It started out just a bog-standard Wednesday – getting up early, heading in to push paper round in his dead-end job as office adminstrator for the Simon Community. It really had been better when he was just a volunteer, but that type of charity doesn’t clothe and feed the people who do it, ironically.
Sitting in the slow-moving traffic jam he shook the thought of ‘what’s the point’ out of his head and turned up the volume on the radio. ‘The Road to Hell’ boomed into his chest and he groaned. The car behind him beeped their horn to get him moving again. ‘Alright, alright, cos moving five more metres is going to get us there quicker.’ He caught himself thinking about fried bacon and egg. Should have had breakfast. He took a swig of luke-warm coffee from his flask and swirled it round his mouth.
Suddenly the car in front braked and he spat out the brown liquid all over the dashboard. There was the sound of screeching tyres and breaking glass as one, two, three, four cars in front of him said an aggressive hello to each other. He sat there, trying to mop up the coffee with the glove-part of an ice-scraper, wondering if he should get out and offer first aid. He sighed, the blight of having skills. He got out and started walking slowly towards the pile-up.
Car doors were open, alarms were screaming, drivers were on their phones, but as Trevor walked along the queue, he saw people standing beside their dented vehicles who were angry, not hurt. But then he saw the first car, and the reason it had braked so abruptly.
Curled beneath the bumper was a person, or quite possibly, a body. The man who had driven into it was standing shocked and helpless beside it. Trevor knelt beside it and eased it over so that he could see their face. It frowned, then grinned at him.
“Trevor! How’s it going?”
A middle-aged woman badly in need of a bath, wearing an oversized once black winter coat and battered slippers looked up at him.
“What are you doing here, Cathy?! Are you hurt?” He started checking for bleeding and breakages. A cold, wet nose nudged his hand.
“Here’s the reason I was running into traffic.” Cathy pulled the spaniel onto her knee and fussed over him.
Trevor sighed, and laughed with relief.
“I thought you…”
“Was trying to kill myself again?”
“Well you can’t blame me for thinking it, after all the other times I’ve brought you back.”
“But I don’t need you now Trevor. I’ve got Sonny. And he is the first thing in my life that has made me want to live.”
Trevor nodded, swallowing the unconscious brush-off.
The other drivers had got back into their cars and were starting their engines now that they’d seen there was no need to hang around. Trevor helped Cathy with Sonny in her arms past all the cars and into his own. The drivers were either furious, or relieved. Cathy waved Sonny’s paw to each one and called out,
“We’re alive! Thank-you!”
“You see Trevor, they all had a second of fear that they had lost something important, and now they ‘re going on their way thankful to be alive. So in some respects, I actually helped them.”
Trevor shook his head and smiled. Cathy had always had a nack of seeing things differently. She had had so many knocks in her life – no job, no home, no family. No wonder she had been on suicide watch in the hostel so frequently. He hadn’t seen her in a few months and had thought the worst. But here she was, more alive than she’d ever been. And all because of a dog – the reason she’d been on the streets again.
They settled themselves in the car, and started moving, skirting round the broken glass.
Cathy whispered the question to Sonny, pretended to listen to him and then announced,
“Sonny and I would like to go to the park.”
Trevor started to protest, but then he looked at the bright faces looking at him, and sighed.
“Oh all right. Just let me phone work.”
“Don’t look so worried, Trev, sure I’m your work still anyway, aren’t I?”
So they went to the park, watched Sonny tear around the pitches, run side by side with his doggy friends, dive into the muddiest of puddles and jump up on them to share his mucky joy. As usual, passers-by were either pretending not to notice the oddly dressed Cathy, or outright staring at her, but she didn’t seem to be bothered, she was too busy watching her dog.
Trevor suppressed a groan as Cathy lifted Sonny into his previously pristine backseat. When they pulled to a stop outside the food bank Cathy turned to him,
“That was the best day Trevor.”
He felt himself beginning to agree with her. And then she said it:
“Thank-you. I’ve had the time of my life.”