The middle-aged man with his green baseball cap probably meant something entirely different, but it triggered an image in the old truck driver’s memories. How many times has he sat, with his legs spread wide in the front seat of his
MAN eight-wheeler – and watched how the young femmes exhibitioned their flesh on the beach. Barrel-chested hunks in long trunks. Life saviours in red and yellow striped speedos. All hiding, sometimes unsuccessfully, their desire for fresh indulgences. Ready to rise to the occasion and save the (hopefully pretty and rich) damsels in distress. Coral fishes of all sizes teasing the divers with their bright colours, then hiding halfheartedly behind a rock.
Successful styles and strategies come and go. Only the best stallions of the current fashion succeed to gather their herd of wide-eyed mares. But one strategy never fails. The reason for its success is twosome. One: It pulls the strings of deep-rooted instinct without flaunting it. Two: it plays on, and is, real unpretentious innocence. How can any girl resist a cute little doggy? Smiling pink tongue, scattering legs, enthusiastic tail sweeping the sand. Genuine unpretentious innocence. Up till now. The driver grins yellow and reflects: If you want attention get a dog. Better still: a puppy.
At first Rob was surprised how easy the process of adaption was. As the years formed truck-trails over his crackly face, less and less people seemed to trust him. There is a certain humanless-ness in the way the folds caught the unsatisfied expression around his mouth. Because that was exactly what he has become. Human-less. Unsatisfied. Perhaps even inhuman and unsatisfiable. The long lone hours do that with some truckers. Most break the grip of the beast by giving lifts to hikers. Not Rob – up till now it seems as if he embraced the lonely dark planet. The dark space where you are the soil and your thoughts are the wind. And here, on this day, the planet wasn't searching for salvation, its winds and mud were searching for a victim. A victim for his screwed-up kind of love.
The SPCA doesn't check clients' home addresses, telephones or any other detail of the would-be parents. Like Wikipedia, it seems to trust the greater good in society. Thus, barely an hour after the idea first sprang seed, planet Rob found himself the owner of a brand new 8-week old Fox-terrier. Not his first choice, mind you. The attractive, bosomy girl seemed to steer him away from the more furry, sad-eyed pipsqueaks, the sort women seem to favour. He also bought a rope and, to still the girl's apparent unease, two chewy toys for dog.
He thought of the dog as “dog”. Without a capital letter. Nameless, like all the others that would follow. The dog was an accessory, like the rope and the toys. A tool to be used. To be cared for in the same way that a shifting spanner needs oil to be effective. With artificial social intelligence the trucker learned the ropes of his new-found trade. Starting with the Northern beaches of Durban and moving patiently through the string of sands towards the Southern coast of Kwazulu-Natal. Never striking more than once in the same place, whether the try was successful or not. And with each event the unwritten rules accumulated into a perfect and practical encyclopedia. His one-man business expanded in such a way that before half a year has finished, he had to extend his services to the Western and Eastern Cape. Oh, the Eastern Cape girls are something else! The mechanics of their bodies reacted as if from another Earth. Another country....
Robert Conell, white mail, aged 67, was eventually charged for the deaths of 24 dogs in May 2009. He plead guilty and the judge commented on the lack of emotion in the old man's face. What the defending lawyer failed to establish was the motive for his crimes. Why would this crackpot dispose of the frail and broken bodies on the doorsteps of the SPCA centers all over South Africa? And all of them still young, probably between 3 and 4 months old. Like used tools he would leave them there, not even bothering to wipe his prints off from the twisted collar around their necks.
Nobody knew the truth except the dead. Nobody knew that the only way that Robert Conell, aged 60 to 67 could get a woman to touch him, was an innocent puppy. And if someone would know, they probably wouldn't believe that a quick touch on his arm, his back, or (worth a trip to Cape Town...) the back of her hand would be all that the truck-driver longed for. Nobody knew. Even I might be making it all up as I go along. But I do own his franchise now, if you're interested.