- Wild Ones
"The sheep have been attacked," my mother tells me. She delights in telling me these sorts of things: small disasters, family dramas, the neighbors' gossip. She'll call to say Wes Dean slaughtered his cows last week and the fields look so empty, and then she'll call again to say there's an ice storm coming, it looks to be bad, and it's moving my way once it passes them by; why didn't I get my snow tires out of the barn last time I was home?
Wes Dean is dead and his son is selling his farm and the dog has cancer in her eye. If I want to see her again I might think about a trip home.
Now she tells me that she'd called the Seneca County sheriff to tell him that wild dogs had attacked their sheep and the sheriff told her, "Ma'am, those dogs come back on your property and you can shoot them." So after she hung up with the sheriff, she called their neighbor Denny and he came knocking with a .22 and handed it to my father, even though I know and Denny must know too that if anyone's going to shoot anything around that house it'll be my mother. I can imagine my father and his false bravado handling the rifle, thanking Denny, putting the rifle in the back hall closet and shuffling back upstairs to his study, his hair raked on end from his fingers running through it. [End Page 94]
Later she calls again to tell me police helicopters have been circling the house. "Dad thinks they're looking for herb," she says. "I'm going to call the state police and tell them where those dealers live, because those guys own those damn dogs that attacked the sheep." She sounds pleased. "I'm gonna get them," she says, and I know she means it.
But she doesn't get them. And years later, she and I are on the phone talking, and it is winter, and my mother says the coyotes are howling outside. I ask her if they ever worry about coyotes getting to the sheep again, and she says no, Annie, they weren't coyotes, they were dogs; coyotes never would have come that close to the barn in daylight.
She reminds me how it was early in the morning when the dogs came, still a chilled grey cool in the air when she heard the barking by the barn and went tearing out into the damp in her cotton nightgown, screaming and shrieking at the dogs to get away. She tells me how she fixed an image of the dogs in her mind as they flew bounding one, two, three out of the barn and into the back fields. And then she tells me, "It sounds weird, Annie, but I recorded the image of those dogs the way I recorded the face of the man who attacked me. I can still see those dogs in the same way I can still see that guy."
I know exactly who she is talking about. She first told me about him when I was eighteen. I was biking home from work on a summer evening and I was late, so she came looking for me. She was anxious, and I had barely loaded the bike into the trunk when she began talking, almost yelling, trying not to cry.
She told me how she was in her early thirties, driving though Lord's Valley in western Pennsylvania, when a car behind her signaled to pull over. Thinking it might be an unmarked cop, she did. She cracked the window and watched the man approach. He jammed his hand through the crack and grabbed her by the throat.
"How about a little pussy, lady?" he asked, with his fingers pressed hard into her neck.
She screamed no, no, no, popped the clutch and slammed on the gas and took off. He held on as she started to drive, then lost his grip, ran back to his car, and followed her until she turned off for a state police...