‘He’s up there,’ says the woman with the Jack Russell, waving with her fag hand towards the top end of the dog walking area. She is as strung out as the dog, their long faces pale and quivering.
We walk on up the gently sloping bank to where a heavy looking guy called John is sitting, his right hand clutching his left wrist, a nub-headed, brindle coloured Staffordshire bull terrier panting at his feet. The two of them are a matching pair; if you put the man’s khaki beanie on the dog, the only thing to tell them apart would be the skull and sword tattoos on John’s arms.
‘All right?’ he says. ‘Don’t worry. He’s not the problem. It was that poxy little Jack Russell that bit me. Zac wouldn’t hurt a fly.’
‘So what happened?’
‘Me and Zac was walking along, everything cushty, nice day n’all, very nice, smoking a doobie do, all lovely like. All of a sudden this ratty little shit bag dog comes running over and starts in on Zac. I goes to pull ‘em apart – and I knew I had to be quick, because you know Staffies. Once they decide to lock-down, it’s Goodnight Vienna. The woman was hopeless. All over the place, screaming, carrying on. Anyway, I gets them apart. Yer woman there comes over swinging a lead, and jus’ before she gets it on, the dog sneaks in with a parting shot, bang, right here on the wrist. Bastard.’
There’s no sign of any blood anywhere, not from between his fingers, not on his jeans or shoes, no smears across his face. His hand looks pale, but he must have been sitting waiting for us at least half an hour, all things considered.
‘Can you move your fingers?’
‘Everything feel normal?’
‘Yep. Not bad.’
‘Are you up to date with your tetanus shots?’
‘Yep. And I’ve got a healthy supply of antibiotics at home, just in case.’
‘Why? What do you mean?’
‘I’m a security contractor,’ he says. ‘I just got back from Afghanistan. You could say I’m used to dealing with death and destruction.’
‘Okay. And how’s your health?’
‘A-One, man. Except for some mental problems – you know, PTSD n’all. I’m taking Mirtazapine, Olanzapine, every ‘pine you can think of, really.’
‘Okay. Right. I’ll just move Zac over to the fence and tie him up there…’
Zac’s face splits into a fleshy smile when I untie his lead from around John’s ankle. I make him comfortable over by the fence, then come back to help Frank clean and dress the wound.
‘Let’s have a look at the damage, then. Slowly, slowly.’
We’re both expecting there to be a little pulse of blood at least, or to see some kind of appreciable injury. What we find, though, is a tiny little puncture wound, the kind you might get if you were gardening and snagged your hand on a rose bush.
‘Is that it?’
‘Yep. I kept it elevated, lots of pressure.’
‘Good. Well… we can clean it up, put a dressing on…. were you expecting to go to hospital?’
‘With Zac? No. I’ll just head home if that’s okay with you fellas.’
I rip open a sterile water sachet, clean what there is to clean and tie on a small bandage.
‘Grand. Is that it?’
‘Come on then, Zac. Time for dinner.’
He stands up –six foot two, an urban version of Little John, with a Staffie rather than a staff.
‘No kickboxing for a week,’ he says, shakes our hand, and walks off down the field with Zac trotting happily beside him.