Cruella Deville

The half hour before the park closes. Nearly empty of people. At the outdoor cafe, a streetperson, dressed in black, zipping his black bag. The white police van slowly making its way to the far gate. Lovers oblivious to time. Dogs leashed and led away. Peacocks parading loose, the males in full colour. Yesterday one fanned his plummage; white fluffy feathers behind the fan pulsated with the wings’ movement. Emerald and turquoise rainbow. Peahens partied in the children’s playground, swooping from structures.
Daffodils fade in meadows and on banks. Primulas and tulips share beds. Almond and cherry blossoms and others nameless to me cloud the air. Looking up causes me to walk into a congregation of bugs and take one in the eye — midges? gnats? There is probably a word for evening flies. A dog barking behind a tree-bush draws my attention. From the space behind the big bush comes a man walking quickly, not looking back. Then a man’s voice behind the bush, deep, trying to shush the dog, and then saying to it, “Go. Go. Go!” Deep angry voice, I think. The second man emerges with a ball launcher in hand, the dog running ahead to play ball. He too is in a hurry, taking long strides away.
His anger at the dog reminds me of the woman earlier this week, whose dog escaped her attention, ran down the length of the leash-free area to the park entrance, where someone had tipped out a sackful of stale bread. Supposedly pigeon food. The black lab gorged itself frantically. The owner came running. Abandoning the bread, the dog, as best a dog can with its tail between its legs, ran to her. With her open palm she whacked it on the side of the head. It flattened itself to the ground. She then beat it on its ribs with the flat plastic case of the extension lead. Meanwhile, three teen schoolgirls watched from a bench, sandwiches in hand. The middle and tallest girl said, “She hit her dog!” And then, “Oi! Stop beating your fucking dog.” And then, “Leave your fucking dog alone!” The woman, who had been silent throughout, straightened and walked up the path, posture perfect, away from the girls. The dog on its leash behind her. Although I was shocked by the violence of the dog-owner’s retribution, I recognized the look on her face. It reminded me of me, when I have to jerk the leash to yank the dog away from what she considers street food and what I consider to be possibly poisoned probably rotten and definitely going to cause a mess for me to clean up. A look that says, I wish I didn’t have to, it’s complicated, you don’t understand, I am not Cruella Deville.

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