around. The story said that the man was killed, and the jaguar was shot. Look at that, my mother said, poor man. Poor jaguar, I said. She looked at me with a long pause. There is something very wrong with you, she said.
I have read plenty of stories and poems in which an animal is hit, heard other people's personal stories. But until tonight, I'd never seen it. I should say, really, that I'd never felt it. A small part of me thought that if there were a war, if I should be in a place where there was a war, where I saw combat, I would lose my will to live very quickly. I realize again I am deeply porous to pain and with animals, more so. It felt a piece of me flew out to the dog... no.. into the sound that the dog and I made together on impact, and that the piece of me that flew is a hole that will stay a hole, uncertainty, fragility, the hollow sound. And if you haven't seen an animal hit, if you haven't hit one, this will be just another story to you about how it happens, how it happens all the time.
My little cat is so old now that sometimes she doesn't wake up immediately when I touch her. Yesterday I put my fingertips on the underside of her sleeping belly and felt her heartbeat, felt the little ribs, listened to her snore. Her paws twitch dreaming.