8. The Hunt
by key stakeholder
He’s trying to organise the bags, trying to get the shopping sorted out and into the rucksack that he brought. But the dog’s playing up, barking and growling at strangers, pacing about and getting her chain tangled in her legs and just getting in the effing way. And the kid’s wailing, wanting that bloody toy. He tries and he tries to organise the bags of shopping into some sort of order and he just doesn’t have enough hands. He can’t control the dog ‘cos
the traffic’s too loud to make himself heard – to shout down her barks – and he can’t comfort the kid ’cos he’s shouting at the dog. And every time he shouts at the dog the kid gets more upset and the more upset the kid is the more agitated the dog and the more agitated the dog the louder he has to shout and the pavement’s just so narrow here there’s just not the room and the noise ohmygod the noise and he just doesn’t have enough hands.
God! The bloody noise! He sooooo doesn’t like it when the staffie starts playing up – things get a bit, em, unpredictable. Gotta get the dog out of here. Gotta get across the road, and then follow the barriers and another pelican crossing across another road. ’At’s it, now he’s getting somewhere: he’s got the kid on his hip – the toddler’s sticky face – tears and toffee – smirching his tracktop. Nevermind – it’ll go in the machine at the missus’s and, while he waits in his vest, it’ll dripdry quickly – it’ll have to. He’s got the plastic carriers and the dog’s chain and the kid’s toy (a nasty cheap plastic trike on a long handle for pushalong) in one hand. Ohmygod how the kid had insisted – grat and peenged and grat until he got his way, got to bring the trike to the shops. So he’s got the long bright plastic handle of the toy in his other, his right hand, dragging it behind him like the carcass of some rigoured animal. So, no hand free to push the button for the pedestrian crossing. Fuck. A gap in the traffic, sightlines are poor – risk it? No don’t be daft. Someone else, a middle-aged dude, at the crossing now pressed the Push Button for Crossing Signal Opposite thank god, he gives a smile and a nod of thanks. “WAIT”, says the lit up box. WAIT… WAIT… Beepabeepbeepabeepbeepabeep. Swiftly across in front of the mannie. And follow the pavement behind the barriers down a bit more. Good, quieter here – the pavement a bit wider here, good. A yank a damned good hard yank on the staffie’s chain and that – to know that there’s a big boss at the other end of the lead – calms her down a bit. Calms her down a good bit. She immediately flollops herself down, almost comically, ungainly, like a very powerful and muscular sack of tatties, on the pavement and starts licking at her bits. Nice. But it’s OK, though – she’s not going to cause any trouble while she’s at that. Now for the shopping. Squatting on haunches, eye-level talking quietly and soothingly to the kid, one carrier bag goes inside another, both into the rucksack. OK, the words to the kid have worked, and the kid rubs his eyes and sniffs up the snotters, swallowing and, literally looking up – chin out resolute, the upset is forgotten. Now to get the kid and his toy together…
I was walking down the pavement when I heard a scrapey rumbling behind me, across the road – and a gurgling laugh, then a dog-bark – and another. More laughter as the rumbling gets louder. Turning round, I see again the shell-suited buzz-cut young man accompanied by his status dog and toddler son. He’s got the toddler – feet splayed out sitting down – on a sort-of plastic tricycle which has a four-foot pole extending from the rear axle ending in a handle which would come to about the young man’s waist height. With his left hand holding the dog’s chain, his right hand is pushing down on the trike-pole so that the trike is wheelie-ing along – its front wheel up 20 centimeters from the ground.
And he jogs gently, loping controlled and steady down the pavement towards the bottom of the hill, pushing the plastic trike with his son on board in front of him. The toddler on the trike – being pushed far far faster (but safe, level and steady) than ever such a toy plastic tricycle was supposed to go – has his head thrown back laughing uncontrolled loudly in sheer delight and ecstasy. The pure glee on the pre-school boy’s face is as bright as sunshine – looking up and back over his shoulder he can look into his dad’s eyes, dad leaning over and laughing right back with him. WahayYayhay-aha-ahahahaha! And the Staffordshire bull terrier on her chain, in the young dad’s left hand, appears anthropomorphically on her furry face to have a similar laughing grin, the same as her master’s and his son’s. Muscularly she trots, matching the man’s loping strides with her own elbow-out sideways-ish lollop, her front legs seeming to manage to travel far far faster than those at the back. Barkbarkbark. For joy. Man, boy, dog – an ancient family unit subset on an outing, getting in a bit of fun while getting in the shopping. Getting a thrill along with the necessary provisions – laying down a bonding substrate of happy time memory. And now this family has a memory-bond which ties them not only together in shared experience today but which will also last them all their days together or apart – solid, pure, innocent – a tie which binds. Archaic and primordial, contemporary and eternal. Universal and personal. A timeless moment. A memory template which is held in common by men and boys and dogs since first men and boys and dogs went out together and came back with food; serious play for the hunting unit, game for the table. A day forever.