Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Beyond the Borders of Fiction

One day last year I was driving along a relatively busy street.  I happened to look over just as I overtook a guy dashing along the sidewalk, chasing after this small dog.  He was running flat out, trying to catch either the dog or, failing that, trying to somehow snag the trailing leash.  He was failing as I passed him by.  The tiny legs of this dog were a blur, and it stayed just out of reach.

I continued up the block.  On a whim, I pulled over at a gas station and ran back, trying to help him intercept this dog, since it was obvious there was no way he’d catch it alone, the way things were going.  It saw me coming, jigged one way, and then, smooth as can be, slipped past without ever breaking stride.

I turned after it, sure I could catch it.  But it was already beyond reach, and my hand barely missed the leash as well.  I took off after it, knowing I’d catch it soon enough.  I was just behind it, after all.  I’m not a slow runner, but that dog kept inches ahead of me, no matter how fast I ran.  I looked back, thinking I could coordinate the chase with the owner.  But he was nowhere to be seen.

Determined, I continued on down the street, alone.  It occurred to me, then, that I had somehow become the strange guy running down the street after a comically small dog, unable to catch it regardless of my effort.  I saw someone up ahead, feet wide, getting ready to intercept the dog as I drove it closer.  With a hop it passed between the man’s arms, and continued on.  He turned and reached for the leash, and, failing that, began pelting after it on foot.

I turned and ran back for my car, thinking I could drive ahead once more, and try again.  For some reason, abandoning the chase never occurred to me.  The new pursuer had followed the dog around a corner, but when I turned my car up that road, there was no sign of either one.  As quickly as the phenomena had appeared, it was gone.

For a brief couple of minutes, I’d been part of a very minor, but completely inexplicable interaction, a side show happening on the street I’d been driving down.  Nobody who saw any part of it could ask for an explanation, and it dispersed before ever being resolved.

That was real life, and yet it was the sort of thing that is forbidden in fiction because it makes no sense.  Real life is like a small dog you have to tame before it will jump through the hoops of fiction.  But, man, do those small dogs run fast.

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