December 10, 2013

Mark Millican: Accidents will happen

Mark Millican

— Elvis Costello had a string of new wave music hits in the 1970s and ‘80s — “Watching the Detectives,” “Radio Radio” and my favorite, “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?” But it’s one of his other songs, “Accidents Will Happen,” that I seem to be living out lately.

It began a couple of Sundays ago. I decided to take a walk around our neighborhood in Varnell, so I grabbed my stick out of the back of the truck. For dogs, mind you. It was getting dark and I was hoping three dogs that have proven troublesome in the past wouldn’t see me, but that didn’t happen. The uncanny canines somehow sniffed out my presence and started howling a couple of hundred yards before I got to their property.

This wasn’t the first time I’d had run-ins with pesky pooches out walking in the ‘hood. In the past, I’ve had to kick a boxer bulldog and a German shepherd in the jaw to keep them away on a couple of occasions. Thus, the stick.

As I neared their perimeter, the three canines began to converge on my position. Maybe the inky darkness made them think they had the advantage, but I could sense and hear their shadowy forms as they got closer. I’m not putting up with this again, I thought, and began growling back. Evidently they thought I was a Sasquatch at that point, and it really set them off.

Feeling up to the challenge, I whipped my walking stick back and forth through the air so it made audible whooshing sounds. Undaunted, they moved in, daring me to go hand-to-paw.

Because dogs are so territorial, they never thought to get off their property and surround me. I would have really been in trouble then. So I decided to take the fight to them and rushed into the woods, hollering and swinging my stick.

It was then that I fell in the wet leaves. They thought they had me and rushed in and feinted, and I almost got one in the snout swinging the stick from my knees. Enough of this, I reconsidered, this is only going to end in a standoff — and I was running out of breath. I retreated into the street and resumed walking as their owner finally came outside and started yelling at his enraged beasts.

Then after supper, I was trying to watch some football when I heard what I thought was a dog moaning outside. Had the Hounds of the Baskervilles tracked me down in order to finish their grim task? I even opened the window and got Teresa to listen to the eerie wailing. A little while later I had the computer on downstairs in the home office and heard the noise again outside the window, and realized it was a cat.

“I’m going outside to run that thing off,” I told Teresa.

“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “We can turn the fan on and won’t hear it.”

“No way,” I replied.

I stepped into some unlaced tennis shoes and crept stealthily around the side of the house. Yup, just “like a black cat do” (to borrow a line from Lynyrd Skynyrd). Then I started running and hollering and saw two cats tear off across the back yard. Then, suddenly, I felt that unmatched free-falling sensation — an unseen water hose had jumped up and tripped me.

Who left that thing uncoiled like that?

The brunt of the fall was taken on one hip, somehow a knee got banged up on the other side and, after I turned a flip, my forehead hit the ground. I didn’t see stars or hear the birds singing, but tasted that awful tang of brain fluid getting sloshed around when you get a hard knock on the old bean.

It wasn’t as jolting as a couple of weeks before, when I’d stuck my head into an electric fence trying to show Elijah how to feed an apple to a horse.

But, at least the cats were gone. I limped inside.

Then last week, I was waiting at the fitness center one morning at 6 and the attendant was late. Nature’s urge was hitting me strong at 6:05, and by 6:10 I had to do something, so I walked over to the edge of the parking lot where a strip of grass bordered some woods. It was dark and the slope was more severe than I thought, so as soon as I stepped into the woods I slipped on some wet leaves.

I was sliding downhill on my butt, wondering when I would stop and if there was a cliff ahead. Finally, after what felt like 15 feet, I hit a tree. Turning over onto all fours, I tried to climb up but slipped two steps down for every step I took uphill since I had on street shoes.

Up above, I could see headlights arcing through the fog as people began to show up. Should I cry out in distress, or keep trying? To avoid embarrassment and keep the rescue squad from being called out, I chose the latter. It took awhile, but by using small pine trees and vines I pulled myself up to the brim, totally out of breath.

And inside the rec center, they wondered how I got so wet and muddy.

I had to go home and change clothes, but the real downside was the soreness I felt all over my upper body the next day from the arduous climb. I suppose I should be thankful I’m not beset with ongoing mental or emotional problems — and to date I haven’t experienced nightmares over any of these minor calamities — but it’s just been standing upright and staying in one piece lately that’s really proving to be a challenge.