The small terrace leading out onto the park out the back. Through Victorian grille fence and straight away into the shadow of the Moreton Bay figs. Planted once like little toy soldiers in the small city park, now towering like monuments of war instilling solemnity and sublimity on all who pass. The dogs at this point sniffing and mooching around the skeletal limbs of the giant trees. If they’re lucky they might find some tasty morsels of excrement left by drifting scraggles of passing itinerants. Called to heel for crossing the road “Wait…wait…wait…go!”. Pepe unleashes as if he’d heard a starting gun, then darts, dives and dervishes to the other side. He freezes for a second, looks back, tongue hanging out, snaggletooth smile through blonde-whiskered chops, tongue flick nose double-lick, tail wagging with guileless happiness and then he’s off again, frolicking and gamboling, sniffing lampposts and cocking his leg to add his marker: bush telegraph sprays, pheromone-infused shout outs to canine cousins. Gracie more ladylike sashays across like a little goody two shoes, her upright tail an ostrich plume waved for shade by imaginary ladies in waiting.
Returning the slurred greetings and ignoring the perfunctory curses delivered almost at the same time from those dispossessed ones sitting in the shade inhaling with gusto from bottles of petrol and bags of glue. Sometimes a bony black hand out is shoved out, challenging civility. It would be taken amiss to shun it, but carries the risk of vice-like grip drawing you in for eye contact and the undeniable demand for pocket change. Face but inches from face, sickly sweet fumes the better for having been shared. Yet with deftness a quick hand can meet the thumb-embracing brother-shake and just as quickly be withdrawn, beating dull intoxicant reflexes. Caught short, lurching around unsteadily to ponder through the haze the one that got away, last ditch attempt: “Got a smoke mate?” “Nah sorry mate … don’t smoke”. Gauntlet passed, take the winding path under further tall trees and play areas leading into the dog park itself. A tribe of another kind meets there and on the common green exchange pleasantries about their treasured pet’s bloodlines and habits – the former usually a designer mix, pure breeds no longer the fashion – the latter usually filthy; at least to us (allegedly) cleaner mammals.
Sometimes, if chance would have it, there on a bench facing the Winter afternoon sun, the small hollow would be found empty of all but the waving Norfolk pines. Basking and nodding off into hypnagogic dreams of pure and eternal gladness, third eye open and unblinking, surrendered to the influxion of healing and tonic rays. Release of tension sometimes even a rearrangement: cracking of gristle, shift of bones, realignment of ligaments and muscles all of which – just for once – let go of the strenuous activity of existence, of survival, of identity. The soaking radiation harking back to that reptilian age before the apple was eaten, before the hunger to know was born, before the feasting on the tree heralded our exile, our fight for survival on the plain. Back even further now … to our solar source, our stark beginning, in the inferno of true release, when we as dust and gas were fearlessly formed as stars and planets out on the perimeter.
But then awakened suddenly from the reverie, surveying now the green-sunlit expanse, wattled tree shadows linger imprinted on the screen of sight like phantoms. Dogs signalling for wider exploration and so onward peacetime wanderers we must go. Untrammelled by leash, taking the path less travelled (by dog-rangers at least) through desolate back lanes, patchwork of grafittied walls, old wooden fences, palings fallen like missing teeth, overgrown vines, dishevelled backyards not meant to be seen (but can be on tip toes), old Italianate gardens all concrete and tomatoes, stray lemons fallen and fair game, sneaky foraging of passionfruit vines within earshot of old sash windows looking out on the lane, looking but apparently never seeing, certainly not hearing even as blatant tugs and tussles for the last and higher of the fruit almost rattle the frame of the sleepy old cottage. Teeth into purple skin, passion-jelly bliss so much the sweeter for our misdemeanour, hunters and gatherers in exile under the clear Autumn sun.
Arriving now at oval-shaped park, promenade around the lake, black swans rest their necks on lustrous bosoms, wood fowls forage and fossick, ducklings waddle, families feast on spreads of tasty park bench smorgasbords, children running zig-zag formations, ground level vision suddenly surprised by human mass, squinting upwards with open mouths, survey the adult impediment to progress, silhouetted against silver green canopy above, a smile reassures and then they scoop around squealing to friends, not even a passing remembrance of strangers, unless dogs are spied. Then it’s a rush of recognition, little on little. Pepe hearty well met. But not a puppy anymore, unenthusiastic shy-away, Gracie even bares a tooth.