By the time I reached the end of Toxony and turned down Bickley Road, the driver and the incident were already fading from my mind, even if the tense rigidity in my manner—from the way I held the steering wheel to the way my shoulders were set—remained. I reached down and shifted into first and then second, but coasted down the gradual incline of the hill. At the corner of Bickley, I stopped at the sign and waited for a school bus to pass. This was part of the route I used to walk home from high school with my best friend Lex. We used to walk this way to go to 7-Eleven from my parents’ house too. Not just me and Lex but a whole group of us, a group of friends. There was a house on the corner, a low ranch home with a hedge surrounding the lawn, and on that corner, where one section of the hedge met the other at a ninety-degree angle, there was a wide stone pillar with a circular plate of stone at the top, as wide as the circumference of a large car’s tire. As kids, both the hedge and the pillar had fascinated us. Sometimes when we reached it, one of us would scale the pillar and stand on the circular plate, as though king of the world, and the others would try to knock him off. At other times, when we talked to 7-Eleven, we had to be careful here, because the game was to sneak up and throw each other through the hedges. The other part of the game, of course, was to make sure you didn’t get thrown, and this was achieved by walking slightly ahead or behind the others and angling your body so they couldn’t get a good grip on you when they tried to push. Sonny Ford was the best at this because he had a good fifty pounds on the rest of us, and he was strong. Even if you angled your body so the others couldn’t push you, he could still get a grip and change your position and hurl you through. And it stung. I wasn’t sure what the name of the bush was, its genus. But it had small thin branches that were grayish brown with tiny teardrop-shaped forest green leaves all over, and in the winter these leaves fell off and the twigs were like tiny claws that scratched your skin. The best bet, especially if Sonny was with you, was to take to the street. But you could only do this if there weren’t any cars coming, and you couldn’t cross completely.

On the opposite corner was another tiny house with black siding and a hedged-in yard, and behind the hedge, there was fencing where the owners kept two full-grown Rottweilers. If you forgot yourself and walked on that side, the dogs lay in wait, and as soon as you reached the fence they shot toward you like bullets from a gun.  They leapt onto the fence, barking and slobbering wildly, madly, knocking into it and rebounding. It was startling at first, and then frightening. My reaction any time the dogs came at me was to stop and stand still, full of terror. I’d angle myself to face them—never directly, I’d never make eye contact—but I’d watch them from the side and hope they didn’t see me through the hedges. They sensed me, of course. This was why they charged. I knew they could smell me and hear me. But I wondered, if I kept very still and crouched low, could they see me? The fence behind the hedges was picket, painted green and reinforced with wire mesh, and the dogs, when standing on their hind legs, were taller than it, but a second set of hedges, more like trees stood along the edge of the property at the sidewalk, and I’d conceal myself behind these. The dogs would lean their heads over the fence and slaver, and I’d stand, gazing at their wide black and brown heads, their muscular barrels of bodies. I’d observe the way they pushed at the fence and it leaned but never gave. What would I do if it did? They’d kill me in an instant. They were so powerfully built, so fierce. I’d stand and gaze for a moment, as though hypnotized, but eventually I’d get my legs back and move cautiously away, all the while watching them. If I came down to it, I’d risk Sonny throwing me into the bushes before I’d risk a brush with them, even behind the fence.