On the Fence

(Metcalfe Park, University City)

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I had turned away for only a second. Suddenly an unintelligible bellow.

A man is running across the park toward a fence, looking back occasionally to yell at my dog. Or at least because of my dog, who he seems to think is chasing him. He's clearly frightened. You'd think the dog was right at his heels.

But my dog isn't at his heels. My dog, an amiable little creature, is 40 yards away, ears pricked up, a curious look on her face. A look trapped somewhere between curiosity and bewilderment; playfulness and pity. True, she's not on her leash. She's frolicking, sniffing the ground. Minding her own business.

The man's still sprinting. He's a man who doesn't look like he has sprinted in a long time. His wiry legs move awkwardly, out of sync with his torso. Finally he lunges at the fence and begins to climb.

And there's nothing else around. There's nothing that would cause the man to act this way except my dog, who is now making playful yet apprehensive gallops toward the man clinging to the fence, still 40 yards away.

What happened that day? I still wonder. The man, after scaling the fence, walked away briskly, with his hands shoved in his pockets. He continued to look back now and then, as if the threat, however diminished, remained very real.

But what threat? What is it with people, anyway?

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