The bitch was a fighter and no mistake. Nothing wrong with that. She was giving him a chance to test his mettle, show who was in charge around here. When he wanted something, he was damn well going to get it.
“That’s right,” he said, shuffling towards her until she was backed into a dim corner of the filthy alley. No escape. Nobody to hear her yelps of fright. “This is Fred’s alley. You’re in my stomping ground now. You know what I want.” He leered at her, showing yellow teeth and bloody gums. “Give it over without a tussle and we can stay friends.”
Quick as a snake, she darted right. It was a sly move, an unexpected move, but this was not Fred’s first hunt. He moved with her, throwing his weight into a Hail Mary dive and stretching his arms after her. His grubby fingers caught around her flanks, bearing her down to the ground. Caught the bitch.
Her head swung back and she snapped her jaws at him. With a cry of fear, Fred let go. The worst thing he could have done. A rookie mistake. A bark of triumph and the dog was loping away.
Is that all you got? You think Fred ain’t got no more fight in him? You a dumb bitch if you believe that.
It felt like an Olympic sprint, haring off after her as fast as his legs could carry him. If only they had been another man’s legs. He was not running in truth, he was hobbling, and she did not fare much better. The mongrel limped out towards the safety of the street, ears pinned back in case he made a sudden rush after her.
“Drop the sandwich and we’ll call it quits,” he offered, gasping for breath as he shambled out onto the pavement. “We both know you ain’t got much more running in you.”
A screech of tires and an agonising whine. His heart was being pulled apart inside his chest. How could it end like this? Angry cursing and the slam of a car door. The driver pulled away, leaving the dog to lie limp and broken in the middle of the street.
Fred hobbled over and dropped to his knees beside her, muttering consolation to himself, to her, to anyone and no one at the same time.
“Poor girl,” he said, rocking on his haunches. “There there. Lie still. Poor girl.” He brushed a hand across her mangy fur. “What’d you go and do that for, eh? You know I would’ve shared. Did you go and forget who I was? Poor girl.”
Where was everyone? He looked up and down the street, expecting to see a full procession of mourners come to carry away his nemesis. His friend. The street was deserted, occupied only by a solemn rank of overflowing bins. They stood to attention, saluting their former looter.
So this is what it’s come to. This is death. Why did I expect more?
A kid cycled past, swerving as he craned his neck to stare. Fred leapt to his feet and waved his arms. At last, someone who would care. Kids still loved dogs, right? Of course. He chased after the cyclist.
“Hey, kid!” he shouted as the child sped away, throwing frightened glances over his shoulder. “The dog’s dead. Come look.”
Not even a “May she rest in peace.” What was happening to the world? Did nobody care any more?
“What do you say to that, girl?” he asked the dog. No use, she was dead. It was foolish, but he had almost forgotten. “Never mind.”
The people of the world needed something. That much was clear. They needed God.
You’re kidding, right?
Not God then. He had been around for millennia and what did He have to show for it?
Not bloody much.
Then it had to be something new. Fred had an idea, an inkling of where he could start. The people needed guidance. Someone wise to lead them out of blindness and into… seeing. An education man. An educated women? He would find out when he got there.
It was decided. He had never been more certain of anything. There was only one place he knew of where the enlightened could be found mixing with the intellectually destitute such as himself.
“Come on, girl,” he said. “We’re going to the library.” Of course, it had slipped his mind again. She was dead. “Well, so long then. Don’t stray far.”