Shouts. A man shouting. “Get off, yer bastard!” Footsteps thudding and then a thwack against furred flesh. The big dog yelped like a pup.
Sal stayed hunched in a foetal position, her head spinning. She felt wet warmth spread between her buttocks and knew with a flush of shame that she’d pissed herself.
“God, are you okay?” The man’s hand touched her shoulder.
“No,” she said in a small voice and started crying. Not sobbing, just a ridiculous, involuntary leaking of tears. Even as she lay folded into the dirt with her arms around her head, she knew what they were about. Tears sprang out of her whenever someone or something hit her. Her head began to ache.
“Look, I’m so sorry. He’s a bastard of a dog. He’s too big to jump up at people. Are you okay?” He hadn’t taken his hand from her and now he shook her shoulder gently. “Let me see you. Are you okay?”
She moved her arm and looked up through a teary filter at a man with long straw hair, against the dull sky with the black mountain behind him. He was holding out his hand. He may have been in his forties. His bright blue eyes reminded her of the local sea-eyed surfies but his face was bearded and cracked deep with weather like a bushman. He smelled of wood smoke, sweat and grease, all fused together to make a warm, animal scent.
She ignored his hand and got to her feet. The bitch stood a respectful distance away, the possum still in her mouth. The big dog looked like he knew he was in trouble. He sat and wiped his tail across the sand in a swishy, appeasing wag, his eyes and ears sagging. Sal stood, aware of her damp crotch and tear-streaked face. The man averted his eyes from her and said, “C’mon. I’ll make you a cup of tea.”