One good deed

2013-07-15 00:00

“IT was probably my most embarrassing moment,” he said, taking a long slug from the bottle of nostalgia clasped firmly in his right hand.

“She was not really a regular, but neither was she a stranger. You know, one of those recognisable people who would be remembered even after a long absence.

“Her dress sense was more punk than classy, more outspoken than understated, but she had an appealing vitality and noticeable characteristics.”

He smiled briefly at the thought of a previous consultation.

“Her Rottweiler was prowling around the consulting room. ‘Is it a phallus that Rotties are more vicious than Alsatians?’” she politely asked.

“I briefly wondered if she had deliberately confused the nouns, but her face was intent and, if my fragile memory serves me well, she showed no signs of acknowledging the mistake.”

He allowed our chuckles to subside before he continued.

“This time all she wanted was a bag of dog food. Rambo was hungry. It was early afternoon and a summer squall had descended on our clinic, and bursts of lightning and violent rainfall heralded her request.

“This was a problem for her. She was on foot and, although she did not live far from us, it was obvious that she could not carry the food home without it getting wet. And being a kindly soul and a benevolent type ...”

His eyes twinkled in the face of his intentional exaggeration.

“... I offered to drop it off for her when I closed the clinic in the evening. She left, offering her thanks and leaving her address.

“The storm had passed and the sun was setting when I closed my doors and left for home. The 20 kg bag of food was loaded on the back seat. ‘Down past the supermarket, left along the lane, left again past the hawkers and fruit stalls, and l am in the next narrow street on the right. You can’t miss it,’ the scribbled note on the seat next to me had said.

“She was quite right. One couldn’t miss it. A gaudy sign, not neon, but well-lit and flanked by two red lights proclaimed ‘Nirvana’ above a door that was recessed from the street, sandwiched between a panel-beater on the right and what looked like a warehouse on the left.”

His gaze scanned our faces, ensuring that he had our attention.

“I was now getting worried. I had cottoned on to the fact that her humble abode was a front for her profession, that she worked from home and that I would be in serious dwang if anyone recognised me going inside. I mean, I am a respected professional.”

“So, reluctantly, I parked my car as far off the road on the crumbling pavement and as much in the shadow as I could. I got out, pulled my collar up high and tried my best to hide my face behind the bag of dog food.

“The door was slightly ajar. There was no bell or security gate, but I had noticed the rustle of a bright, coloured dress through the crack, so I pushed it open and tip-toed in.”

“I was in a short passage, poorly lit, and this led into a small lounge. At the far end were three men, leaning back on scattered chairs, drinks close at hand. At the sound of my steps, they turned away, I think to avoid recognition. The one closest buried his head deep in a newspaper, the middle one turned to face the wall and the furthest held his head in his hands, his fingers obscuring his eyes.

“I stood for a while, unsure what to do and what to say. In that moment of hesitation, though, as if in slow motion, I noticed the fingers of the third man slowly open and a beady eye peep through.

“‘Hello Doc’, a voice, muffled behind his fingers, but loud enough to jar me to the bone. To this day, I am not sure who he was. At the time that did not matter. What was more important was that I had been recognised.

“As the heads of the other two rotated in my direction, I dropped the bag on the floor and spluttered: ‘Just tell her that I was here for the dog’, or words to that effect and I ran out of there as fast as my little legs would carry me.”

• The author is a practising vet.

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