Monday, February 11, 2013

The Standoff

It was a curious thing. The rain had begun to taper off and a veil of mist floated in front of my headlamp. The clouds behind the trees glowed a soft orange, not from the sunrise – too poetic – rather from the streetlamps reflecting off the low ceiling. My footfalls crunched evenly, a gravelly metronome – ratch! ratch! ratch!.

I slipped easily through the pre-dawn hours, impervious and invincible. Limbo. That perfect place between consciousness and daydream.

The thing was, I had no idea.

It was like falling asleep while reading a book. When the words on the page blur and suddenly come to life, somewhere between waking and sleeping, until you realize it couldn’t possibly be real and you’ve crossed over to the other side of sleep, only to be jarred back to reality.

That jarring moment came when my headlamp swung onto a pair of yellow eyes. Before it could register, a hoarse shout came from the darkness ahead. I snapped to attention watching the glowing eyes close the gap between us. A shiver coursed through me. The eyes disappeared but the shouts continued to get closer, each one more audible than the last. “Cody!” I finally made out.

I slowed to a trot and then finally came to a stop. A dark shadow – Cody – trampled through the grass with furious intent. I used my headlamp to sweep the ground in front of me. The eyes were back, but they had stopped too. I switched my headlamp to the softer red light and waited. Cody watched and began to snarl. A low rumble gurgled in his throat that he collected and hurled at me with a sharp bark!. Plumes of breath rose from his mouth with each warning.

Thoughts whirred around my head: do I go to him? Do I call him over? Do I stand tall? Am I going to get torn to pieces?

The voice approached though not as fast as I would have liked. “Getoverhere!” it said. I could see the reflective piping on the voice’s jacket now, hear the same rack! rack! rack! on the trail.

As the voice got closer, Cody grew braver and let go one more bark before trotting over to me. I braced but extended a hand down to him – a peace offering. The beast approached. I winced then realized I needed to lower my hand further to his tilted up nose because he wasn’t more than 35 pounds.

Cody sniffed eagerly at my glove. His owner buzzed by me, “Morning,” he said. Somewhat annoyed that he didn’t apologize, I just let him pass. Cody trotted off behind him and as I turned to go, he stopped and hurled one last bark for good measure. “Getoverhere!” the voice seethed and the footsteps faded.

I switched my headlamp back on and noticed that the mist had turned to a steady rain again. I heaved a sigh and continued on. But something was different. That dreamy euphoria had vanished with the mist. I was suddenly aware of everything: my footsteps, the cars rushing by on the other side of the woods, the rain against my jacket, the effort….

The noises fell on me all at once and I struggled to reach back and remember exactly what it was I had been thinking about before the showdown. But like the dreams that dissolve with the dawn, so too had my “running dream” slipped beneath the surface.


  1. How frightening! And yes very frustrating when the owner won't even apologize. The owners of a dog who bit me complained to my dad that they had to spend money putting up a fence. Um ...

    1. Frustrating when people can't accept they may actually be wrong and project their frustration on you.


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