Staring emptily into the dreary mid-winter morning landscape, John Sikelele absent-mindedly sipped on the cup of stale coffee. His mind racing over the events of the past few weeks. The yard outside his window seemed strangely empty without Xeno’s early morning antics. He missed the dog.

The resolute pinging from the microwave drags him from his stupor and he turns around to fetch his warmed up breakfast. Jenny was quietly having her rusk with a cup of tea. The silence in the kitchen the past few weeks was palpable. He was still struggling to come to terms with it. He was still mulling over the conversation he knew he should have had with her. Too long, he knew. Maybe too late.

The handful of medication he has to take for “the problem” glares at him from the kitchen counter. It reminds him of the discomfort of the electronic ankle bracelet he is wearing. The memories of the incident come flooding back and he closes his eyes as if to deny the feelings of shame, guilt and failure it brings with it.  He still cannot fathom how and why it all went so horribly wrong.

The weeks and months leading up to the incident had their own challenges. It all seemed so exciting and positive when he started with the new company. After years of slaving away without any recognition or reward, the job offer came as a godsend. It was as if he was freed from slavery. How quickly the elation and joy of his newfound freedom turned into frustration, disappointment and ultimately despair. The empty promises and broken expectations were actually worse than the struggles with his previous employer. Maybe it was better to live without hope, than with hope vanquished. He struggled to make sense of it all, his mind being so muddled, such as it is.

He remembers that Thursday quite well. Weeks and months of letters and requests for even a conversation fell on deaf ears. The resources in his department were severely constrained, though the demands for performance were becoming increasingly unbearable. Maybe those journalists doing the write-up on the company’s recent success coming that Thursday, and the big-ass farce of it all, the awful truth being white-washed with smiles and handshakes, finally broke his patience.

He raged quietly then. He was paralysed. He needed the job. He hated his employer and the way he was treated but could not bring himself to say anything. Maybe it was hope againste hope. Maybe it was cowardice plain and simple. He went home that day, a broken man. Maybe that was why the barking got to him. He’s just not sure.

The dog was irritating at the best of times, loveably so. Jenny and the kids loved it, but he always deemed it a bit of a necessary evil. But, the way he reacted that afternoon… god only knows. Only when the the cops restrained him did he snap back into reality. The bloody, beaten and terrified dog against the garden fence. The neighbours staring with fear and loathing. The soggy sjambok in his hand. Worse of all, the sobbing of his wife and children amid the whimpering of the dog.

As he was arrested he remembered screaming that the dog was aggressive and he was afraid for his life. But he knows now, as he knew then, it was the biggest load of bullshit. Poor dog.

So, the pills. The result of his wife’s brother (the lawyer) getting him off with diminished responsibility. Something about fear of canines. Whatever. Suspended sentence. Community service, nogal. The bracelet regulating his movements. Work, home and SPCA. The pills medicating the fear he knew he did not suffer from, or did he?

His alarm rudely reminding him of the bus he has tot catch. The company is very sympathetic with his “condition.” The lady from HR assured him, his job is safe. The company’s policy will not discriminate against him due to the ilness. As long as he toes the line, takes his medication and keeps the fear under control… and produces the goods. She smiled.

The dog has been put down. His wife and kids are afraid of him. He is afraid of himself… and the terrible, inhumane grind continues. 

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