I should have known better than to make an unannounced visit to his home. Truthfully though, I did know better, which is why I’d carried a gun. But I left the gun in the car.
We had lost contact with our truck driver over the last few months. He wasn’t responding to phone calls or letters. He wasn’t working anywhere that I knew of. He certainly wasn’t driving trucks anywhere any more, not after failing another drug test. This one a post-accident drug test.
The wreck happened on a Wednesday, but my truck driver had done enough crystal meth over the weekend at the bike rally that his system was still just full of the stuff. Fortunately (if you can call it that), the lady he ran into was a pill-popper who’d been kicked our of pain management not 5 weeks before the accident. Nobody was really hurt, and neither side really wanted to get in front of a jury.
The only way I could think to get in touch with him was to visit his trailer the next time I was over in his neck of the woods. So I did. As I pulled up the gravel driveway, I saw a couple of mutts in the yard. They were largely disinterested in me. I got out of the car, with the letter in hand that I intended to leave shoved between the door and frame, since my client appeared not to be home. A 60-pound mongrel was hovering around the bottom of the steps of the enclosed screened-in porch, but she complied with my efforts to shoo her away.
I popped up the steps and politely knocked on the door. And waited. Then knocked on the door, a bit less politely. And waited. Then banged on the door – either he was in a drunken stupor from which I would awaken him, or he wasn’t home. Waited a little longer, then slid the envelop containing my signed letter into the doorjamb.
Only when I turned around did I discover my peril. There was a third dog – part Rottweiler, part demon, and black as sin. I hadn’t seen him before. But now he had staked himself between me and the only exit. The hair on the back of his bullish neck was standing on end, and as I took a single step forward, the growl that had been low and foreboding became a fierce, imminent warning.
But fortunately, I had read Life of Pi! I needed to slowly back him down without appearing to be the attacking aggressor. No problem, right? If a fictional character could do it to a fictional tiger, I shouldn’t have any problem managing the same technique with this sable monster. I also knew (because I had thought about these kinds of confrontations a good bit when I used to run, having had sketchy encounters with canines before) that if this thing came to physical combat, I was going for its eyes first. He might end up crushing my throat in his jaws, but at least he’d be blind the rest of his life.
I collected myself and bowed up (inasmuch as any 5′ 10″, 150lb guy can bow up), took a small step forward, pointed at the canine-demon, and yelled at him, “BACK UP!” His demeanor didn’t change, but he backed down one step. We repeated this charade until he had backed all the way off the steps, and continued until I was able to exit the steps. We stepped a half-circle around each other, like a couple of gunslingers. Then it was my turn to back up, toward my car. I changed my command, “STAY!” and maintained eye contact the whole way.
Once I got into the car, the adrenaline pushed one final surge through my blood stream, and my legs turned to jelly. I sat there for several minutes, and something occurred to me – if I had killed the dog, there would have been no question who’d done it; the letter bearing my signature was stuck in the door. I started my car and backed it down the driveway, leaving the devil-dog and his two indifferent companions in my rear view.
A couple days later, I got a phone call from my truck driver, in which he acted innocently as though he hadn’t been evading me for the last few months. But that wasn’t the last of the trouble I had with this client. You may have already read about how his deposition went sideways, despite my best efforts.
Photo by Jeanne Andersen.