Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Mixed media

The neigbourhood surrounding our not-quite-fallen-through house-sit is full of surprises. Our house-sitting hosts have downsized from a large hilltop home near a golf-course to what looks like, at first glance, a carport. It isn't; it's a perfectly charming three-bedroom bungalow with plenty of space, the sort of house that would suit us perfectly. However, I do think it used to be the garage for the enormous house next door; there are steps cut into the volcanic rock leading up to the mansion -- although now the steps go nowhere.

A walk down the street takes me past typical suburban constructions, then all of a sudden, I find myself just outside a metal fence festooned with "PRIVATE" and other equally welcoming signs. Several motorcycles line the curb at this point.

I blink and I'm by the meticulously kept gardens of modest duplexes which feature ancient lawn ornaments. I'll bet these people love living cheek-by-jowl with Hell's Angels types.

I turn the corner and descend a steep hill without sidewalks, taking me past the local park with an ancient and doomed willow. Dead ahead are the bouquets of artificial flowers marking the spot where a musician died trying to cross Hillside Road a few days before my arrival in Victoria this year.

The neighbourhood is so tangled and labyrinthine that it's possible to approach the house-sit by no less than five different routes. At night, I choose the best-lit one, scuttling past the condo where a friend lived briefly a decade or so ago, and peeking in the window of an old rangy house where students are partying -- sedately.

But one August afternoon, I'm coming from the mall, meandering up the hill through a cluster of smaller houses. No one is about, except for the occasional car. I'm listening to the padding of my footsteps when I hear ominous snuffling grunts that appear to be overtaking me quickly from behind. I barely have the time to register a brief, resigned thought of Oh gawd, no, when there's a puff of dust directly ahead of me and a large dog hurls itself at the chain-link fence, followed immediately by a slightly smaller dog in full snarl.

Dazed, I swallow my heart, and despite the protective barrier separating me from those two powerful sets of jaws, cross to the other side of the street and hurry on.

But not too quickly. I don't want to seem any more like prey than I obviously am.

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