It was just last night. Sam, our Puerto Rican rescue pup, was hit by a car. All of his love, playfulness, the musky scent of his paws, disappeared in a ball of fur which was mixed with metal and the smell of burned rubber. Thankfully he lived, although he broke one leg and tore all but one of the ligament in his knee. When I think of it, and I do all the time, I am enraged at how impersonal it can become, when softness yields to sharp edges, at night on a small country road.
My older son felt responsible. He had taken his dog to work, where Sam would wait, just outside, near the pizza ovens where it was warm despite the night. In an instant, Sam broke his leash and, being a dog, he ran. It wasn’t my son’s fault of course, but my comforting words hung cold in that lonely parking lot. I left my son on a curb just outside the back door that led to the ovens. That night, the softness of the rising dough would yield to the sharp jabs of his nicotine-stained fingers - he couldn’t leave, you see, because the pizzas had to be made. So, Sam and I left, bound for the emergency veterinarian just over the bridge. I left my son on the curb in a small strip mall, and watched him in the rear view mirror - a cigarette hanging from his fingers and his head held in two hands. It can’t get more personal than that.
My younger son sat in the back seat with Sam cradled in his arms. My mother was beside me as we kept talking to Sam. Three generations of experience culminated in one desperate voice, Sam, Please don’t fall asleep. My younger son’s tone became steady but firm, and he told me that Sam was alright, but could I drive a little faster. My mother’s hand gripped the seat a little tighter but she was without protest - when Jon said something with that voice, it was serious.
The vet was busy that night, and it was not comforting that we were swept to the office before the others. We were all elbows and paws as we carried Sam into the examination room. Later, I felt his body ease as the pain medication kicked in. Far from the stark glare of a headlight, and the sting of the blue fluorescent lights, Sam’s world became gentle twilight as the doctor spoke with us in a hushed manner. Later - hours later - we sat in a nearly empty waiting room watching Dancing with the Stars, along with the lonely receptionist, and we made feeble conversation and tried to ignore the nurse as she bustled in and out of the operating room. They would piece Sam together with pins and plates, and somehow he would become our dog again.
And somewhere in a strip mall that shone bright against a dark night, just off a small country road, a young man took a sharp knife and parted a mound of soft dough into four perfect wedges. A cloud of flour rose like sweet powder and fell without a sound, coming to rest on thin shoulders as he formed four perfect circles. Showered with shards of cheese, each pie would be placed into the heat of hot metal, where they would yield, then rise, and then soften. And, as they baked, my son would sit on the curb, near the ovens where it was warm despite the night, and, with some good news, and the belief that sometimes accidents happen, I hope that he, too, might heal.