There was a feature article about the new book
, with a photo of my three daughters and me, in the Los Angeles Times
yesterday, I found out in the morning via email. I don't get the Times
every day. I tried, but it gets stolen from the sidewalk in front of my house if I don't pick it up at dawn.
So after I took everyone to school, which involves two hours of driving around in the same circles because they are in different schools, I decided to walk to the market and get the Times. It's almost a mile. I was pretty happy, walking under the oak trees and carobs lining our old sidewalks, thinking about myself, wondering how I looked, about my book and having a lot more people know about it, until I turned down one street and saw a brown pit bull running loose. He was actually leaping around in people's yards and up onto their porches in a crazed way, as if he'd taken some PCP, but I remembered from my former neighbor's pit bulls that crazed was their normal appearance. I was scared. I've seen pit bulls, in my neighbor's yard, hanging from chains dangled from tree limbs (to strengthen their jaws) and repeatedly launching themselves against the wooden fence that separated our yards (until actually chewing through the wood and destroying the fence).
I stood behind a bush. He was about eight houses down. I wasn't counting. I was staring at him as he cavorted and leapt over hedges, the power in his shoulders and legs. He lifted his broad head very delicately and slanted it toward me. Did he smell me? What was I? Not even marginally famous, or an author, or anyone. I was hiding. I was prey, or a game.
He ran my way for a few lawns, then cocked his head again, hearing a cat or something, and ran the other way. I saw that I was in front of an ancient crumbling adobe house, one I've known all my life, and that the gate to their chainlink fence was unlocked. The dog came bounding my way again, and I stepped inside the gate and closed it. But what if this yard had a dog, too? I couldn't remember, though I walk past here often. I stood in the corner, in the dark, hoping the pit bull wouldn't see me. He ran this way, then that, and stopped two lawns down. He smelled something. He wasn't sure.
I dialed 911 on my cell phone. He could definitely get to me through chain link. The number was busy. Busy? 911? The iconic three numbers of our times, of 9-11 and 911?
This was the fifth time I'd called 911 in the past two years, three times for car accidents that happened on our street, once for a domestic violence case my daughters and I witnessed in a yard. Each time, the number was busy.
The dog wandered closer, wandered away, then heard the sound of children screaming. At the end of the street was an elementary school. He leaped from the bushes of the house next door to the one where I hid, and then he ran down the sidewalk.
I dialed 911 again. He was headed for a school, for God's sake. And what about the mailman?
I edged out of the gate, looked for his shiny brown coat, so shimmery it was like beaten copper. He was running the other way still. I can't run that fast. I'm forty-five. I kept to the porches and hedges and bushes, walking as fast as I could, knowing how high he could jump, hoping if I heard him, I could leap onto a car or shed. I kept turning my head, like a thief, to see if he saw me, followed me.
He didn't. I turned the corner and ran several blocks. All the way home, about seven blocks, I turned my head to look behind me, knowing that to passing cars I appeared insane or tic-ridden. I was just hoping none of my friends saw me. I was in the Los Angeles Times. I didn't want anyone to see my picture later and wonder why I was scurrying down the street as if I'd stolen something. I looked as disturbed as the dog. Not like a writer, but more like Rick Moranis in Ghostbusters, running through Central Park.
I made it home and went into my own backyard, where the three chickens and twelve rabbits waited to be fed. I sat on a chair back there until I could breathe again, thinking about emergencies and help and muscled shoulders. Who would my kids call if someone were attacking them? I put my cell phone back in my pocket and sat under my wisteria. The purple blossoms fell in the wind, and everything was very quiet but for the chickens.