Day of Reckoning
Maggie Reinhart, city pound dispatcher, marched down the tiled hallway. Her heels kept metronomic rhythm as she made her way towards the staff room. Troy Dixon was just leaving the room when she reached the door. “You’re late. The others are out on the road. Here’s your first call of the day,” she said. He glanced at the yellow sticky note she passed to him.
DAL –Beagle-King & Sutton. “Go gettum, cowboy,” she said and winked at him. As he wandered off he could hear the continuous drone of barking beyond the cinder block walls of the dog kennel.
Maggie shouted after him, “And Supervisor Mitchell left a memo on my desk saying I should remind you to get your shot this week.” He gave her a dismissive wave as he shouldered open the back door to the parking lot.
Dixon discovered, of course, that the only van left was the oldest vehicle the pound owned. He opened the creaky door to his tin can and was blasted by a wave of heat from its interior. The young man rolled down the window, started up the van and switched on its air conditioning. After a couple of minutes he still felt only warm air. A quick inspection of the cargo area revealed all the usual gear was accounted for: first aid kit, metal cages, plastic carriers, gloves, blanket and Ketch-all pole. The oppressive heat in the back enhanced the stench of disinfectant and urine and made his eyes water.
He sped to the Sutton Road area, but 20 minutes had elapsed since the call was logged and he doubted the dog would still be running at large. To his surprise he spotted the beagle peeing on the rear tire of a parked Toyota. The dog finished and trotted along the sidewalk. It glanced back, noticed the van, and began to run. At the next street the beagle dashed across the brown lawn of a bungalow and disappeared into the dense shrubs to the right of its front door. Dixon locked his vehicle and walked up the narrow driveway. He rapped on the front door, causing flakes of loose paint to fall to the concrete porch.
At that moment the elusive beagle leapt from the shrubbery and snapped at the back of Dixon’s pant leg, chomping onto a mouthful of polyester. He spun, pulling the material from the dog’s teeth and aimed a kick at his hindquarters. The dog was too quick, though, and retreated back to the greenery. When Dixon looked to the door he discovered a muscular, shirtless man filling the doorway.
“It tried to bit me,” Dixon shrugged, running his fingers through his short, blonde hair.
“That sucks, man. Looks to me like you deserved it.”
“I tried to kick him after he bit at me.”
“Get lost, ya’ rent-a-cop.”
Dixon stared at the man for a moment, trying to avoid glancing at the big, red hearts tattooed around each of his nipples. “Listen. Your dog was running at large out on Sutton. I’m supposed to ticket you, but I’ll just give you a verbal warning this time.”
“Bite me you Nazi,” he said, and saluted Dixon with a middle finger. “I’d beat the crap out of you, but I’ll just give you a verbal warning this time. Now get off my freakin’ property!” he shouted and slammed the door.
When Dixon returned to his van he heard Maggie’s voice over the radio. “A-17, A-17 what’s your twenty?” He ignored her for a moment as he jotted down some notes about the beagle incident. “Where are you, Dixon? We’ve got a possible rabid cat and I can’t track down the other officers.”
Dixon fumbled for the transmit button on the microphone. “I’m done here at Sutton, where’s this cat?”
“See the constable in front of 810 Simcoe Road.”
“10-4 base,” Dixon replied. He proceeded as fast as he dared through the maze of narrow east end streets until he arrived at the Simcoe address.
A grey-haired policeman leaned against his vehicle. Dixon smiled as he approached the officer and glanced at the man’s name tag. “I hear you might have a rabid cat, Constable Connelly,” he said.
“Yep, he seems a bit wild. Your name and date of birth?”
“Dixon, Troy George. March 15, 1977.”
The constable nodded while he jotted in his leather book. “The cat’s there,” he said, pointing under the vehicle with the chewed-up end of his plastic pen.
“Really?” Nat said and grabbed the hot metal of the door handle as he squatted and peeked under the car. A grey, long-haired cat hissed a greeting. Even in the shadows Dixon noticed the weeping sore above its left eye.
“Nasty looking bugger,” Dixon said.
“It’s all yours. Guess that’s why you guys make the big bucks, eh?”
Dixon opened the back of his van, acknowledging the officer’s cliché with a weak laugh. He unlatched the door to one of the metal cages and grabbed the blanket and pair of leather gauntlets. He returned to the cruiser and placed the blanket on the asphalt next to the vehicle, trying to ignore the gathering spectators. He knew that he needed to work quickly.
He stuffed his hands into the gloves and lay on his side. He weighed his options about how to approach the cat as the heat from the asphalt radiated through the thick blanket. Sweat dripped from his right eyebrow and mingled with the oil-stained pavement.
The rancid cat made his decision for him. It exposed its fangs and pushed off with its hind legs towards Dixon. He held out his left hand in self-defense and the cat wrapped its body around his gloved fist, sinking its teeth into the leather.
Dixon wriggled his torso back until he was fully clear of the cruiser. The crowd applauded as he got to his feet and placed his right hand over the back of the cat, mindful to avoid the large sore he saw through the filthy, patchy fur. He quickly walked to the back of his van and the constable opened the back door. Dixon was about to drop the cat into the metal cage when it sunk its teeth through the glove into his left thumb.
“Dammit!” he shouted, and tossed the cat and gauntlet into the metal prison and latched the door. The creature immediately threw itself, without hesitation, at the walls of the cage. Its eyes bulged as it chewed the thin, stainless steel bars with its front teeth.
“She sure likes you,” the constable noted.
“Yeah, I suppose so,” Dixon responded humourlessly. The skin around the puncture wound was not bleeding but it had already started to swell.
“I know you animal control guys are covered with that rabies shot, but you’d better get that looked at by a doctor.”
“I’ll do that after I get the cat back to the office.”
“Have your supervisor send us a copy of the report.”
“Yeah, from the Ministry. After they test the thing for rabies.”
“Sure, no problem.”
“Thanks for your help,” the constable said and climbed into his cruiser.
Dixon returned to his van and began to feel chilled, despite the heat of the day. His hand trembled as he reached for his notepad and he felt nauseous at the thought of not having got his preventative rabies vaccination yet. Mitchell had nagged him for several weeks about getting it but he kept putting it off because of his phobic fear of needles.
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