Caffeine has hardly begun its number on your system, but you don't need it at the moment because adrenaline's got you covered as you sprint down the hill to the bus stop gripping a machete in one hand, a can of pepper spray in the other. Today you're more thankful than ever for the end of daylight savings because if this shit was going down last week, you'd be running in darkness and might easily trip, skewer yourself and bleed out on the gravel road. You had different designs on country life that sure as hell didn't involve a 7:00 AM imitation of The Walking Dead's Rick Grimes en route to a zombie bash, but here you are in full panicked stride responding to Jack's breathless phone call about a wild dog being a school bus stop bully.
Get the fuck away! Not what you expected to hear when you picked up. He's the good boy, the role model of your two sons, so alarm bells ring immediately -- he wouldn't drop filthy language like that if not truly terrified.
Jack -- what's going on?
The pit bull, dad. He stammers, short of breath, and you hear the rapid crunch of gravel. They're running, just like you told them not to if they encountered this specific beast. He's at the bus stop.
Don't run, Jack. You're pulling on your boots and contemplating a weapon. He'll chase if you run -- just walk slowly and no eye contact. I'm coming.
Hurry, dad. His voice trembles.
The machete is under your bed, the pepper spray in a kitchen cabinet. You arm yourself and go. The surging pulse of blood in your ears drowns out whatever your wife says as you leap from the top porch step to the ground. Your right ankle twists awkwardly, but any pain is diluted for now. There's a fierce burn in your chest and traces of tears in your eyes. You're straddling a nexus of raw emotions that you will never be able to contain if anything ever happens to your boys.
Halfway down the hill you realize that Leroy, your coonhound puppy, is hot on your heels -- a complication you don't need, another moving part you'll have to defend. Suddenly, thankfully, you hear the school bus pull up around the bend and pump your legs harder to catch sight of them boarding safely. Not breaking stride, you decide it's time to take matters into your own hands and confront this menacing mongrel whose rap sheet, according to accounts around the hollow, includes murdering a donkey, a small dog, a big cat and 7 chickens over the course of the past two years.
When you first moved here and spotted the dog running loose, you went through the proper channels by contacting the game warden who immediately knew the dog you referred to but merely advised that the owners have been warned about keeping it penned and a lack of photographic evidence of the AWOL beast has tied their hands. A week later you pulled your phone and shot a few photos of him at the foot of a private road adjacent to yours then emailed the game warden, hoping it would set the arm of the law in motion. This time her tone reeked of annoyance when she told you the private road was the dog's property, precluding her to do anything about it. You regret ever telling her you'd moved here from the city. In hindsight, you're certain her tone changed during the first conversation when you shared that back story. So you stocked up on pepper spray, eschewing a chorus of neighborly advice that you get a gun.
When you reach the brush ten yards before the stop, you pause and swat Leroy's behind, sending him confused and dejected back up the hill. Better than a locked jaw on his little neck, you think as you tread forward quietly with your head on a swivel. The scraping sound of each leaf hitting the ground makes you flinch and grip the machete harder. Now your legs feel heavy but you carefully scout the area and find no sight of him. He seems to have pulled off a country Kaiser Söze -- poof, just like that, he's gone -- for now. You're vaguely relieved to have missed him and at once regretful that this saga will continue.
Just then a pickup truck approaches and passes slowly enough for you to notice the look of horror on the face of the woman behind the wheel, and you snap from your personal theater to realize that you're a grown man standing on a country road brandishing a machete.