Feelings rule. Feelings are the ringmaster. In life's big top - the canvas optimistically striped but worn by wind and weather - feelings crack the whip and run the show.
We might like to think there are other ringmasters - dear old Reason perhaps in his fustian coat and fob watch, or pompous Morality, always dressed for church on the front but as naked as the day he was born behind - but we would be wrong.
When Feelings take over, Reason, Morality, Duty and the rest run gibbering under the bleachers and out the tent, into the wind and weather, quite forgotten, banished. Feelings are in charge. Always have been, always will be.
Yesterday I'd walked and fed Blue the dog and was down in my basement study, working to a deadline. Blue was in the car in the garage. It's where he spends most afternoons, his place of comfort since the earthquakes seared permanent tyre tracks through his psyche. Most of the time he's fine, but when he's scared he's terrified. Feelings run his world too.
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In the study I didn't immediately notice the thunder. When I did it was too late. Blue had taken off. Frantic with terror my dog was somewhere out there running through a storm, beset by dangers. My mind was swept blank of deadlines, duty, everything. It wasn't a question of prioritising. There was only one thing to do.
As I got into the car the hail started, hail that hit the ground, the roof, the windscreen as if fired from a gun. And my dog was out in it.
I drove down the hill, hunched over the wheel, looking left and right. Lightning burst. Thunder cracked within a second. The roads were white already. The wheels crunched as if over sugar, the hail thumped the metal box of the car. Wipers heaved it off the glass. I pictured Blue running, battered by hail, just fear in wet fur. I felt sick with dread.
King Lear rang in my head. "Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are, that bide the pelting of this pitiless storm…"
I crawled along the streets at random, peering through misted glass up drives, down lanes. In my panic I had come out without my cell phone. Someone might ring. Someone might have found him, seen the tag on his collar, rung the council. I drove home, hoping he might have turned tail and gone back while knowing that he would not have done. He hadn't.
I rang a friend who sometimes looks after him. She said she'd drive round town to look as well. I drove out again. Sudden sunshine, the hail already melting and running in streams down the roads. But over the hills on the other side of the harbour came more clouds the colour of a bruise. "No," I shouted at them, at the clouds, "no, don't".
My mind had created its usual catalogue of horrors. It pictured my dog maimed and bleeding, struck by a car and flung crippled to the gutter, the hail-melt running over his sodden fur.
My phone rang. "Have you got my dog?" I said.
"Is this Mr Bennett?"
"Yes, have you got my dog?"
"I'll put you onto Gordon. Gordon's got your dog. Please hold the line."
Gordon came on the line.
"Is he okay?"
"Yeah, he's okay," said Gordon, "he's scared and cold and wet but I think he's okay."
"I'm on my way."
Gordon was tall, bald and smiling. Down on the wharf behind a former customs building he opened the boot of his car and there was Blue. He was sodden and prostrate.
I said his name and he got up and jumped stiffly down from the car and up into mine where he lay down immediately on the back seat, panting.
Gordon has found him in the height of the storm, running down the middle of the road by the dry dock. There was nowhere he was heading for. He was just running to flee, driven by fear. "He was lucky a car didn't hit him."
I shook Gordon's hand, thanked him probably too much, told him he'd done more than his good deed for the day. In the selfish relief of the moment I didn't think to get his number or ask where he worked. But I'll find him, and find what he likes to drink and give him plenty of it.
Back home with the dog it became possible slowly to think again, to remember a deadline, to become reasonable. But when feelings cracked the whip those things fled.